If you’re planning a trip to Virginia or Washington, D.C., Georgie Washington’s Mount Vernon should be on your list of places to visit. Here are some great tips for visiting Mount Vernon.
George Washington’s home is open to the public and offers a unique look into the life of the first president of the United States.
Mount Vernon is one of my absolute favorite historic homes in the United States and certainly one of my favorite stops on any trip to the Washington, DC, area.
I’ve visited Mount Vernon many times. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
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What is Mount Vernon?
Mount Vernon is a historic site located just outside of Washington, D.C. that was home to George Washington, the first president of the United States, and his wife Martha Washington.
The estate is managed by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. Its preservation and restoration are privately funded.
Mount Vernon was first open to the public in 1860, and it has since become one of the most visited historic sites in the United States.
Although George Washington’s land holdings were about 8,000 acres at one time, Mount Vernon is now about 500 acres.
Even if you’re not a history buff like me, a trip to Mount Vernon is definitely worth it. And it makes for a great day trip in Virginia or an addition to any family vacation in the area.
Where is Mount Vernon?
Mount Vernon is located in Northern Virginia a few miles south of Alexandria, Virginia, and a short drive from Washington, D.C.
It’s a fairly easy drive to Mount Vernon and parking there is always free.
Getting to Mount Vernon from Washington, D.C. without a car is not easy, but it can be done. Using public transportation to get to Mount Vernon does require taking Metrorail and a Fairfax Connector bus.
Some tour operators offer round-trip cruises on the Potomac from Washington, DC, or Alexandria that stop at Mount Vernon and include admission tickets so you can explore the estate for a few hours.
How much time should you plan to spend at Mount Vernon?
You’ll need at least a few hours to take in all the sights at Mount Vernon. I recommend planning to spend half a day or more if you want to make the most out of your visit.
Most visitors will spend between two and three hours exploring the grounds, but you can certainly spend more time if you’re interested in a deeper dive. Mount Vernon recommends planning on three hours, but you can spend less time and still see a lot if you want.
There’s so much to see and do at the estate (more on this below) that you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to explore so that you don’t feel rushed.
Tips for visiting Mount Vernon
When visiting Mount Vernon, there are a few tips to keep in mind.
First, you need to review your ticket options and decide which is best for you. I strongly recommend that you purchase your tickets in advance. You also want to make sure you understand which ticket you’re buying so you don’t miss out on touring the mansion if that’s really want to do.
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes as the estate and grounds are quite large and you’ll likely be doing a lot of walking. Also, you’ll want to know that some of the paths are dirt and/or uneven in places.
You’ll also be spending a lot of time outdoors, so make sure to check the weather forecast and plan appropriately.
Bringing water with you is a good idea, especially if temperatures will be higher.
What to see at Mount Vernon
There are so many things to see and do at Mount Vernon that it can actually be a little overwhelming if you’ve never been there before.
Below are what I think are the essential things to see at Mount Vernon.
Visitor Center (Ford Orientation Center)
On your trip to George Washington’s Mount Vernon, be sure to stop by the visitor center first.
There, you can pick up a map of the estate, inquire about audio tours, and learn about all the different attractions there.
Oh, and this is also a good place to use the restroom. LOL.
The mansion tour is one of the highlights of a visit to Mount Vernon. In my opinion, no first-time visitor to Mount Vernon should skip the opportunity to tour the inside of George Washington’s beautiful home.
The mansion tour is offered in addition to the general admission ticket.
Mount Vernon’s knowledgeable staff will guide you through the main house and answer any questions you have about George Washington’s home.
You’ll be taken through the home, including several important rooms on the lower floor like the dining room and George Washington’s private study. You’ll also get to learn about life at Mount Vernon during Washington’s time, as well as the history of the estate.
The tour may also include a visit to the second floor chamber where you could see the Washington’s bed chamber. It is the very room where George Washington died in 1799.
And make sure to spend some time on the east front of the mansion enjoying the view from its vantage point on the banks of the Potomac River.
Your guided tour time on your ticket is the time at which you can get in line for your tour, though you may have to wait a bit before you actually get into the mansion.
You should plan to arrive at the estate at least 30 minutes before your mansion tour time.
