Last year, using Renee Sklarew’s guide The Unofficial Guide to Washington, D.C., I went on a tour of our nation’s capital and visited Mount Vernon. Here is my report.
If you are visiting Washington, D.C. on Presidents’ Day or on any other day, I recommend you pay respects to George Washington, our first commander in chief, at his former home, located only 30 minutes outside of the city.
The 30-acre plantation includes a 4-acre colonial-style farm site where visitors can view costumed interpreters using 18th-century farm methods and tools, as well as see hogs, mules, horses, cattle, and sheep (though this is not a petting zoo).
In addition to touring the home of our nation’s first president visitors also get a glimpse of the lives of the enslaved servants of Mount Vernon.
George and Martha Washington’s tomb is here too, as well as a working blacksmith’s shop and a 1770 gristmill and rye distillery 3 miles away (you’ll need a car). Historic interpreters are stationed throughout the estate and mansion to answer questions and give visitors an overview of the property and Washington’s life.
One of the major attractions is the $110 million, state-of-the-art visitor center, with its several real-life models of Washington based on forensic and computer-modeling advances, videos, 23 galleries of artifacts, and interactive exhibits.
There are a number of special tours, some seasonal, such as landscape and garden tours. Enslaved People of Mount Vernon covers the slave quarters, workplaces, and burial ground; a behind-the-scenes mansion tour details ongoing preservation; National Treasure: Book of Secrets highlights places used in the filming of the movie; Gardens & Groves explores the landscape; and there’s even a tour that focuses on the dogs of Mount Vernon. Tours are $10–$30.
From April through October, there are 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. wreath-laying ceremonies at the tomb of President Washington and his wife, Martha.
The enslaved servants of Mount Vernon are also remembered and honored in a special ceremony, as they are every day throughout the year.
Visitors participation is encouraged at both ceremonies. I was privileged to be chosen to recite the Pledge of Allegiance during my visit in May of 2019. It was an amazing experience and I received a lovely certificate to commemorate that day, as did those who laid down the wreaths, both at the tomb of Martha and George Washington and at the Enslaved Servants of Mount Vernon Memorial.
During the holiday season, the decorated mansion’s seldom-seen third floor is open to the public with dinner by candlelight, but not surprisingly, these reservations are very popular, so plan well in advance. Find out more about Christmas at Mount Vernon here. Mount Vernon celebrates special events, on Presidents Day and Independence Day with fireworks over the Potomac River. Naturalization ceremonies are often held on George or Martha Washington’s birthday, and on the Fourth of July.
I became a United States citizen in November of 2018, and I decided that I wanted my U.S. flag to be one of meaning. Mount Vernon was the perfect place to find my flag, as one can purchase a flag flown at Mount Vernon on Presidents’ Day or on the President’s birthday. The flag comes in a beautiful red, white, and blue box, and I am proud to have one at my home.
How to Get There:
Location: 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy., Alexandria, VA. Mount Vernon Estate is about 15 miles south of Washington and about 8 miles south of Alexandria, Virginia. The best way to reach Mount Vernon Estate is by car, as there is no direct Metro to the estate.
Best Public Transport Option: Take the Metro (Yellow Line) to Huntington Station. Exit at the lower level of the station (Huntington Avenue) and take the #101 Fairfax Connector bus (Fort Hunt Line) to Mount Vernon Estate. The bus stops right at the gate of the estate. It is a 20-minute bus ride from Huntington Station. For more information contact WMATA .
Contact information: Call 703-780-2000 or check the website of Mount Vernon Estate.
Admission: $20 ages 12–61; $12 for children ages 6–11, free for children age 5 and under.
Opening hours: While open 365 days a year, opening hours vary and some tours may be closed seasonally. Contact Mont Vernon Estate to confirm opening hours and tours during the days of your visit.
Mount Vernon Estate is one of the many attractions covered in The Unofficial Guide to Washington, D.C. by Renee Sklarew.