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The back porch at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, overlooking the Potomac River in Virginia

Virginia

Mount Vernon: Inside George Washington’s Beloved Estate in Virginia

By: Amy Nance

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  • States:
    Virginia

Explore the iconic home of the USA’s first president.

Mount Vernon, the stately Virginia home George Washington shared with his wife, Martha, sits just 25 kilometers from Washington D.C., the nation’s capital. Unique among the metropolitan area’s many political institutions and cultural attractions, Mount Vernon remains the most visited historic home in the USA, drawing 1 million visitors each year to its restored mansion, beautiful gardens and other historic buildings.

Living History

At Mount Vernon, it’s not only about where you are but when you are. As you explore the grounds of this 18th century plantation, you’ll be met with costumed figures straight out of Washington’s era, demonstrating everything from winnowing wheat to plowing a field. Watch horses tread in the 16-sided barn, visit the blacksmith shop, or observe heritage breed animals grazing at Pioneer Farm, a scenic site set along the Potomac River. Pay homage to George and Martha Washington at The Tombs.

Meeting horses and costumed interpreters on the grounds of Mount Vernon

Meeting horses and costumed interpreters on the grounds of Mount Vernon
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Soak up the Story

What’s inside Mount Vernon is as compelling as what you’ll find outside. Begin with the mansion itself, where 21 rooms have been faithfully recreated to reflect both daily life on the plantation and the president’s legacy. Tour the first two floors along with interpreters, marveling at the period architecture and furnishings. Head to the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center to see authentic artifacts and seven galleries’ worth of interactive exhibits. Experience falling snow and booming cannons in the 4-D theater, or follow Washington’s story in an immersive film. The Hands-on-History Center offers your budding historians the chance to explore it all too.

The detailed décor of the ‘New Room’, the last addition to George Washington’s mansion, also considered its grandest space

The detailed décor of the ‘New Room’, the last addition to George Washington’s mansion, also considered its grandest space
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Spirits, Gardens and Cuisine

Less than five kilometers from the main entrance, the once-largest whiskey distillery in the USA is still in operation. Take Mount Vernon’s free shuttle to the distillery to see how period distilling techniques are used to produce rye whiskey from Washington’s original recipe, and purchase a bottle while you’re at it. Just next door is a fully-functioning gristmill where a grain master demonstrates exactly how the mill process works. Head back to the mansion for a 60-minute Gardens and Groves Tour, during which you’ll get a true lay of the land, learning about Washington’s vision for his grounds and the native plants and trees in it. Before you leave, have dinner at the nearby Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant, and browse The Shops at Mount Vernon for period souvenirs such as stone-ground grits from the gristmill or handcrafted items made from trees on the estate

A Martha Washington reenactor interacting with a family in the estate’s extensive gardens

A Martha Washington reenactor interacting with a family in the estate’s extensive gardens
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Getting There

Mount Vernon is less than an hour from Washington Dulles Airport (IAD). By car, take the George Washington Memorial Parkway from the Washington D.C. area for a scenic ride that ends at the estate. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) also provides service to Mount Vernon via Metrorail’s Yellow Line and bus. Boat tours travel to and from Mount Vernon, departing from Washington, D.C.; Alexandria, Virginia; and National Harbor, Maryland.