A Tour of George Washington’s Mount Vernon
In the last couple of years, with my girls a bit older now, my family has been visiting historical places more and more. A history lover myself, I think it’s important to teach our kids about our world’s past as much as about where our I phones are taking us in the future!
We’ve enjoyed trips to the Hermitage – President Andrew Jackson’s plantation in Nashville, The Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia, and the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. My girls have genuinely enjoyed touring these places and learning about history. So when we were recently in Baltimore, MD visiting family during the government shutdown (Baltimore is very close to Washington D.C., where we had initially planned to spend some of our days), we had to re-think some things. Where were we going to go instead of the Smithsonian museums? And then I remembered – Mount Vernon.
I had read some blog posts on Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home and plantation in Virginia just a little over half an hour outside of D.C., all of which said it was fascinating and made for an excellent day trip from D.C. Situated on a hill overlooking the Potomac river on hundreds of acres of country land, it’s natural beauty is as much of a draw as the home itself. Ideally a visit would be best during the warmer months when the vegetation is in full greenery mode, but alas we were there in January. The property was still gorgeous, overlooking the river, but your mind had to sort of carry you to the spring and envision it then.
A little background on Mt. Vernon..it was the estate and home of George and Martha Washington, located in Fairfax County, VA. The estate had been in George Washington’s family since the time of his great grandfather, and his father built the original house in 1735. Years later George would expand upon the house a couple of times, with it eventually remaining his home until his death. After his death, the house went into decline, years later to be saved by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, who still maintain it today.
You may also be interested in: 4 Fun Things to do in D.C. During a Government Shut-Down
When you visit Mt. Vernon, you can take a guided tour of the mansion and then wander the grounds and see the farm, distillery, gardens, wharf and docks down by the river, and the tombs of George and Martha. I would advise purchasing tickets for the tour online ahead of time. There are several guided tours throughout the day, but they do book up.
The tour is comprised of different sections of the house with different staff talking about each room. We found it interesting to learn that George Washington had a flair for design and personally oversaw the renovations, advising on the construction, design and décor. We learned that, for example, in the ceiling above the ball room, he had images of farm tools carved in as he was a big supporter of the American heartland, and America’s importance as a resource to other countries. This was my girls favorite part, they said – learning about little details like that.
Throughout the tour, as we walked from room to room, we learned more and more about George and Martha’s life together. We learned what a brilliant leader George was of both the Continental Army as well as president of our country. We learned things like the president four-year term being instituted by George, as he wanted to step down and felt it was best for the country for a different leader to take over every few years. Of course, no one wanted him to leave, but he felt that was what was best for the country. We learned how George and Martha met, and how George was Martha’s second marriage. We learned that Martha survived all four of her children. It was hearing about all the life details that made the tour so fascinating. The mansion itself, of course is stunning and we learned that though it looks like a stone house, it’s actually made of wood, which was much cheaper to build.
I find these types of tours so interesting – to peek into a life that once was, to see how things worked back then, and how they looked back then. Even something simple as the popular color of choice for wall paint back then, I find fascinating. Some things never change! (it was blue, as we discovered with the Nashville plantation…a beautiful, and interestingly, modern shade of blue). Indoor photos of the mansion are not allowed so I cannot show the wall paint, or anything for that matter. You’ll just have to take the tour yourself!
Overall, my girls really enjoyed touring George Washington’s estate. I’m not just saying that. They really did. Mount Vernon makes for a great family excursion, especially when the government is shut down!
Tip: Mount Vernon is very close to Alexandria, the absolutely charming town on the water, and makes for a good place to go for a meal before or after your visit.
I visited Mt. Vernon last year and loved learning more about life there during George Washington’s time, as you said. We took the tour on slavery, which gave me much to think about. We ran out of time to visit Alexandria — I hope to go back sometime!