A visit to Washington, DC should include a visit to Mt. Vernon, the home of George and Martha Washington. It is conveniently located approximately 15 miles south of Washington, D.C. When you plan your visit however, schedule for a half day visit minimum, whether you join a tour group or drive down independently.
HOURS OF OPERATION
Mt Vernon opens at 9:00 AM daily, and closes at 4:00 PM or 5:00 PM depending on the time of year. Throughout the year Mt Vernon hosts a variety of special events on select days, including trick or treating, Christmas Illuminations, Mt Vernon by Candlelight, wine festivals, Independence Day, and more.
WHAT TO SEE / DO THERE
There is quite a bit to see while visiting Mt Vernon, which is why we recommend that you plan a half day trip for your visit. The estate includes the historic mansion, outbuildings, gardens, a working farm, two museums, heritage breed animals, and a majestic view of the Potomac River from the porch of the mansion.
The standard mansion tour is included in your admission. It includes the first and second floors where you will see the interiors that have been meticulously resorted to their 1799 appearance (the last year of George Washington's life).
The estate features four separate gardens for visitors to enjoy, as well as a wooded landscape on a quarter mile long forest trail.
There over a dozen outbuildings where many essential daily tasks took place, including laundry, spinning, meat curing and more. There are daily demonstrations in the blacksmith's shop.
You can also visit the tomb where George and Martha Washington, along with other family members, are interred. Every day there is a brief wreath-laying ceremony held at the home, to pay tribute to our first president.
There is still a working farm at Mt Vernon, located on 4 acres of the estate. It includes a replica of the 16-sided treading barn as well as a reconstructed slave cabin. These are only open between April 1 and October 1.
Apparently George Washington enjoyed his spirits. You can tour the fully-functioning reconstructions of his gristmill and whiskey distillery. These buildings are located about 2 1/2 miles from the estate's main entrance and are included in your admission price.
HOW TO ARRIVE
Typically most visitors arrive at Mt Vernon approaching the main entrance by car or bus. And those that are physically fit to do so can ride a bike to Mt Vernon. But our personal favorite is to arrive by boat. It is a relaxing, scenic way to get there. The boats can typically be boarded in Washington DC (at Pier 4 at 6th and Water Sts. SW), Alexandria (at the marina at Cameron and Union Streets), or National Harbor (at the Gaylord National Harbor Hotel). The cost of the round trip boat trip also includes your admission to Mt Vernon.
At Mt Vernon you disembark at the wharf near the slave memorial, and farming demonstrations. It is a much less crowded approach to the estate. With the bulk of visitors approaching via the main entrance, especially during peak seasons, it can get quite crowded. When you approach from the Potomac River, you aren't fighting large crowds and can start your tour of the estate "going against the flow" of visitors coming through the main entrance.
The cost will depend somewhat on how you get to Mt Vernon. Going by tour bus or via boat, the admission is included in your transportation costs. If you drive yourself to Mt Vernon and do not pre-purchase tickets in advance, expect to pay $20 per adult and $12 per child (ages 6-11). Seniors (62+) can get a discounted rate of $19, and children 5 years old and younger are free. Military discounts are available, and Purple Heart recipients receive free admission year-round.
Memorial Day draws a lot of people to Washington, DC where they spend the holiday remembering those have died while serving in the armed forces. According to Destination DC, "the nation’s capital celebrates with unique and meaningful events and exhibits designed to recognize the selfless service of our active duty military and veterans."
If you are going to Washington, DC for Memorial Day weekend, here are some of the "must see" sights while you are there:
Arlington National Cemetery
The Arlington National Cemetery is the country’s largest military cemetery, with thousands of veterans and members of their immediate family resting there. On Memorial Day, servicemen and women place American flags at more than 250,000 graves, with the Memorial Day Roses Foundation providing free roses to visitors who come in tribute.
Arlington National Cemetery is the home of several well-known historic sites, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is a tribute to unidentified fallen soldiers who fought in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a large white sarcophagus that is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by Tomb Guard sentinels from the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment. On Memorial Day and Veterans Day, thousands of visitors attend remembrance services in the Memorial Amphitheater.
