Northern Virginia Sights

Mount Vernon

  • Southern end of George Washington Pkwy. Map It
  • Mount Vernon
  • House/Mansion/Villa
  • Fodor's Choice

Published 07/22/2015

Fodor's Review

This plantation and the surrounding lands had been in the Washington family for nearly 70 years by the time the future president inherited it all in 1743. Before taking over command of the Continental Army, Washington was an accomplished farmer, managing the 8,000-acre plantation and operating five farms on the land. He oversaw the transformation of the main house from an ordinary farm dwelling into what was, for the time, a grand mansion. The inheritance of his widowed bride, Martha, is partly what made that transformation possible.

The red-roof main house is elegant though understated, with a yellow pine exterior that's been painted and coated with layers of sand to resemble white-stone blocks. The first-floor rooms are quite ornate, especially the formal large dining room, with a molded ceiling decorated with agricultural motifs. The bright colors of the walls, which match the original paint, may surprise those who associate the period with pastels. Throughout the house are

smaller symbols of the owner's eminence, such as a key to the main portal of the Bastille—presented to Washington by the Marquis de Lafayette—and Washington's presidential chair. As you tour the mansion, guides are stationed throughout the house to describe the furnishings and answer questions.

You can stroll around the estate's 500 acres and three gardens, visiting workshops, kitchen, carriage house, greenhouse, slave quarters, and—down the hill toward the boat landing—the tomb of George and Martha Washington. There's also a pioneer farmer site: a 4-acre hands-on exhibit with a reconstruction of George Washington's 16-side treading barn as its centerpiece.

But some of the most memorable experiences at Mount Vernon, particularly for kids, are in the Museum and Education Center. Interactive displays, movies with special effects straight out of Hollywood, life-size models, and Revolutionary artifacts illustrate Washington's life and contributions.

A National Treasure tour explores behind the scenes and includes a chance to see the basement of the house; the tour sells out quickly so reserve ahead of time.

Actors in period dress who portray General Washington and his wife welcome visitors at special occasions throughout the year, including President's day, Memorial Day, and July 4. Evening candlelight tours are offered weekend evenings in late November and early December and during wine festivals held one weekend in May and in October.

George Washington's Gristmill and Distillery —both reproductions—operate on their original sites. Records kept by Washington helped archaeologists excavate the distillery, which was the largest American whiskey producer of its day, in the late 1990s. Today, using the same recipe and processes, small batches of George Washington's whiskey are made and sold at Mount Vernon. During guided tours, led by costumed interpreters, you meet an 18th-century miller and watch the water-powered wheel grind grain into cornmeal and watch the grains being distilled. The mill and distillery, open from April through October, are 3 miles from Mount Vernon on Route 235 toward U.S. 1, almost to Woodlawn. General Admission tickets to Mount Vernon include the gristmill and distillery, but the gristmill and distillery can be visited separately.

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Sight Information


Southern end of George Washington Pkwy., Mount Vernon, Virginia, 22121, United States

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Sight Details:

  • $17, includes admission to Distillery & Gristmill; $5 for Distillery & Gristmill only
  • Daily, Mar., Sept., and Oct., 9–5; Apr.–Aug., 8–5; Nov.–Feb., 9–4

Published 07/22/2015


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Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating

Jul 15, 2015

Interesting Place to Spend the Day

My spouse and I visited Mount Vernon on a Sunday morning in late May 2015. Mount Vernon is open daily every day of the year. The house itself does not take long to tour; in fact, depending on the size of the crowds each day, signs are switched out before patrons enter the house advising them that they will have only 10-15 minutes, 15-20 minutes, or 25-30 minutes inside the house. It seems that the same number of rooms are shown on each tour, regardless

of the time permitted, but groups are moved through the rooms more quickly or slowly depending on the crowds. The estate itself is large, and it can take a few hours to walk the entire property, as you stop at various outbuildings and gardens to investigate and read more about them. The museum is quite impressive, and you can spend another few hours here, depending on your interest, and how many displays, placards, and films you want to read and see. After guests exit the museum, a cafeteria, gift shop, and full-service restaurant are available. The full-service restaurant accepts reservations via the Open Table system, although not on weekends. The gift shop has two parts: one side with high-quality (and sometimes very expensive) merchandise, and one side with typical tourist souvenirs like T-shirts and keychains. Parking can be difficult later in the day as the crowds fill the estate. You can begin your estate tour with a 20-minute film, which gives background on George Washington and the estate itself. Various add-on tours and activities are available, in addition to your regular entrance ticket, some of which are free and others that cost an additional fee. (We only participated in the standard tour.) Be sure to take in the view of the Potomac River from the chairs on the back porch of the mansion or as you sit on the grassy hill. Mount Vernon was the plantation home of George Washington, first President of the United States. The estate is situated on the banks of the Potomac River near Alexandria, and 15 miles south of Washington, DC. The Washington family had owned land in the area since the time of Washington's great-grandfather in 1674. George Washington became its sole owner in 1761. The mansion is built of wood in a loose Palladian style, and was constructed by George Washington in stages between 1758 and 1778. Mount Vernon was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and is today listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The rooms at Mount Vernon have been restored to their appearance at the time of George and Martha Washington's occupancy. These rooms include Washington's study, two dining rooms, the West Parlor, the Front Parlor, the kitchen, and some bedrooms. The internal architectural features (such as the doorframes, moldings and plasterwork) range from Palladianism to neoclassicism. In the West Parlor and Small Dining Room, doorframes feature ionic columns and pediments. Many of the rooms are lined with painted paneling and have ceilings ornamented by plasterwork. Today, visitors to Mount Vernon are shown Washington's study, a room to which in the eighteenth century only a privileged few were granted entrance. It is a simply furnished room that Washington used as a combined bathroom, dressing room, and office. Its walls are lined with naturally grained paneling and matching bookcases. The grandest public room is called the New Room or Large Dining Room, and is a two-storied salon with large windows and a marble chimney that occupies the mansion's north side. The interior restoration of the house features original color schemes, furniture, carpets, and decorative objects. George Washington and his family are evident throughout the house in their portraits and former possessions. We have visited Washington, DC many times, and we had always planned to visit Mount Vernon, but with the abundance of activities and sights in the city itself, we were never able to tear ourselves away. This time, we stayed in Old Town Alexandria so that we could investigate that town and be closer to Mount Vernon. Finally we can check this landmark off our “to see” list!

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