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5 Historic Sites You Must Visit in Central Virginia

This historic region is full of landmark haunts just waiting to be visited.

By Kevin Litwin on October 19, 2022

Aerial shot of the James Monroe Highlands in the snow. The James Monroe Highlands are located in Central Virginia.
Gene Runion

To have the authentic Central Virginia experience, you should dive into the area’s unique history. Several historic landmarks are well worth seeing and visiting, including the following:

1. Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

Charlottesville, VA
Dubbed the “last Renaissance man,” Thomas Jefferson’s life and work can be best experienced at Monticello, the home of the third U.S. president from 1770 until 1826. Today, the designated UNESCO World Heritage Site remains a place of education and exploration, offering various tours and exhibits throughout the year.

2. Memorial to Enslaved Laborers

Charlottesville, VA
Memorials at both Monticello and the University of Virginia acknowledge the work and individual lives of enslaved African Americans who built the University of Virginia. Exhibits at Monticello include The Plantation, People Enslaved at Monticello and Paradox of Liberty, and displays at UVA remember the estimated 4,000 enslaved persons who worked on the grounds of UVA between 1817 and 1865.

3. James Madison’s Montpelier

Orange County, VA
Montpelier was the house of the fourth U.S. president and his wife, Dolley, and the large property is open for tours seven days a week. The mansion features 22 rooms with many artifacts from James and Dolley Madison. The 2,650-acre property hosts annual events such as Montpelier Hunt Races and the Montpelier Fall Fiber Festival & Sheep Dog Trials.

4. James Monroe’s Highland

Albemarle County, VA
Near Monticello is Highland, the estate of the fifth U.S. president. He and his family lived at Highland from 1799-1824 until personal debt forced Monroe to sell the plantation in 1825. The house is now owned and operated by Monroe’s alma mater, the College of William & Mary, and the site is open year-round to the public.

5. Pleasant Grove House Museum

Fluvanna County, VA
Built in 1854, Pleasant Grove House is on the National Register of Historic Places and is located along Virginia Route 53 in Palmyra. Today, the two-story building serves as a museum of Fluvanna County history and a welcome center for the community. In addition, the museum is part of Pleasant Grove Park, which features a beautiful trail to the adjacent Rivanna River.

If you’d like to learn more about the Central Virginia area, check out the latest edition of Livability: Central Virginia

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