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Mount Vernon Has Been Modernized and is Terrific!

Mount Vernon Has Been Modernized and is Terrific!

Dec 31st, 2006, 08:01 PM
  #1  
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Mount Vernon Has Been Modernized and is Terrific!

Mount Vernon has been totally redone. The newly redone mansion with accompanying educational center and museum has been open only 10 weeks. In the past my opinion of Mount Vernon was that it was a big yawn. You walked through the mansion--which looked like many other plantations. It was "He slept there; she slept there" and out. It was not very interesting for kids because it was not well presented.

In my opinion Mount Vernon now should be on everyone's list for a visit when they are in DC. I cannot urge this strongly enough. I was there for 4 hours today and did not even enter the mansion. I spent my time in the educational center and museum, as, since I live here, I have been to the house several times.

What a fantastic job has been done! I could not believe it. From the introductory film to the multimedia presentation in the Revolutionary War theater in the educational center, to the material dealing with slavery, this is now a top notch attraction. You will want to leave a full day to see everything. There are even thoughts of issuing 2 day tickets so people who are really interested can return. This redo is going to result in totally redoing some bus tour itineraries because, folks, Mount Vernon is now one of the most interesting things to see in the area.

One thing they will need is much larger parking lots. When I went today, they were using the overflow lot and it was in December. They are going to be absolutely innundated when the tourist season begins in March--innundated beyond anything they expect.

The exhibits are very children friendly (as are the films and video presentations). One short video is presented from the view of Martha Washington's granddaughter. Multimedia is everywhere. Do not miss this one if you have children--or even if you don't.

Washington, DC, has another world class attraction. This is not the old Mount Vernon.

The gift shop has been upgraded and so has the restaurant.
FauxSteMarie is offline  
Dec 31st, 2006, 08:16 PM
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I spent nearly a full day there in the "old" days and didn't see everything. Can't imagine how long I would need now.

Thanks for the info . . . .
janisj is offline  
Dec 31st, 2006, 08:31 PM
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If you want to walk the grounds, even in the old days, it would take a day. Most people just went in and out of the house and maybe visited the tombs.

As I said, there is talk of two day passes and there is a reason to have two day passes. The shame of it is most people who come to the DC area only have 3-4 days at best and will not have time to do anything more than a quick boring run through of the house. With the redo, I urge people who are interested and making a repeat visit to consider focussing on Mount Vernon and perhaps even staying near the mansion as an assist on this focus. There are bound to be special programs and lectures connected with them. I was astounded by what they did. Remember, Mount Vernon is owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association. It does not receive federal funding. All of the upgrading was done through private fundraising. The largest donor appears to have been Donald Reynolds, the same individual who gave much of the money for the redo of the National Portrait Gallery/Museum of American Art (now called the Donald Reynolds Center for American Art & Portraiture). In both cases, the money was well spent.
FauxSteMarie is offline  
Jan 1st, 2007, 03:20 PM
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When I went there a few years ago, you could upgrade your one day pass to a 1 year for only a few $ -- maybe $4, so I did, figuring it would be a good investment were I able to return, which I was. I too did not get to see everything (in 2 visits), so I also wonder how much more there will be! I drove the last time, but took a bus from Huntington Station (yellow line) the first time, which dropped off right at the gate, and I was a nice ride as well.

Thank you for the update; I'll visit again.
rb_travelerxATyahoo is offline  
Jan 1st, 2007, 04:46 PM
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The bus from the Huntington Metro is the best deal going because you are not locked into a tour bus schedule. However, if you are unfamiliar with the area, then you may be interested in one of the day tours that will pick you up at your hotel. There is no doubt that the hotels near Mount Vernon will experience a vast increase in traffic as a result of this--especially if Mount Vernon couples its expansion with weekend seminars, etc.

I can see that every area school system will be sending its students to the educational center, as there is so much there that is attractive to children.

Mount Vernon is open every day of the year.

