Monticello was founded in 1856 and celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2006. The population was 12,759 at the 2010 census. The name Monticello is derived from the Italian word for 'Little Mountain,' it translates literally to English as hillock or small hill. The name Monticello was chosen because the city is situated at the base of a little mountain.
Monticello is located on the Mississippi River at the northern edge of Wright County. Each winter, thousands of trumpeter swans nest near Mississippi Drive Park in Monticello as the Mississippi River is heated from warm water discharged by the Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant.
In anticipation of rapid population growth, Monticello created a comprehensive growth plan in 1996. A new high school was constructed in 1999. A new interchange was completed in 2006 on the east end of town, allowing residents full access to Interstate 94 from County Road 18. Since 2002, many retail outlets have been constructed, including a Wal-Mart Supercenter, a SuperTarget store, a Muller Family Movie Theatre, a new bowling alley, The Home Depot, Applebee's, Taco John's and an Arby's. This planned growth has also brought new auto dealerships, hotels, and industrial development. Monticello continues to attract new construction and business opportunities. A new Mills Fleet Farm store was planned for 2008 on the east end of Chelsea Road, but has been delayed at this time. A 2004 annexation agreement with Monticello Township is expected to help sustain Monticello's growth for the next twenty years.
Monticello has many fine walking trails and parks, and it has one of the most impressive community centers in outstate Minnesota. The facility is widely used by local residents. Monticello's local newspaper is the Monticello Times.