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“Arguably the Most Important Founding Father; Take the Opportunity to Witness He and Dolley's Life”

James Madison's Montpelier
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 2-3 hours
Owner description: Montpelier is the lifelong home of James Madison, fourth President of the United States, Father of the Constitution, and Architect of the Bill of Rights; and his wife, Dolley, America's first "First Lady." The historic home and grounds are open to visitors and adult and student groups seven days a week. House tours are complemented by the permanent exhibition "The Mere Distinction of Colour"; walking tours; galleries; the Museum Shop; the Madison family and slave cemeteries; an archaeology lab and active archaeological dig sites; formal gardens; 8+ miles of forest trails, and award-winning food at the David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center's Exchange Cafe. Located 25 miles north of Charlottesville and 4 miles south of historic Orange on Route 20, Constitution Highway. Montpelier is administered by The Montpelier Foundation and is a National Trust Historic Site. Montpelier is a monument to James Madison, a museum of American history, and a center for constitutional education that engages the public with the enduring legacy of Madison's most powerful idea: government by the people.
Useful Information: Activities for young children, Bathroom facilities, Wheelchair access, Food available for purchase, Activities for older children
Fairfax, Virginia
Level 2 Contributor
5 reviews
3 attraction reviews
“Arguably the Most Important Founding Father; Take the Opportunity to Witness He and Dolley's Life”
Reviewed October 22, 2012

After recently finishing Ralph Ketcham's famous biography on James Madison I had been dying to make the trip down to Montpelier, asking my wife if she was ready for it as each weekend approached us. The opportunity finally arrived this past weekend and what a treat it was. First and foremost, I will recommend this entirely to American history fans as well as the casual observer. My basis to this is that my wife fully enjoyed our visit.

We arrived for one of the early tours and had only a handful of site-seers in our group, but the tours groups definitely filled as the day wore on; so arrive early and you will have more of the unique experience to yourself.

I state that it was unique because it was as literal as going back in time can be. From the moment one drives onto the land, one experiences that same feeling that comes from being lost in a good book. It was also a special time to go as the fall colors were in full swing. I think my wife took at least ten pictures prior to our arrival at the Visitors' Center parking lot.

The Visitors' Center is quaint, the workers very friendly and helpful. There is something for every type of person: art pieces for the historical aficionado all the way to jams and salsas for the cooking type (my wife). I must digress to urge all who visit to purchase at least one can of the chocolate covered peanuts; my wife doesn't even like peanuts and she couldn't get enough of them.

The tour starts in the visitors', where guests watch a short movie clip (12 minutes) portraying the life of James Madison. Nothing new here for the scholar of American history, but great for the everyday person. I listened to a lot of positive remarks concerning the short film and therefore consider a good start to the tour. From here, guests exit through a side door and take a five minute walk to Madison's actual home.

The walk is beautiful, and gives the site-seer the first opportunity to smell the land and breath the air where James Madison once walked. The head-on view of the home is remarkable, to say the least and can be appreciated by the architect in all of us. Our tour guide was great. She was enthusiastic and enjoyed sharing the moment with all of us. One of the best parts of the tour is after sitting in the room where Madison penned the Virginia Plan of the Constitution, guests are invited to go out onto the second floor terrace. What a view this is. Take a moment to view history and not only see, but feel what plantation life would have been like in the time of our founding fathers.

After finishing the tour, there are many other options to choose from. The English-style garden is a great walk through (surrounded by a brick wall). My wife personally loved this section and the "pretty" gates that adorned the entrance and exit.

Another stopping point would be the cemetery. When my wife and I arrived to the cemetery after a short walk, we were the only ones there and was therefore a special moment for me. To stand in front of the grave of THE James Madison, next to his wife Dolley is humbling. I hope all who visit the house will take the extra time it takes to walk over to the cemetery.

Lastly, my wife and I just took a stroll around the land. There are few places so open and beautiful as Montpelier and I recommend taking the extra time to experience it.

The visit is a worthwhile one. After leaving, my wife stated, "I really like Madison, I think he's my new favorite founding father; and I love his wife's enthusiasm and spunk."

So I will close saying, there is something for every type of personality at Mr. James Madison's Montpelier.

Visited October 2012
Thank An_American_76
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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901 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
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English first
Salisbury, Maryland
Level 6 Contributor
146 reviews
67 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 69 helpful votes
“Nice place to spend 1/2 a day”
Reviewed October 21, 2012

Montpelier is a great place to stop and visit if you are into Historical homes. You could spend anywhere from 2 hours to almost a whole day there. The house tour is approximately an hour long. If you are feeling adventurous you can walk the expansive grounds and explore archaeological discoveries, James Madison's grave along with a myriad of other things. If you have been to Mt. Vernon or Monticello this historic home is a little less pretentious and more relaxing. We live about 4 hours away and were on our way to Tennessee when we stopped to visit– I would not make the long trip solely for this house, but it is worth checking out if you are in the area.

Visited August 2012
1 Thank Cathy R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Little Rock, Arkansas
Level 5 Contributor
94 reviews
36 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
“Another President's Home? Nope Not like others Gotta See This One”
Reviewed October 16, 2012

I have been in several past President's Homes but there are two that are a must. Jefferson's Monticello is one but one I visited recently is a must and was very surprising to me that it was so well done Yes there is some history lessons involved but it is stuff we all should know. Yes it cost $18 to get in but the prize is worth the ticket. The home and docents made the day and experience well worth the time and effort to see. I highly recommend the tour. After the tour there is a new little Bistro (sorry I don't know the name) across the highway from two adjacent Bed and Breakfast places in Orange which has a Chef named Sergio with absolutely excellent food. If you go find this place as a special treat.

Visited October 2012
Thank LEB1952
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Jordan, New York
Level 2 Contributor
7 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
“keeps getting better”
Reviewed September 27, 2012

this was our second trip to Montpelier. Our first was in 2009. It is amazing to watch the progress that has been made since our last trip. We will go back again in another couple of years to see how much more has changed.

Visited September 2012
Thank lbFrench
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Charlottesville, VA
Level 4 Contributor
30 reviews
9 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
“If you love U.S. History...”
Reviewed September 26, 2012

History buffs will love Montpelier, home of James Madison. It is often overshadowed by the more well known, close-by Monticello, but it is well worth a visit for the history lesson on James and Dolly Madison and the Constitution.

1 Thank BlueRidgeMom
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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