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What To See And Do At Mount Vernon

Wed, 01/18/2006

Mount Vernon offers several exciting options for visitors, including touring and exploring the following: Mansion, New Museum, Education, and Orientation Center, Gardens, Washington's Tomb, George Washington: Pioneer Farmer Site, Working Gristmill, George Washington Museum, Forest Trail, Mount Vernon Wharf, Scouting Trail, Adventure Map for Kids, seasonal activities, Sightseeing Cruises on the Potomac River, Garden & Landscape Tours, Slave Life Tours, Tribute at the Tomb, Hands-On History Exhibit, dining, and shopping.

Tour the Mansion

George and Martha Washington’s home is presented by interpreters stationed throughout the Mansion to describe the house, provide information about the Washingtons, and answer questions.

The Mansion features original furnishings, items owned by the Washington family, 18th-century objects, and a small number of reproductions. These objects bring to life how Mount Vernon would have looked during the time when the Washingtons lived there. Vibrant wall colors, reconstructed after careful paint analysis, demonstrate the Washingtons’ wealth and sense of fashion.

Some of the more notable items in Mount Vernon’s collections include the key to the Bastille, presented to Washington by the Marquis de Lafayette; a large globe Washington commissioned for his study; and a swivel chair Washington used during his presidency. Other objects, such as the harpsichord Washington bought for his step-granddaughter, are treasured items that depict social and domestic practices of the day.

Tours are continuous. The first floor of the Mansion tour is handicap accessible. No chewing gum, photography, or strollers are allowed. Materials for the hearing or visually impaired are available upon request.

Mount Vernon's New Facilities

Donald W. Reynolds Museum & Education Center, Ford Orientation Center

Visitors are introduced to the real George Washington in the newly opened Ford Orientation Center and Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center These new facilities include 25 galleries and theaters, more than 700 artifacts, and interactive displays. The most famous dentures in the world are on permanent display, along with three life-size models of Washington created from a forensic investigation. Visitors learn about Washington’s exceptional life and accomplishments through interactive displays, a major movie, short films produced by The History Channel, and high-tech, immersive experiences.  Three life-size models created by a team of artists and forensic and computer experts depict Washington as never before seen at three significant stages of his life – including as a land surveying teenager – which dispel the elder statesman icon and encourage people to think about Washington in a new way: an incomparable American hero who evolved from a young man of modest means into this country’s greatest president.

A rich and comprehensive collection of objects introduce Washington’s world in a new state-of-the-art museum.  Visitors get an unprecedented look at furnishings, china, silver, clothing, jewelry, Revolutionary War artifacts, rare books and manuscripts, and other personal effects of the Washington family.  Some of these treasures are exhibited at Mount Vernon for the first time in the new museum, which is five times larger than the Estate’s current exhibition space.


The Upper Garden includes a wide variety of flowers, trees and boxwood planted in Washington's day. A few vegetable beds have also been restored to their original size, based on careful archaeological excavations.

The Lower Garden supplied fresh produce for the busy Mount Vernon kitchen. English boxwoods were planted in 1786 and now crowd the entry path. Vegetables and herbs are grown in the beds today, as well as cherry, apple, and other fruit trees espaliered along the walls and cordoned onto fences.

The Fruit Garden and Nursery was used by Washington to experiment with new seeds and plants before using them elsewhere on the estate. He attempted to grow grapes in its well-cultivated beds, and produced nursery plants for use across Mount Vernon. The large size of the garden and its protective fence also made it an ideal site to grow tree-ripened apples, pears, plums, peaches, and cherries.

Open daily. Limited wheelchair accessibility.

Washington's Tomb

Washington died in the master bedroom at Mount Vernon on December 14, 1799. In his will, he directed that he be buried on his beloved Mount Vernon estate. He also selected a site for a new brick tomb to replace the original burial vault, which was deteriorating. The tomb was completed in 1831 and Washington's body was moved there along with the remains of his wife, Martha, and other family members.

Tribute at the Tomb wreathlaying ceremonies take place at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. daily, April through October.

Slave Burial Ground and Memorial

Near the tomb on a wooded hill, the slave burial ground is marked by a memorial to honor African-American slaves who worked at Mount Vernon. This land was used as a cemetery for slaves and free blacks who worked for the Washington family during the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century. The graves are unmarked, and the identities and numbers of those buried there are largely unknown.

George Washington: Pioneer Farmer Site

This four-acre site features rare-breed barn animals (oxen, mules, roosters, sheep, and chickens) similar to the varieties Washington had at his farms. Seasonal activities guide visitors through history and 18th-century horsing around at the re-created 16-sided round barn, as horses and mules walk the circular second floor treading wheat. The cultivated area includes eight fields, and illustrates Washington's advanced farming practices and crop rotation scheme. During the month of April wagon rides are available Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

During the summer months, interns join the period-attired staff to demonstrate the farming techniques Washington advocated:

• Conserving the soil

• Using a range of fertilizers

• Controlling erosion

• Working with farm animals

Visitors are invited to participate in aspects of early-American farm life. (Activities vary according to seasonal farming schedule.) This site is just a five-minute walk south of the Mansion, adjacent to the Wharf on the Potomac River.

