What pooch wouldn’t want to sniff the tulips and investigate the vegetable garden at dog-friendly Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia? Certainly, my Golden Retriever Parker gave a “paw’s up” to accompany me on a beautiful spring weekend to tour the home of former President Thomas Jefferson. As the website advises, “Visit now for beautiful blooms.”
Located in Charlottesville, Virginia, the UNESCO World Heritage site is a must-see for any tourist visiting the city. It costs $22 for one adult to buy the Grounds Pass plus your dog’s admission is free. You can roam all over the estate, visit the cemetery, and sit on the benches. In addition, your pass includes two free 45-minute tours on “Gardens” and “Slavery at Monticello.” They are offered multiple times a day.
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Whenever I travel, I like to pick tours that allow dogs. I frequently use the Bring Fido app to discover what restaurants and attractions allow dogs to visit, such as Great Falls National Park, the National Arboretum, or the National Botanic Garden. This is how I learned that Monticello permits dogs to visit the venue (outdoors only!)
“Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello is a historic, pet-friendly attraction in Charlottesville, VA. For almost 100 years, Monticello has been maintained and kept open to the public by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.
“Explore the grounds with your pooch, including Mulberry Row, the main street of the 5,000-acre Monticello plantation. Leashed dogs are welcome, as long as all mess is cleaned up after them.”Bring Fido
Purchase Admission Ticket
The first step is to purchase your ticket at the box office. Since I was bringing Parker with me, my only option was the $22 Grounds tour. It is important that your dog is calm and doesn’t act up as there can be a long line to purchase the Monticello admission ticket. (I gave Parker the sit command and he just looked bored lol.)
Most visitors then proceed to the shuttle stop to board a bus. Dogs are not permitted on the shuttle. So Parker and I enjoyed the lovely half-mile walk up through a grove of trees to reach Monticello. We didn’t meet another human or dog on our walk. Parker did stop to investigate the benches but he decided not to sit on them.
Some Bring Fido reviewers complained that “the walk is pretty steep” and “the trails were muddy.” I thought the 15-minute trail walk was rather enjoyable. I could imagine Jefferson riding up to the plantation on these grounds.
The Monticello Graveyard
The trail led us to the family cemetery. I highly recommend stopping to visit. The graveyard is fenced so I could only slip my iPhone into a hole to take a photo of Jefferson’s grave.
Jefferson’s tombstone is an obelisk. He lists what he considered the three most important achievements of his life:
“Here was buried Thomas Jefferson author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statue of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.”Jefferson’s Engaved Tombstone
Notably, he does not list the third president of the United States.
There is a plaque that identifies the 19 family members who are buried at the cemetery. They include Thomas Jefferson, his wife Martha Welles Jefferson, his mother Jane Randolph Jefferson, his daughters Maria Jefferson Eppes and Martha Jefferson Randolph, his son-in-law Thomas Mann Randolph, as well as grandchildren, cousins, nephews, and other relatives.
According to the Monticello Association, “the graveyard remains the property of Jefferson’s descendants and continues to be a family burying ground.”
In addition, site 14 is where Dabney Carr was buried in 1773. Carr was a lifelong friend as well as a brother-in-law. Jefferson and Carr made a pact as young men that they would be buried under a great oak that stood here. Carr was the first person buried at the cemetery.
There is another half-mile walk from Jefferson’s Grave to Mulberry Row. Parker absolutely loved stopping at every plaque to sniff the ground. You will pass by the Joiner’s Shop Chimney, the Storehouse for Iron, the Smokehouse/Dairy, the Vegetable Garden, the Textile Workshop, Hemmings Cabin, and the Stable.
Joiner’s Shop Chimney: The coal sheds were built in 1794 and resembled lean-tos. The nailery used wood charcoal to fuel the forges. The kitchen required charcoal to heat the stoves. The outdoor exhibit includes an example (under glass) of charcoal.
Storehouse for Iron: The tongue and groove house is a workhouse and living quarters for enslaved workers. It was reconstructed in 2014. According to the sign, Isaac Granger Jefferson worked the forge in the original building on this site. It also served as quarters for enslaved people.
