Home » 1998 Road Trip to Virginia and North Carolina

Mount Vernon, VA

Sunday, April 5, 1998 - 4:30am by Lolo
270 miles and 5.5 hours from our last stop


I love history, especially of Colonial America, so a trip to Virginia was right up my alley. Herb doesn't quite share my enthusiasm for history--he's more of the scientist type--but he's always willing to go along and work up some interest for my sake. I've tried to influence the boys by exposing them to places like Lexington and Concord, the Freedom Trail in Boston, Plymouth, Williamsburg, etc. They seem to like it, but then again, they're so happy go lucky that I think they'd like anywhere we brought them.

Boys at Mount VernonBoys at Mount VernonSpring break is a pretty busy time for travel, so we had a bit of a challenge finding parking at Mount Vernon. Cars were taking the RV spots so we had to grab a bus spot and hope we didn't get ticketed. There are no assigned times for the Mansion tour. Rather you just get on line and when your turn comes you can wander through the house on your own, asking questions of the various attendants stationed in each room. Unfortunately, the line was so huge that we decided to tour the rest of the grounds first.

We wandered through the gardens, which were designed by Washington himself. There are even some trees there that were alive during Washington's lifetime. Next we explored the 4-acre farmsite where the kids enjoyed trying to make cornmeal. I guess it's fun when you don't have to do it everyday in order to feed yourself. Our next stop was the tomb in which George and Martha are buried. Unfortunately, we missed the wreathlaying ceremony which takes place each morning at 10 o'clock.

Back at the mansion, we got on the back of the line, which had gotten somewhat shorter. It actually moved pretty quickly, so we didn't have to wait too long. The house itself was lovely and filled with many interesting items and furnishings owned by the Washingtons, such as the swivel chair he used during his presidency and a key to the Bastille that Lafayette gave him. One of the things that really surprised me was that the exterior of the house is not made of stone, but rather of beveled pine made to look like stone.

Well, it was time to head on and find a place to camp for the night. My goal was finding a campground in Shenandoah National Park about 2 hours away.


Mount Vernon was the beloved home of George and Martha Washington from their marriage in 1759 until his death in 1799. In the early 1800s, the home was sadly deteriorated. In 1858, a group of women, known as the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association banded together and raised enough money to purchase and restore it. Since that time more than 80 million people have toured the estate, making it one of the most visited shrines in all of America.

45 acres of the estate are open to the public, including the house itself, four different gardens, a hiking trail, a 4-acre working farm, dozens of outbuildings, and the tomb of George and Martha Washington.

There is no formal tour of Mount Vernon. Rather attendants are stationed throughout the house and grounds to answer any questions. The house itself is an excellent example of Georgian architecture. It is made of beveled pine painted to look like stone. The Mansion house is filled with original furnishing and many items owned by Washington, such as the swivel chair he used during his presidency and a key to the Bastille given to him by the Marquis de Lafayette. There is a spectacular view of the Potomac River from the Mansion's piazza.

There are no assigned times for the Mansion tour. Rather visitors join the line in front of the house, which is often 20-30 minutes long during the peak season. The estimated waiting time is posted at the gate where you purchase your ticket. Mount Vernon is open 7 days a week, every day of the year, including holidays. Admission to the House and Gardens is $13 for adults and $6 for children from 6-11. Children 5 and under are free.

After leaving the House, you can tour the beautiful grounds. The four gardens showcase plants that were grown at Mount Vernon in the late 1700s as well as 13 trees that were alive during Washington's life here. Washington himself designed the landscape.

The 4-acre farmsite is just a short walk from the mansion with daily demonstrations of 18th-century farming and cooking. Other outbuildings you can visit include the kitchen, smokehouse, and slave quarters.

George and Martha Washington are both buried in a brick tomb on the property. Each morning at 10:00 there is a wreathlaying ceremony at the tomb. On a wooded hill near the tomb is a cemetery containing the unmarked graves of slaves who worked on the estate in the 1800s.

For those that would like to dine at Mount Vernon, near the entrance to the estate is the charming, colonial-style Mount Vernon Inn, complete with waiters and waitress in 18th-century costumes, working fireplaces, period furnishings, and some very interesting menu selections.

hree miles from the estate on Route 235 South is George Washington's Gristmill. The mill is operated by millers in period costume who explain how the mill worked. There is a separate admission.

Mount Vernon location map

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