I did not take note of the prices, but will do that if I return. However, you can call 703-780-2000 for information. I looked at the website: www.mountvernon.org, but prices were not mentioned. I think the pricing structure is being reconsidered and may change before the annual commencement of the tourist invasion--which begins here about March 15th and lasts through Labor Day when the children go back to school.

If you have a choice because you do not have to deal with children in school, the best time to visit the DC area is in the fall. School groups innundate us in the spring. In the fall, they raise money for their trips.
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Jan 1st, 2007, 05:11 PM
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emd
 
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Glad to hear the renovation is so nice. I also live in Northern Va, about 15 min. from Mt Vernon, and have been hearing about the renovation and want to go see it.

Most of the hotels close to Mt. Vernon are on Route 1 and are very undesirable places to stay. The closest good hotels are in Olde Town, Alexandria and I doubt they will increase their rates due to the Mt. Vernon renovation. Their rates are already very high due to the Olde Town location, and also proximity to the Federal courthouse complex.
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Jan 2nd, 2007, 05:50 AM
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FauxSteMarie, thank you for this wonderful update. Having toured the home several years ago, we had not included it in our trip plans for late February. Now I can see it is a must-do once again. Good info!
kopp is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2007, 08:57 AM
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Thank you. The positive feedback is appreciated because this board is, first and foremost, about helping people plan--and get the most out of--their trips.
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Jan 2nd, 2007, 09:32 AM
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I stayed at the Red Roof Inn on Rt 1, just south of Huntington ... and found nothing undesirable about it. There were a number of other chain hotels that didn't look bad, and, yes, some sort of questionable looking places too.
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Jan 2nd, 2007, 10:33 AM
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emd
 
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I'm just a local citizen, but the reason I made that comment is some of the hotels in that area of Route 1 have a reputation as being drug and prostitution hotels. One example that is recent is the drug-related murder of a former SEC lawyer, Eric Miller, occurred in one of the hotels on Route 1 in Alexandria.

http://tinyurl.com/yhlf8m

Generally, we avoid sending friends and family members to the hotels in that area of Rt. 1. But that is just us.
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Jan 2nd, 2007, 10:59 AM
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Tickets to Mount Vernon are $13.00 for adults; annual passes are $18.00. Seniors, groups, children are lower prices; children under 6 years are free. There are currently no plans for a 2-day pass or timed tickets for the Mansion tour.

Viewing all there is to see does take time and remember that Mount Vernon closes at 4:00 in the winter and 5:00 the rest of the year. The grounds and education center / museum all follow these hours, so you can't hope to stay longer in the new buildings. I understand that visitors who arrive at 3:00 are disappointed they don't have enough time to see everything.

If you come between April and October make an effort to visit Washington's gristmill and the new distillery which will open on April 1. This is the only working historic distillery in the country and the result of many years research. This site is wonderful and adds even more time to the Mount Vernon experience.

emd, the Route 1 corridor has improved so much over the past few years. The Red Roof Inn is nice as are many of the chains towards Huntington. Closer to Mount Vernon, there is a Best Western and Econo Lodge which are ok. If the Army museum ends up at Fort Belvoir the southern end of Route One will improve even more.
sprin2 is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2007, 12:06 PM
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emd
 
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I do think you need to keep your eyes open wide in the Route 1 area if you choose to stay there in order to visit Mt. Vernon or the ALexandria/D.C. area. Fairfax County police regularly run sting operations and busts re prostitution and drugs in that area. The results of their activities are reported in activity reports like the recent one attached, of 4/06, which describes 30 people arrested for solicitation and drugs in the vicinity of Rt. 1/Richmond Hwy. hotels. These are reported regularly in the local Mt. Vernon gazette paper and other local area newspapers. I am not making this up or over- exaggerating; I see it routinely in the local papers.
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Jan 2nd, 2007, 02:27 PM
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You would be wise to check the hours of Mount Vernon on any given day by calling beforehand. On December 31, 2006, the day I was there, the last tour of the house was at 4:00pm, but the complex remained open until 5:00pm including the educational center and museum. By the way, if you only have a few hours and it is cold or rainy, concentrating on the museum and educational center might be something you would want to consider.

