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James Madison’s Montpelier (Roadschool Guide)

Erin No Comments

James Madison’s Montpelier Website

Location: Montpelier, VA

Reciprocal: None

Full Price Admission Cost: $22 adults; $9 kids; under 6 free

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Montpelier is the place James Madison called home. It’s a gorgeous property, and paying the attraction a visit is a fabulous way to step back in time and get up close and personal with the 4th president of the United States.

Guests are welcome to visit the Montpelier property free of charge. That said, the only way to see the Madisons’ mansion is through a tour. Because of this, and because they are so very educational, a tour is highly recommended.

The Signature Tour is perhaps the most popular option. It’s a one-hour guided affair that tells the story of the Madisons, the forming of the U.S. Constitution, and slavery. The information provided is detailed and deep, making this tour better for older students with some understanding of (and interest in) U.S. history.

That said, there is a family-friendly, hands-on tour on weekend mornings. This option is ideal for families with younger children who would likely become disinterested and antsy during the longer tours.

In the basement of the house is an exhibit on slavery. This includes detailed information about slavery and the slave trade in general. It also gets more specific with information on the slaves at Montpelier, including the names of every slave known to be owned by the Madisons and details about their lives. Please note that the exhibit contains audio that is powerful and potentially upsetting.

Outside, visitors can tour several reconstructed buildings used by slaves. There is a daily walking tour that further examines the lives of the enslaved community.


The visitor center includes an exhibit on the Dupont family (the family who owned the home for most of the 20th century), an introductory movie, and an exhibit about First Lady Dolley Madison in popular culture. This is also where you’ll find a gift shop and counter-service cafe.

A short walk away from the visitor center is the Madison family cemetery and a slave cemetery. Also found on the grounds are nature trails and a formal garden that is lovely to walk through. As you might imagine, when all is said and done, seeing everything on the property can easily take several hours.

Quick Tips

  • Food is available for purchase on the premises. However, outside food and drink is also allowed as long as it isn’t taken into the mansion.
  • Limited bus parking is available.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to walk, as the grounds are quite extensive.
  • Pets are allowed on the grounds, but not in the mansion itself.
  • A discount of $2 per adult and $1 per child is available when tickets are purchased online.
  • Arrive in time to watch the 13-minute movie at the visitor center.
  • Plan for 1–2 hours in addition to the one-hour tour.
  • There is a lot to do outside, so try to go on a day when the weather is good.

Books to Read

This post contains affiliate links. By purchasing through our links you will help support Fulltime Families at no additional cost to you.

For Littles

For Bigs

Videos to Watch

Audio to Hear

Activities to Do

Things to Discuss

  • What historical events might have gone differently had Madison not been around? How do you think they would’ve gone?
  • If you lived during 1808, would you have voted for Madison? Why or why not?
  • What would you do differently than Madison had you been allowed to take his place?

Other Area Attractions

Below are some of the other great attractions in this area. We try to keep things affordable, sticking to free and cheap attractions and/or museums and zoos on reciprocal lists. If an attraction is affiliated with a reciprocal program or offers free admission, I have noted that beside the attraction listing. To learn more about saving money using reciprocal programs, see this post.

Closest Places to Stay on a Budget

For information on camping memberships, see this post.

Related Attractions in Other Areas


For more great roadschool guides, have a look around our blog or visit Wonder Wherever We Wander.


How to Downsize and Simplify for Full-time RV Life

Erin No Comments

You have made the big decision to become a Fulltime Family, but now what? You have a home full of belongings and you need to decide what to store, what to bring with you, and what to sell or donate.  Here are some items to help get your started on your journey to Fulltime RV Life.

These Avery Removable Labels will help to keep you organized during your downsizing process. These labels will stay where placed and come off cleanly.

It is likely you will find plenty to throw out. Contractor bags are larger and thicker than regular kitchen bags.

If you are like most people, you will have pictures to store. The Iris Photo Keeper will keep your pictures sorted and safe.

It’s a good idea to scan all your important papers so you have digitized copies with you. The Brother DS-620 Mobile Color Page Scanner is small enough to keep with you on the road.


Once your papers are scanned you will want to store them in a water and fireproof safe, along with other irreplaceable items you will leave in storage. The Honeywell Fire and Waterproof Safe is large enough to fit full size sheets of paper along with other small items like old pictures and jewelry.


For the important papers you will bring with you a lighter envelop-style fireproof bag is essential. The Large Home Safe Security Money Bag is fire proof to 1100 degrees, water resistant, and large enough for several passports, cash, and other must have documents.

When it comes to storage, vacuum bags are ideal. They take up less than half the space as boxes and when sealed are waterproof. This set from Ziploc has a variety of sizes to allow for bulky, lighter items and smaller, heavier ones.

Once everything is in storage you will want to protect it from pest and moisture. Old Fashioned Moth Balls don’t smell great, but they work well to repel bugs and rodents.

The DampRid products are excellent for keeping humidity down.

When it comes time for the garage sale you will need signs for the neighborhood. This kit also includes price tags, a change apron and more.

