Driving is probably the easiest way to get to Mount Vernon. If you're coming from the city, make your way south on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which is a pleasant drive along the Potomac River. Mount Vernon sits at the very southern point of the parkway and can't be missed. When you arrive, there are several free parking lots across the road from the entrance.
I've never taken public transportation to Mount Vernon, but according to their webiste, you can take the #101 Fairfax Connector Bus from the Huntington Metro Station (last stop on the Yellow line) directly there.
On he Potomac Spirit or Miss Christin you will learn how Washington relied on this historic body of water for his livelihood and transportation. Unfortunately, Matt, Urszula, and I were on a tight schedule and would have popped for the extra $7 for this part of the tour. We saw the Potomac Spirit docking at the Mount Vernon landing. Sightseeing cruises are approximately 30 minutes long , running from 10.30 am-3pm.
If you don't have a car and you are in Washington, DC, you have a few options, from the least expensive:
1. Take metro + bus
Take Metro's Yellow Line Train to Huntington Station in Virginia. Exit at the lower level (to Huntington Avenue) of the station and catch a Fairfax Connector bus to Mount Vernon/George Washington's Home (ca 40 min.) - total fare $4.10 per adult. Check up-to-date price here.
2. Take 4-hour Gray Line Tour from from Union Station in Washington, D.C (daily at 8:30 a.m.), fares include admission: $30 - adults, $15 - children 3 - 11. Details here.
3. Take a boat tour (details in my "By boat" tip below)
4. Take a taxi (expensive although in a group of four...): call White Top Cab (703) 644-4500 or Alexandria Diamond Cab (703) 549-6200.
If you have a bicycle take the Mount Vernon Trail.
There are information tables with schematic maps put along parking lots. Wherever you park your car, you must go towards the large roundabout marked on the map on my picture. The ticket office is located in a small building just by the main entrance called, I have no idea why, the Texas gate.
Keep in mind that the pedestrian traffic may change when they complete new Visitors Center which was still under construction in October 2004. It was almost completed and located a little bit more to south.
Mount Vernon Estate covers quite karge area on the hill and hillside sloping down to the Potomac River. Together with ticket I received a leaflet: Mount Vernon Visitor Map which was not very detailed but enough good not to get lost. There are direction signs and maps put along paths, trails and stairs of the estate.
There is no other way to visit the estate than on foot eventually on bicycle. Well, I got to know that there is regularly scheduled bus service for handicapped visitors and those in need. Bus stops are located by the main exit, down on the bank of Potomac River (the wharf) and by 16-sided barn. It's provided from April to October but I didn't see any bus in October.
There are parking lots along streets leading to the entrance to Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens and what is more important they are free of charge (they make up for that, however, in the food court and gift shops).
There were many cars parked there on a typical Friday in October just before midday but we found our place 10 min. on foot from the entrance. I would expect more visitors and eventually problems with parking a car on summer weekends and especially on American long weekends around the following national holidays:
- Memorial Day (last Monday of May),
- Independence Day (July, 4),
- Labour Day (first Monday of September)
- Thanksgiving Day (4th Thursday of November).
Washington DC - 16 mi
Baltimore, Maryland - 61 mi
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - 160 mi
New York City, New York - 250 mi
Providence, Rhode Island - 430 mi
Boston, Massachussets - 466 mi
Richmond, Virginia - 100 mi
Williamsburg, Virginia - 140 mi
Raleigh, North Carolina - 250 mi
Charleston, Souuth Carolina - 520 mi
Savannah, Georgia - 570 mi
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - 260 mi
Columbus, Ohio - 430 mi.
Mount Vernon Estate is reachable by Potomac River boat cruises which land at the estate's wharf. The Potomac Spirit boat was moored to the wharf in the middle of October. The boat looked modern and nice. We didn't take a boat tour but I checked the schedule and prices:
1. FROM WASHINGTON, D.C.
There is 6 1/2 hour roundtrip cruise aboard the Potomac Spirit from Pier 4 at 6th and Water Streets, SW in Washington, D.C or one-way trip (at each direction).
incl. addmiddion to the estate:
- roundtrip tour: adults - $32, seniors - $31, children 6-11 - $22, 5 and under - free)
- one-way fare to Mount Vernon is... more expensive (except for seniors): $34; $27; $23; free
excl. addmission to the estate:
- one-way fare from Mount Vernon: $21; $19; $15; free.
