The Mount Vernon admission includes a tour of the new visitors' center, the new museum, and the mansion, which Washington made the center of his estate. Restoration on the mansion is meticulous, from the color of the paint on the walls to the placement of many of the original furnishings (such as the leather chair in Washington's study that he used for the eight years he was president, and the bed he died in).
The Ford Orientation Center and the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center opened in late 2006. The new facilities are part of a multiyear, $95 million campaign to revitalize the historic property and promote the legacy of our first president.
The Orientation Center is a light-filled space allowing panoramic views of the estate, and it contains state-of-the-art theaters showing a mini-epic of Washington's life, a working model of the mansion that took $500,000 and five years to make, and a series of bronze sculptures of the Washington family.
The museum and education center houses twenty-three galleries and theaters, with something of interest for everyone in the family. The experience is intensive, using computer imaging, LED maps and displays, surround-sound audio, “immersion” video, and interactive computers to tell the story of Washington's life. With five times the area of the previous space, there is room for hundreds of original objects on display, some never before seen in public. There are furnishings, china and silver, clothing, jewelry, Revolutionary War artifacts, rare books and manuscripts, and personal effects of the family.
Martha Washington had been married before she wed the president, and she was once considered the wealthiest widow in Virginia at twenty-six years old. Martha was also a year older than her husband George and brought two children from her previous marriage to her union with George (she and George never had children of their own).
There is also a replica of Washington's presidential office. His last will and testament and the famous bust of Washington by Houdon are also on view. An interesting display on the archaeology and restoration of the site shows how work was done and what has been found on the site over the years.
The property includes a new forest trail so you can walk through Washington's wilderness grounds, see his cobblestone quarry, cross a footbridge, and learn about wildlife on the estate. Washington himself loved to ride around his grounds on horseback.
Washington considered himself quite a scientific farmer, and he oversaw all the plantings on his estate. (Some of his original tree plantings are still growing at the Bowling Green entrance to the estate.) At the new Pioneer Farmer site, horses tread wheat outside the restored sixteen-sided barn, and costumed workers participate in hands-on Colonial farming activities and farm animal demonstrations.
There are a number of activities and experiences geared toward children at Mount Vernon. Kids can learn to build a Colonial fence, play a variety of eighteenth-century games, and harness a fiberglass mule. There's also a special “treasure hunt” for kids as well as an opportunity to have the kids dress up in Colonial garb for a picture.
Mount Vernon is also the site of the Washington Tombs (where memorial services are held on Washington's birthday and a daily wreath-laying takes place at 10
The gift shop is large and offers a great selection of Washingtonrelated memorabilia, from a porcelain bust of Washington (a copy of the Houdon) to plates depicting Washington crossing the Delaware. The shop offers great gifts to take home, such as Mount Vernon wine (Virginia Blush), mulled cider, Martha's cake, and Colonial toys for kids.Where to Eat
No food is allowed on the grounds, but there is a snack bar right outside the entrance that offers a fair selection of fast food. Next door to the gift shop is The Mount Vernon Inn (703-780-0011,
Special events are held on the estate throughout the year. These are subject to change, so call ahead to check:
February. Weekends in February include musical presentations and storytelling. On the weekend of Washington's birthday, there are always special events, and Mount Vernon is open free to the public.
April. A new event celebrates the coming of spring with a festive Spring Garden Party, music, activities, and a free packet of seeds as a party favor.
July. Independence Day weekend admission is only $1 at the Gristmill.
September. The annual 18th-Century Craft Fair features dozens of premier craftspeople and family activities. Colonial-costumed artisans demonstrate and sell traditional wares.
October. This is also the month for the Fall Wine Festival and Sunset Tour. Celebrate the history of the Virginia wine industry on the east lawn with this popular event. A $25 fee includes admission to the mansion, Washington's wine vaults (rarely opened), wine, live blues, and a meeting with “George Washington.” A food basket for two is $22, advance purchase only. No outside food is allowed. Get tickets early from Ticketmaster at 202-397-7328 or
December. Holidays at Mount Vernon are commemorated with a special tour that includes costumed characters and a visit to the rarely opened third floor of the mansion. Hot cider, cookies, and caroling around a bonfire are also on the program.
The best way to get from D.C. to Mount Vernon is by car. The drive is simple. Cross any of the memorial bridges and then take the George Washington Memorial Parkway (Rte. 1) going south; the road will end at Mount Vernon.
Another option is to take the Gray Line bus (202-289-1999 or 1-800-862-1400), which leaves for Mount Vernon at 8:30
Another option is to take a boat.
Mount Vernon is open to visitors from 8