Iwo Jima Memorial
Located outside of the Arlington National Cemetery, the Iwo Jima Memorial (aka the Marine Corps War Memorial) is one of the most moving monuments in the area. This breathtaking sculpture depicts the six American soldiers who raised the second American flag at Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945, signifying a U.S. victory in the Pacific during World War II. The grounds of the Marine Corps War Memorial are open from 6 a.m. until midnight, year-round.
The Country's Largest Memorial Day Parade
The National Memorial Day Parade ushers marching bands, youth groups, floats, performers and, of course, veterans, down Constitution Avenue. This televised parade is the largest of its kind in the U.S. and honors those who have served or presently serve in the U.S. military. Arrive early for the best viewing options.
Theparade is a moving timeline of American military history, honoring those who have served and sacrificed from the American Revolution to the present day. It draws on the tradition of Memorial Day parades, going back to the beginning of the holiday just after the Civil War, to create a family friendly event aimed at calling attention to the true meaning of Memorial Day – honoring our fallen heroes.
The Memorials Along the National Mall
The National Mall is America’s most-visited national park, where the past, present and future come together. The monuments and memorials in this park honor American forefathers and heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to this country.
The National Mall features plenty of ways to honor American servicemen and women. Visit the magnificent National World War II Memorial and its famous effervescent fountain. Stop to pay your respects at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. Admire the steely faces of the 19 servicemen depicted in the Field of Service at the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Visit the DC War Memorial, a circular, marble monument featuring the names of DC residents who lost their lives fighting in WWI.
Travel consultants are asked a lot of questions. One of the most asked is: what is your top travel tip? We have so many travel tips to share with our clients, picking just one as our top tip is difficult. Not all tips fit all clients, but we have come up with our #1 travel tip that we think applies across the board.
Our #1 tip is fairly simple: BE FLEXIBLE. We know, you're going to ask "be flexible about what?" The short answer is "everything." But here is the longer answer.
Be flexible in your timing.
Most often you can save money, and find more availability, if you can be flexible with your travel dates. The obvious example is to avoid peak seasons. Peak season can vary, but one impact is when most kids are out of school (so more families are traveling, which increases prices and decreases availability). Another impact is special events. Traveling to New Orleans or Rio de Janeiro during Mardi Gras / Carnival is definitely peak season in those areas. New Year's Eve in New York City? Peak season. You get the picture. If you can be flexible with your travel dates, you will often save money.
Be flexible with picking destinations.
It's understandable if you have a specific destination in mind, and don't want to change it in order to save a few bucks. But you will have times where you can be flexible about the destination. Here's an example. You want to go to the Caribbean. Other than beaches, free flowing alcohol and food, and a nice pool, you really don't care too much where you go. Certain destinations will have better airfare schedules (nonstop versus two plane changes), and better prices. But if you have your heart set on St Lucia, it won't matter if Cancun is less expensive. When you're flexible about where you go, let your travel consultant know so they put together the best options possible for you.
Be flexible when traveling.
Travel is an adventure; sometimes you get more adventure than you bargained for. Some people may say "go with the flow", but it means the same thing. I have personally hunkered down in a resort as a hurricane hit. I've missed flight connections. I've had long flight delays, and I've slept in airports. Stuff happens. And when it's out of your control, it can be very frustrating. Being flexible, and refraining from stressing out, goes along way. If you can't fly to your destination, is it within driving distance? I recently had a client fly from Nashville to Miami to get on their cruise, because their flights kept getting cancelled.
Just be flexible.
Finally, just be flexible in general. Whether you travel domestically or internationally, you'll be meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, and facing new experiences. In this regard, being flexible translates to being openminded, or when dealing with toddlers at Disney World it might be called "being a saint."
Looking for more tips?
Skim through our Travel Musings to find more tips, stories, as well as destination tidbits.
At Ships 'N' Trips Travel we have been providing memorable travel experiences for our clients since 2005.