The cruices are offered seasonally. Details: call +1 (866) 211-3811 or visit The Spirit Cruises)
2. FROM ALEXANDRIA
The Potomac Riverboat Company offers roundtrip boat transportation (narrated cruice) to Mount Vernon from the Old Town Alexandria waterfront.
Roundtrip fare Includes admission to Mount Vernon:
Adults - $27
Senior Citizens - $26
Children ages 6 through 11 - $15
Children 5 and under - free.
The cruises are offered mid-April through mid-October. Details: call +1 (703) 684-0580 or visit The Potomac Riverboat Company
Just for quick and easy orientation: there are two main pathways (lanes), both starting from the mansion circle (round-about in front of the mansion): the North Lane and the South Lane.
1. Along the North Lane (from the mansion circle)
- on the left: the Garderner's House, the Salt House, the Overseer's Quarters and Spinning Room;
- on the right: Servants' Hall and the Ice House
2. Along the South Lane (from the mansion circle)
- on the left: the Kitchen, the Dung Repository (Stercorary);
- on the right: the Storehouse and Clerk's Quarters, the Smokehouse, the Washhouse, the Coach House, the Stable.
To reach Potomac River (the wharf and the Pioneer Farmer Site) continue walk the South Lane southwards (the Steep Incline downstairs).
If you don't have your own car and want to visit more than just Mount Vernon and Washington DC (for example in Virginia: Richmond; Hampton Roads; Historic Triangle of Jamestown, Kingstown and Williamsburg, James River Plantations in Charles City) the best option is to rent a car.
I did it two days before at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) in Arlington, Virginia (12 mi/19 km north of Mount Vernon). Why just there? Because they offered discount prices at Budget car rental that time which was very important for me, as it was main expense during my trip. Surely you can rent a car in any other airport including for example in Virginia:
- Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD; details here)
- Richmond International Airport (RIC; details here),
- Norfolk International Airport (ORF; details here)
- Newport-News Williamsburg International Airport (PHF; details here).
Keep in mind that the total price you pay for the car rental consists of numerous taxes, insurance fees, additional surcharges and is far higher than the price you find at first on advertisements. I recommend to buy full insurance coverage although it's very expensive, especially for non US-residents. It added additional 60% to my basic rental price. It hurts...
I had to show valid driving licence and a credit/debit card (to be identified) and I had to be 25 years of age or older to rent any car in the USA and surely I was.
Mount Vernon estate is located in Northern Virginia, in Fairfax County on the banks of the Potomac River and only 16 miles south of downtown Washington, DC. Map here.
We got there by car starting from Richmond, then got to Dulles International Airport to reclaim my lost luggage. As navigating in urban areas of Northern Virginia is not so easy (without GPS or... Nat) let me share directions to Mount Vernon estate.
FROM WASHINGTON DC (16 mi; 40 min. to... 1.5 hour or more)
Enter Virginia driving US-1 South or I-395 West/South on a bridge (the Fourteenth Street Bridge) over Potomac River and just after crossing the river turn to George Washington Memorial Pkwy (drive right lane! and follow the signs to Mount Vernon/National Airport). Drive it south 3.6 mi (pass by Ronald Raegan National Airport on the left) and bear right onto W. Abingdon Dr. (direction: Slaters Ln), drive it 0.2 mi and turn right into Slaters Ln and after next 0.2 mi bear right onto N. Henry st. (direction: US-1 South) to enter US-1 South after next 0.3 mi. Drive US-1 South 6.4 mi (a lot of traffic lights, slow traffic!) and turn left into SR-235 South (Mt. Vernon Hwy). Drive up SR-235 2 mi and turn left to large round-abount (0.1 mi) in front of the Mount Vernon entrance. Follow direction signs to parking lots.
FROM RICHMOND (100 mi, ca 2 hours or more)
Take I-95 North (direction: Washington) and drive it to exit 163. Take it to SR-642 East (Lorton Rd). Drive it 1.0 mi and turn left into US-1 North (Richmond Hwy), drive it 4.2 mi and turn right onto SR-235 (Mt Vernon Memorial Hwy). Drive up SR-235 3.1 mi (pass by Griss Mill Park on the left) till you reach George Washington Memorial Pkwy and (0.1 mi) the large round-about by the entrance, follow the direction signs to the parking lots.