Thomas Jefferson established small industries on the plantation to establish its self-sufficiency. This included tinsmithing and a small nail-making shop. He shifted his enslaved workers from tasks and locations.
“Isaac mastered three trades and belonged to three different members of Jefferson’s family before becoming free. His Memoirs contain important information about life at Monticello.”Monticello Association
Smokehouse/Dairy: Between 1790 and 1809, enslaved workers cut, salted, and cured the meat in the smokehouse. Enslaved women produced the cream and butter. A long, three-celled wooden structure housed these operations vital to the plantation.
The sign details workers who worked at the smokehouse/dairy. “Ursula Granger” was a laundress and pastry cook who was to “salt it and see that it is properly cured and managed.”
Hemmings Cabin: Parker really wanted to go inside Hemings Cabin but I only let us peek inside. This reconstructed slave house is where head joiner John Hemmings and his wife Priscilla lived. The Hemmingses lived together on Mulberry Row from 1809.
I predict your dog’s favorite place on the estate is the West Lawn. Monticello describes the “nickel view” of the house as an icon of American landscapes.
I suspect that Jefferson often roamed the winding walk with his daughters and his grandchildren. Since it is a level, oval-shaped path, Jefferson probably tried to solve problems in his head as he sauntered past his flowers.
My favorite parts were promenading past the beds of tulips bursting into color along the circular pathway. I saw every color of tulip—red, yellow, orange, pink, and white—as well as exotic striped hybrids.
This is a place where you can relax on a bench. Your dog can sit on the grass and watch the other dogs.
Gardens & Grounds Tour
I highly recommend budgeting time to take the 45-minute dog-friendly Monticello Gardens & Grounds Tour. On the weekend when I visited, the first tour began at 11 am. Parker enjoyed all the fuss when young children asked if they could pet him. I recommend standing slightly to the side of the group if your dog is reactive.
Our guide was a long-time Monticello employee who clearly loved teaching people about the gardens. Jefferson was an avid gardener who spent a lifetime collecting seeds (domestically and abroad) and cultivating plants.
Our Gardens & Grounds tour ended at the Vegetable Gardens. Although we could see green plants, there were no vegetables ready to pick in April. The clay dirt was tilled and ready for new seedlings.
This was the hardest area to rein in Parker because I knew he wanted to dig in the dirt. But I kept his leash short and just allowed him to sniff along the border.
As a distraction, I took Parker inside the Garden Pavilion. This lovely octagonal house features multiple windows. They “frame” the views of the estate as prettily as a Thomas Cole painting.
According to writings from visitor Henry Gilpen, this “there is an eminence where Mr. Jefferson had erected a little Grecian temple & which was a favourite spot with him to read & sit in.”
A bench is located outside the Pavilion. Parker and I took a long rest so we could watch all the visitors take family photos in the Grecian temple.
Parker and I arrived at 9 am and didn’t leave until 1 pm. Even though we couldn’t tour the house or participate in indoor activities, there were plenty of things to see and do with my dog. My favorite part was taking the two outdoor tours.
I am also grateful that my guide suggested I convert my ticket into a $50 Annual Pass. This is a real bargain. Now I can bring Parker back to visit Monticello in the summer, fall, and winter so we can see the changing of the seasons. It also entitles us to participate in special events, such as the sunrise mountain hike.
Although there is no exhibit about Jefferson’s dogs, we know he bred Shepherd dogs. In fact, he gifted family and friends with the puppies. He described this breed as “the most careful intelligent dogs in the world, excellent for the house or plantation.” Parker was sorely disappointed that no Shepherd dogs were seen at Monticello during our visit.
Now wouldn’t it be cool if they also had “canine guides” at dog-friendly Monticello to give a “sniffing tour”?
“And our own dear Monticello … How sublime to look down into the workhouse of nature, to see her clouds, hail, snow, rain, thunder, all fabricated at our feet!”Thomas Jefferson to Maria Cosway, October 12, 1786