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“James Madison's Montpelier is Amazing”

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: Bathroom facilities, Food available for purchase, Wheelchair access, Activities for young children, Activities for older children
Reviewed September 16, 2008

We visited Montpelier last Fall, and loved it! Unlike a lot of historical house museums, Montpelier was truly an educational experience. Having been in the duPont family for generations, much of the original structure had completely changed since Madison's time. But, the mansion is now undergoing a breathtaking restoration, where all of the duPont additions are being stripped away, and the house is being returned to its orginal Madison-era. The detective work being done is incredible, and the tour casually takes you through how professionals have uncovered some amazing things within the structure's walls. The visitor's center was also delightful, with several priceless Madison family items held within. The gardens were gorgeous, and the other sites on the property, like Gilmore's cabin were quite interesting. Although unfurnished and under investigation, the educational opportunities afforded by this property are unmatched, and I highly recommend a visit. There are plenty of other things to do in the area, too--the little town of Orange is quaint, and has several great places to eat, and lots of historic buildings. Wineries are nearby, as well as two other presidential mansions--Monticello and Ash-Lawn Highlands. Day trips can take you into Charlottesville, Staunton, Fredericksburg, or Culpeper, all of which are worth visiting.

2  Thank LuvCentralVA
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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1,035 - 1,039 of 1,048 reviews

Reviewed August 26, 2008

Our guide was enthusiastic and knowledgeable. The audio tour system that is currently in use seems a bit out-dated, and could use updating. The grounds were interesting and beautiful. The house is intriguing, and likely will be a centerpiece once the restoration has been completed. A must for those interested in revolutionary figures, or just specifically James Madison.

1  Thank MLS9
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 13, 2008

For someone who loves history, Montpelier was quite a letdown. The house was unfinished which we knew going in, but the tour had little to offer in teaching about the life of James Madison. Most of the tour focused on the house itself and what they had been doing to rebuild it. If fact, I think we learned more about the duPont family who had previously owned it than James Madison. The grounds tour focused mainly on the trees instead of what the land was used for. Overall there was little historical value for the $14 admission fee.

Thank traveler987654321
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 20, 2008

Our extended family took a historical pilgrimmage to the Washington DC / Williamsburg area and we hit most - if not all - of the homes of dead presidents in the area. James Madison's Montpelier was a real highlight and one of my favorite stops on the trip. Our guide - Katie - can best be described as a James Madison fan girl and her enthusiasm for Madison was infectious.

It is easy to get bogged down with the historical sites and the shrine like quality of most presidential homes but Montpelier was different because it is a work-in-progress. They are peeling back the layers and plan to restore the house to the state it was in during Madison's presidential & retirement years. They don't apologize for the unfinished state - in fact, that is one of the exceptional aspects of this site. Not only do you learn about James Madison but you also learn about the processes modern restorationists use when working with a property like this. We saw how they use old photos, letters, insurance forms, nail holes, etc. to determine how the property probably looked.

You can also talk with archaeologists that are actively digging on the property. The archaeologist we spoke to was happy to answer all our questions about their work and finds.

The kids enjoyed the "Hands On" tent where they got to use a few old fashioned tools. The gentleman overseeing this area showed the patience of a saint with our curious kids.

James Madison's Montpelier is also a lovely setting for a picnic lunch and that's a good idea because it is a little out of the way.

3  Thank ajcolorado
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed July 5, 2008

The restoration project is far from completion. Paying an adult ticket at $14, I was very disappointed to saw only empty unfinished rooms in the house. I was unfortunately in the last house tour group of the day and the guide seemed to be anxious to get home soon, looking at his watch several times and hurrying to finish the tour. My group was dismissed even before the group before us, that still gathered with their guide outside the house. So, I ended up feeling that I wasted the money (paying for my whole family) to be there. Waiting until the restoration complete might be a better idea.

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

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