Mount Vernon, Washington D.C.
Are you in Washington or Alexandria and want to visit Mount Vernon? Consider taking the boat! Spirit Cruises offers round-trip cruises, departing daily from Washington's Pier 4 (6th St and Water Street SW). Cruises depart daily (except Monday) from the end of March through early September, and Friday through Sunday from September through late October. The ship departs at 8:30, arriving at Mount Vernon at 10:00. The return voyage departs Mount Vernon at 1:30PM, arriving Washington Pier 4 at 3:00PM. UPDATE: The company no longer posts standard fares for this trip; fares vary by date. Check the website for exact prices.
From Alexandria, the Potomac River Boat Company offers service from April through Early September daily (except Monday). The boat sails every day except Monday, departing Alexandria harbor at 10:30 AM and returning to Alexandria at 5:30PM. Round-trip fares (including admission) are $40 and $20 for youths 6-11 years old. Fare for the boat trip only (for people who hold Mount Vernon annual passes) is $26. The company also offers one-way fares, shorter tours, and departures from other locations -- check the website for details.
George Washington's home, Mount Vernon, has been lovingly preserved by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association since 1853. It's interesting to note this site does not recieve any government funding whatsoever; it exists exclusively from admission fees and donations.
The house and grounds are magnificent, with tremendous views of the Potomac River. Tours of the mansion itself are included with admission, though waiting lines can be quite long, especially on weekend mornings.
Mount Vernon is quite tourist-friendly by US standards, with brochures and maps available in French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese.
As of February 2011, Admission is $15 for adults, $14 for those over 62 years of age, and $7 for children 6-11 years old. Annual passes are $25 for an adult, $10 to add a 6-11 year old youth. Thus, if you plan to visit Mount Vernon more than once in a year, it makes sense to get the annual pass.
The grounds are open 365 days a year, 8AM-5PM April-August; 9AM-5PM March, September, and October; 9AM-4PM November-February.
Take the steep path down to the wharf. You'll be rewarded with still more great views of George Washington's beloved river. The wharf itself is not the original one Washington used, but is perfectly functional. If you have your own private boat, you can even dock here (small boats are allowed to dock during opening hours only, admission fees still apply, no overnight docking allowed).
George Washington's home. Its a big farm/estate so couldn't do everything in it justice here. Buy a good guidebook and read up before you go.
His tomb is there as well.
Its child friendly and much is outdoors.
Definitely recommended, and a great break from the downtown sightseeing.
A short walk from the wharf is the George Washington Pioneer Farmer Site. The centerpiece of this area is the 16-sided barn Washington designed himself to separate grain more efficiently. Wheat would be laid on the floor of the barn, while horses were led around the circular path. Their hooves trampled the wheat, causing the grain to fall through cracks in the floor to a storage area below. More detailed (and probably more accurate) descriptions are available from volunteers at the site.
During Fall, the wheat treading technique is demonstrated live daily at 10AM, 11AM, 1PM, and 3PM.
On the estate of Mount Vernon, you'll find the tomb of George and Martha Washington. It's interesting to note that this area was mutually considered a neutral location by Union and Confederate troops as the American Civil War raged all around. The tomb was built exactly to the specifications outlined in George Washington's will. Surrounding columns commemorate other members of the Washington family.
A worthwhile diversion is to take a 30-minute sightseeing cruise from Mount Vernon. You'll get a decent recorded narration of the river and its highlights. Of course, the views steal the show, especially from the top deck.
Look around and admire your surroundings. This is what George Washington saw when he lived at Mount Vernon. In fact, when developers threatened the forests around Mount Vernon, private citizens banded together, bought the land, and donated it to the government. The entire opposite bank of the Potomac is now a National Park
Fare is $9 for adults, $5 for youths 6-11 years old. Tours depart April-September, Tuesday through Sunday, as well as on Labor Day and Columbus Day, at 10:30, 11:30, and 12:30. Additional tours depart at 2:00 and 3:00, daily except Mondays but including Labor Day, from April through Labor Day.
Though not located in Washington DC, Mount Vernon is a great side trip you should take when you visit the city.
Mount Vernon was George Washington's home on the Potomac from 1759 through 1799. At its peak, the plantation had 8,000 acres of land, 45 of which are open to the public today. Though a walk on the grounds is very pleasant, the highlight of this trip is the tour of the 21-room mansion. Just be prepared for a very long wait! When I visited the estate in 2001, the line to visit the house was over one hour long, so we decided to skip it (they claim there is usually no wait in Jan, Feb, Mar, and Nov)! Our favorite spots were the back porch overlooking the Potomac River, Washington's Tomb, and the gardens.
To get to Mount Vernon, just follow the George Washington Parkway; the house is 16 miles south of Washington DC. In 2001, the entry fee was $9.00 (* Update: tickets are now $11.00 for adults! *). It is open every day of the year from 8am to 5pm in the summer and 9am to 4pm in the winter.
The estate still functions as a working farm. The animals are a big hit with kids. We couldn't resist taking a couple of photos of these cute little guys ourselves.
Work your way behind the mansion, and you are greeted with spectacular views of the Potomac River. Convenient chairs are available on the back porch for sitting, relaxing, and admiring the view.