Mount Vernon, the exquisitely restored home of George Washington, the first President of the United States, and his wife Martha, is the centerpiece of the expansive plantation located in a spectacular setting along the banks of the Potomac River 15 miles south of the capital city. The vast property’s many interesting components provide visitors with a remarkable glimpse into 18th century plantation life and into the life of George Washington, the man, and the president.
Everyone wants to tour the 21-room Mansion, restored to its 1799 appearance. Washington acquired the much smaller home in 1754, which was originally built by his father in 1735. His vision for the property was to incorporate a Palladian-style mansion, designed to take advantage of the breathtaking setting, into a natural environment of irregular features within a symmetrical plan. It took him 45 years to transform the building and grounds into what you see today. Guided tours of two floors of brightly painted rooms filled with lovely federal-era furnishings and decorative pieces, many belonging to the Washington family, take about 15-35 minutes depending on the lines.
Self Guided Tours
While there are lines to get into the Mansion, visitors disburse as they head out to explore the remarkable property at their leisure on self-guided tours of colonial-era buildings, gardens, and museums. Seeing how an isolated 18th century plantation was self-sustaining is a great experience for all ages. Visitors interested in organic gardening enjoy the Colonial Revival English Kitchen Garden which continues to produce vegetables as it did more than 200 years ago. Seeing the blacksmith at work, visiting the octagonal stables and the smokehouse are great for the entire family. The separate kitchen, steps away from the mansion, is a reminder that there was a time meals weren’t microwaved; the spinning house brings home the point that clothing was handmade and mended, not store-bought and disposable! A visit to the Greenhouse, provides a glimpse into how Mansion House Farm slaves lived. For a more in-depth understanding of the importance the labor of 300 slaves had on the viability of the 8000-acre plantation, sign up for the guided Slave Quarters Tour.
A free shuttle takes visitors to the Pioneer Farm, great for kids, and to the Distillery and Gristmill, where Washington made his fortune on the whiskey it produced. Kids enjoy the interactive museum filled with original artifacts and films in the Education Center. A highlight is the white marble tomb where George and Martha are buried. The simple Slave Burying Ground nearby is moving.
Make a day of it. There’s a lot of authenticity in the experience. General admission includes the Mansion guided tour, self-guide tour of the grounds and buildings and the shuttle to the Distillery and Gristmill. Note: Mansion tours are timed admission. Get your time slot at the ticket booth when you arrive. It’s the only timed part of the visit, so plan your day around it. A delightful enhancement to the Mansion and grounds is a 45-minute guided boat tour along the Potomac. Trusted Tours & Attractions offers a $3 coupon for a package which includes General Admission ticket plus the boat tour.
Purchase Mount Vernon & Sightseeing Cruise tickets and use Coupon Code DCVERN to save $3.