You will need bags for your garage sale. If you don’t already have a drawer full, you can get some from Amazon.






Fulltime Families Showbiz Rally

Erin 3 comments

Earlier this month 45 families had the opportunity to attend the Fulltime Families Showbiz Rally in Branson, Missouri. As we are beginning a new STEAM rally series, we took advantage of being in the “Live Music Capital of the World” to focus on visual and performing arts. Thanks to our Silver Sponsors, RV Health, Usborne Books and More (Stephanie Simpson), Mama Says Namaste, RV Insurances and Workamper News, we had the ability to host a painting classes taught by professional artist Chris Long and hire Forte Theatre Productions  to run a theater workshop. In addition to many parent and teen run activities, including watercolor painting, science art, instruments and puppet making, creative movement, improv and more, we offered Irish Dance classes taught by Chelsea Gonzales of Aistear Mobile Irish Dance Academy.

A favorite at every rally is the Kid’s Marketplace, and this one did not disappoint. Our young entrepreneurs sold everything from handmade toys to snacks to a chance to hold a snake.

Our Vendor Marketplace gave our rally sponsors an opportunity to share their goods and services. In addition to the Silver Sponsors, we had booths from Britches 4 Stitches, Bill and Lise Enterprises LLC, Traveling Creations, Memory Keeping Solutions, The Burnished Coin, Neolife, The Path to Less and Family D on the Road. Fulltime Families also introduced new apparel, including hats, t-shirts and sweatshirts.

Adults attended a variety of coffee talks and seminars on subjects ranging from roadschooling to rv upgrades to personality snapshots and more, as well as lawn games, a Parade of Homes and many camp fires.

Teens planned, advertised, and executed a car wash. After deciding on price, cost, and time needed, they went on a scavenger hunt that included finding people who needed their vehicle washed. The following day they spent two hours washing over 20 vehicles, and split the proceeds that night at the teen camp fire.

Tweens enjoyed a scavenger hunt and movie night in addition to joining the teens for board games.

Our littles and middles loved playground time, stories, and crafts.

We didn’t forget family activities! Dessert and appetizer potlucks, appetizers provided by Fulltime Families, a hot dog lunch hosted by RVing Dads Podcast, food trucks, a Broadway themed dance, Improv Games, and low cost meals provided by America’s Best Cafe.

This rally has made us even more excited for the official start of the STEAM series with Robotics on the Road in Belleville, Michigan from August 14 to 18. After watching the video recap we bet you will be too! We hope to see you there, or at one of our other upcoming events.

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Fulltime Families visits Dolly Parton’s Stampede

Erin No Comments

On Tuesday, May 1, we attended Dolly Parton’s Stampede in Branson, MO with 4 adults and 7 children, ranging in age from 5 to 15. In its 24th season, this “most-visited dinner attraction in the world” includes a line up full of music, friendly competitions, comedic capers, equestrian showmanship, and a 4 course meal. Fulltime Families was charged a discounted media rate in exchange for this review, and provided with some of the photographs included.

Prior to the show we found a seat in the Carriage Room to enjoy the White River Wranglers, a folk band made up of three brothers playing folk, bluegrass, gospel, and even some Justin Timberlake, and snack on nachos and popcorn, purchased a la carte.

After the thirty minute show everyone was led to the arena for the main attraction, where we were seated in individual chairs in front of a counter. Each row of about 25 people had a waiter who served from a designated walkway in front of the counter, allowing them to walk back and forth during the show with little disruption to the view.

The sides of the arena were divided into North and South, and guests rooted for their side in a variety of competitions, ranging from professional equestrians trying to pop balloons from horseback, to pig races, to children from the audience trying to be the first to get their assigned chickens across the finish line. Mixed in was some comedy, magic, dancing, and tricks on horseback. A favorite part of the show was Canine Capers, where two teams of dogs competed in agility, stunts and jumps. The best part was that all of the dogs in the show were rescued from shelters and trained to perform in the Stampede. We also learned about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a program that sends one book a month from birth until age 5 to children in certain communities.

During some carefully timed breaks in the entertainment food was served, including rolls, creamy vegetable soup, corn on the cob, potatoes, a whole rotisserie chicken, pork loin, and dessert. Be warned – there is no silverware provided, so if you have a child in braces you may want to bring a plastic knife for the corn (there is a bag check on the way in). The food was well made and plentiful, and they provide doggy bags. Vegetarian meals are available if pre-ordered, and soft drinks are included and unlimited.

Our entire party enjoyed the one hour dinner show. There was plenty of variety and it moved quickly, so even the five year old was captivated, while the teens and adults were entertained as well. After the show we exited through the gift shop where there were a variety of souvenirs, then past the horses, along with many of their riders, who were available to answer questions.

Most shows in Branson seemed to be aimed at older adults, so Dolly Parton’s Stampede stands out as a family friendly option when visiting the area with children. It will entertain children through grandparents at prices range from $29.99 to $34.99 plus tax for children and $49.99 to $54.99 plus tax for adults.



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