While you’re at Mount Vernon, I recommend you stop at the final resting place of George and Martha Washington.
Well, there are actually two tombs. In his will, Washington directed the construction of a new tomb at Mount Vernon.
Washington was moved from his original burial place (still on the property) to the large “new” tomb in 1830 along with Martha Washington and other family members.
About 50 yards from George Washington’s tomb you’ll find the Slave Memorial. A wreath is laid at the memorial every day to honor those who were enslaved at Mount Vernon.
Several years ago, archeologists began a lengthy survey project to document the final resting places of the enslaved people who died while at Mount Vernon. There will be no excavations, but there are plans to thoroughly map the area of the slave cemetery.
George Washington was known for his love of gardening, and the gardens at Mount Vernon are a testament to that passion.
There are four gardens on the estate: the lower garden, the upper garden, the botanical garden, and the fruit garden and nursery. All are filled with beautiful flowers, plants and trees, and offer visitors a chance to relax and take in the natural beauty of Mount Vernon.
The upper garden includes a beautiful greenhouse.
The lower garden was the estate’s kitchen garden, which grew the food that was prepared for the Washington household. This garden was really Martha Washington’s domain rather than George Washington’s.
The botanical garden was kind of a place for horticulture experimentation.
Historic area outbuildings
Explore the outbuildings in the Mount Vernon historic area to learn more about the skills that were needed to maintain the estate.
You can see the blacksmith shop, smokehouse, stable, and spinning house among other outbuildings.
The buildings, which date back to the 18th century, offer a glimpse into life at Mount Vernon during Washington’s time.
If after doing all of the above, you still have time and energy to learn more about George Washington and Mount Vernon then stop by the Education Center.
The education center offers a 4D theater experience and a variety of hands-on exhibits that provide in-depth information about Washington’s life and career. You’ll also find exhibits on the estate itself, as well as the history of slavery in America.
There are several films available at both the Education Center and the Orientation Center (see above). I wouldn’t recommend you spend too much time watching films if it’s your first time at Mount Vernon.
Perhaps choose one or two that appeal to you. Then spend the bulk of your time exploring the estate itself.
Where to eat at Mount Vernon
Mount Vernon offers a Food Court Pavilion and a restaurant for when you’re ready to pause and enjoy a bite to eat.
The Mount Vernon Food Court is where to go to grab a quick meal or snack. They offer things like salads and sandwiches, plus they’re open for breakfast.
We enjoyed dining at the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant. They offer lunch and dinner menus, plus weekend brunch.
If you want to eat at the Inn Restaurant, I recommend making advance reservations. But if they aren’t taking reservations you can inquire at the hostess stand to see if they can fit you in.
It’s important to note that no outside food or beverages are allowed on the grounds of Mount Vernon except water. There are a few tables available in front of the gift shop for those who want to bring a sack lunch.
Where to stay when visiting Mount Vernon
If you’re looking for a place to stay while visiting Mount Vernon, Alexandria, Virginia, is a great option.
Alexandria is just a few miles from the estate, and there are plenty of hotels and restaurants in the city. Plus, Alexandria offers plenty of attractions of its own, so you can easily fill a day or two when you’re not touring Mount Vernon and make a weekend getaway out of it.
We stayed at the Residence Inn by Marriott Alexandria Old Town South at Carlyle and had a fine stay in a quiet area.
Here are a few other highly rated options in Alexandria:
- The Westin Alexandria Old Town: just a few blocks from the King Street metro station. They also offer exclusive concierge service and an on-site restaurant.
- Hotel Indigo Old Town Alexandria: only a 3-minute walk to the Old Town Waterfront and just five miles from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
Final thoughts on touring Mount Vernon
Washington’s home is full of amazing history and beautiful scenery, and there’s something for everyone.
Whether you want to explore the mansion, stroll through gardens, learn about George Washington the man, or just relax by the river, Mount Vernon has something special waiting for you.
Make sure to plan your visit ahead of time so you can make the most of your time at this iconic American landmark!
Are you planning a visit to Mount Vernon? What are you looking forward to most?
More articles related to visiting Mount Vernon
- The top day trips in Virginia
- Day trips from Washington, DC
- Guide to visiting Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
- What to see and do at James Madison’s Montpelier
- The essential day bag packing list
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