Monticello, the Rotunda and the grounds of UVA - designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites - draw both U.S. and international visitors intrigued by how the area helped shape and was shaped by the politics and personalities of the country's founding fathers.
Not surprisingly, both sites bear the touch of one of world's most important historical figures, Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors each year tour Monticello, the mountaintop home he planned and designed in painstaking details and continued to evolve throughout his life. Ash Lawn-Highland, the nearby residence of the fifth U.S. president, James Monroe offers a unique perspective on the working farm and estate that friend, neighbor and fellow President Jefferson too understood. A short 30 minute drive from Charlottesville is Montpelier, the beautiful home of James Madison.
Jefferson's most important legacy, however, lies in the heart of Charlottesville. One for which the architecture is merely the outer trappings to underlying ideals: The Rotunda and adjoining Pavilions that form The Lawn at the University of Virginia founded what is today one of the top universities in the nation, fulfilling Jefferson's vision of creating a "bulwark of the human mind in this hemisphere."
While these sites form a triple crown for history lovers, the region offers much more for anyone fascinated by glimpses of the challenges, culture and quirks of colonial life, including a free walking tour of historic downtown.