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Monticello Prepping for Holiday Tours



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    Monticello has long been a favorite day trip for Washingtonians, and starting in December, Thomas Jefferson's historic residence goes into holiday mode.

    The estate in Charlottesville, Va., is two and a half hours away from downtown D.C., featuring sprawling landscapes and beautiful neoclassic architectural feats. And as great as George Washington's Mount Vernon, the third president just miiiiight have been trying to one-up the first.

    Not that we're taking sides or anything (Vote Jefferson, 1801!)

    Fall is a great time to visit, with foliage at its most vibrant, but the holidays take over in December... which is a good tactic, since the leaves are gone.

    Hour-long wreath-making workshops will be held most days between Dec. 1 and 10. While you're there, browse historic holiday decor and other items in the shops, including wreaths you didn't have to make yourself, taper candles and tabletop items.

    The holiday evening tours ($45; Dec. 10, 17, 21-23 and 26-30) share details on how to party like it's 1772... errr, how the holidays were celebrated in Jefferson's time. You'll also get to check out the Dome Room, which was reopened in 2010. Since the tours are offered on a limited basis, we suggest you order your tix soon.

    If you opt for the reception add-on with your holiday evening tour ($75 total), you'll be able to sample "culinary delights" from Jefferson's time, sip Virginia wine, and go home with a recipe written in Jefferson's own handwriting.

    The Monticello Holiday Classic 5K and Deck the Halls Kids Dash ($25 adults; $10 kids) is Saturday, Dec. 3. The race starts just outside the entryway to Monticello, traveling around the exterior of main house. The kids' race begins at 7:45 a.m. and the 5K is at 8 a.m.

    Handmade for the Holidays: Taste the Best of Virginia is also Saturday, Dec. 3. Between 2 and 6 p.m., sip hot chocolate made from a historic recipe, taste holiday treats, watch craft demos, and shop for gifts made in Virginia.

    Note: Non-holiday tour options include the basic house and grounds tour ($17) and the new upstairs tour ($37; order in advance).

    So there are your options: Stroll the grounds, build a wreath, see a fancypants dome, and/or discover what it was like to celebrate without electricity... which meant no Christmas lights, only dangerous, dangerous candles. (Hint: Give your thanks that Monticello is still here at all.)