Open daily with hands-on activities April through October and daily wheat treading demonstrations July through October. Limited wheelchair accessibility.

George Washington's Distillery & Gristmill

Demonstrations by costumed distillers take visitors through the historic process of whiskey-making in this reconstruction of the largest 18th-century distillery in America. George Washington’s Whiskey Distillery is adjacent to his reconstructed Gristmill, a water-powered mill where Colonial millers grind corn into meal and wheat into flour just as it was done more than 200 years ago. Together, these buildings showcase Washington’s entrepreneurship and his vision for America’s future.

Open daily from April to October, 10:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. Entrance to the site is included in admission to George Washington's Mount Vernon. Admission to the Distillery & Gristmill is also sold separately for $5 for adults, $2 for youth ages 6-11, and free for children 5 and under. Tickets can be purchased at Mount Vernon's Ford Orientation Center or at the Gristmill Shop on site. Visit for more information.

The Gristmill is three miles from the estate's Main Gate on Route 235 South. Free parking is available at the site.

Forest Trail

This quarter-mile trail provides a glimpse of the wilderness that supplied firewood, lumber for construction, and posts and rails for fencing. It also supplied wild game for the dining table and provided a source of entertainment and exercise for Washington and his guests. Open daily, weather permitting. Nature enthusiasts and kids alike rank the trail among the things to see and do at Mount Vernon!

Open daily, weather permitting. Not wheelchair accessible. The Forest Trail includes one steep hill and takes approximately 10 minutes to walk.

Mount Vernon Wharf

Washington’s farming and fishing activities required a wharf extending into the Potomac to transport goods by boat to Alexandria. The present-day wharf was built in the 19th century and restored in 1991. Today Mount Vernon welcomes visitors arriving on the Spirit of Mount Vernon cruise ship and Miss Christin tour boat seasonally.

Scouting Activities:


Children Honor Washington Through Service

Between November 1 and the national observation of George Washington's Birthday, all Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of the USA who wear their uniform or official pin are admitted free. Scouts may participate in activities that help them earn badges or pins, such as hiking the forest trail and laying a wreath at Washington's tomb.

Plantation Audio Tour

Enhance your experience with the lively narration of the Audio Tour. Featuring 30 stops and stories on the estate and more than 25 in the museum. Child-friendly information is included. Available at the Ford Orientation Center. $6 each.

Adventure Map for Kids

This colorful map is free with every purchase of a child’s admission ticket. The map guides children around the estate in a quest to solve nine puzzles by exploring outbuildings and the Mansion. It’s an engaging way for families to learn about Mount Vernon together.

Seasonal Activities

The Mount Vernon estate is a working plantation with changing gardens, heritage animals, and stunning views. A wide variety of special events and seasonal activities bring the 18th century to life.

Sightseeing Cruises on the Potomac River March 13 – September 30

Cruises offer new views of Mount Vernon. Visitors can relax and enjoy a 40-minute narrated excursion along the Potomac River. Cruises are available at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. Call ahead for specific days. Tickets are available at the Ford Orientation Center or on the boat. Availability may vary. Adults - $9 Children ages 6 - 11 - $5 Children ages 5 and under – FREE

George Washington's Pioneer Farmer Site April 1 - October 31

Visitors can crack corn, visit the animals, hoe the fields, plant crops, and tour the re-created 16-sided barn George Washington designed. Mount Vernon's horses are featured during seasonal wheat treading demonstrations from July 4 through October.

Garden & Landscape Tours

April 1 - October 31 This 30-minute guided walking tour highlights Washington's creative design for his gardens. Daily at 11:00 a.m.

Slave Life Tour

April 1 - October 31 The daily lives and contributions of the slaves who lived at Mount Vernon are the focus of this 30-minute guided walking tour. Daily at 2:00 p.m.

Tribute at the Tomb

April 1 - October 31 This moving ceremony at the Tomb of George and Martha Washington commemorates their lives and deaths. Visitors participate in a wreathlaying and special readings. Daily at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.


The Food Court at Mount Vernon features Pizza Hut Express™, Red Devon Grill™, Federal City Deli™, Café Lafayette™, Fries & Nachos™, Mrs. Fields Cookies™, and Frozen Smiles Creamery™. Visitors can dine indoors or out at the adjacent octagonal Pavilion. The expanded Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant offers lunch daily and elegant dinner by candlelight Monday through Saturday, with six intimate dining rooms, three fireplaces, colonial costumed servers, and regional and colonial cuisine. Call (703) 780-0011.


The Shops at Mount Vernon are now twice their former size. Featured are the world’s best George Washington Book Shop, the largest selection of colonial toys and games around, spectacular reproductions, specialty gifts and jewelry, and the Christmas Corner, now bigger than ever. The Shops are open daily, March – October from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; November – February from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Call (703) 799-6301. The Lady Washington Shop, located on the estate next to the Upper Garden, is also open daily. March – October from 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.; November – February from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Call (703) 799-8614. During The Holidays at Mount Vernon hours are extended for holiday shopping: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m., Friday – Sunday. On Christmas Day, The Mount Vernon Inn Gift Shop is closed, however The Lady Washington Shop is open.