In my opinion, if you want to see everything now, you should arrive by 10:00am. In addition to the restaurant, Mount Vernon has a small food court. They are offering vouchers to tour groups (group members get a voucher and use that to purchase lunch), so it might get crowded at lunch time when the school groups are there in spring.

The Rte 1 area described above is not where the classy hotels are located. Having said that, the hotels are not all "dives" either. However, I would recommend staying in Alexandria, VA, because that area is historic by itself (older than Washington, DC with some small museums and very interesting to just walk around) and there are tons of restaurants in all price ranges for meals. The Route 1 area is in major need of a teardown/renewal. No doubt Mount Vernon's renewal is going to have an effect on the hotel stock on Rte 1 as well.
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Jan 18th, 2007, 02:06 AM
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Have visited Mount Vernon nearly annually on my trip to the Washington DC down to Williamsburg and each year they are adding something new. Have a trip booked in June and can't wait to see the changes. I'm a member of Friends of Mount Vernon and believe it it important to support the home of our first president.
On our trip in March of 2006, we found a terrific Courtyard Marriott in Woodbridge that was great. Rooms were perfect, sevice was great and it was across the parking lot from one of my favorite scrapbook stores, Recollections. What more could I want? We usually stay in Alexandria - the Sheraton Suites - beautiful rooms. We don't mind the drive, very nice.
Mount Vernon is certainly a place everyone should visit. Only a four hour visit? We always have planned two days there, with dinner one evening and lunch the next at the Mount Vernon Inn, just outside the gate. I'm a "lingering" tourist, I guess, but I've taken some rare and beautiful photos. And my husband tells me that I've supported the estate greatly with my shopping each visit!
girlwilltravel is offline  
Jan 18th, 2007, 12:08 PM
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I have to say that before the new education center and museum, my visits to Mount Vernon only lasted 2-2 1/2 hours. It was through the house and then to the tombs. If you enjoyed walking the grounds, you could stay longer. For me, however, after the house tour, I left.

I could not imagine spending even a full day at Mount Vernon before the new additions to the site. I have been there by car and by the boat from the Southwest DC boat dock, by the way. There are now tour boats that leave from Mount Vernon itself and take you out on the Potomac so you can see the water view during the spring to fall tourist season as well as the one that takes you from the Southwest boat dock on a day excursion. If you take the boat from the Southwest boat dock, you only get a couple of hours at Mount Vernon and, for that reason (unless you are doing just for the boat ride), I do not recommend it.

PS I am not a shopper. The most I buy at these places is a soft cover souvenir book.
FauxSteMarie is offline  
Jan 18th, 2007, 12:19 PM
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I can remember spending three tortuous hours at Mount Vernon with my future in-laws in the summer of 1990 as they observed every cracked plate and tea cup sliver. I was to ask them for their daughter's hand afterwards so I was in a state of high anticipation and great anxiety.
GeorgeW is offline  
Jan 18th, 2007, 12:25 PM
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Love the name GeorgeW in view of the post.

I normally take a long time at historic sites, but I avoid pouring over cracked teacups.

I will tell you the site that all tourguides regard as the biggest yawn in DC. That is the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. If you have to eliminate things from your Forced March through The Nation's Capital, that is the first place I'd pick.
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Jan 18th, 2007, 12:57 PM
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I'd also recommend the guided tours at Mt. Vernon. Recently, I did both the gardens tour, and the slave tour, in one day. They were tremendous. There is also a special kids "learning kit" that gives you a tour of the property.
MikeT is offline  
Jan 18th, 2007, 01:07 PM
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Yes, FauxSteMarie, I am an admirer of George Washington. I am sure many Fodorites think my monicker is in honor of another famous person named George but, alas, you now know the truth.
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