mount vernon

Is Washington’s Mount Vernon Mansion Worth Visiting in 2023?

For those who are wondering if George Washington’s Mount Vernon mansion is worth visiting, the answer is yes and the reasons are many.

One of the top reasons why the Mount Vernon estate is worth visiting is because of the broad scope of things you’ll see. A visit to Mount Vernon is like being transported to another time and getting an amazing history lesson.

Whether you’re interested in history, agriculture, old homes, colonial living, gardens or Virginia culture, you will find it all when you visit the Mount Vernon mansion and estate.

I’ve listed 7 reasons why Mount Vernon is worth a visit in 2023, but there are many more.

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“No estate in United America is more pleasantly situated than this…on one of the finest Rivers in the world.”

GEORGE WASHINGTON, 1793
The iconic Mount Vernon mansion house stands against a blue sky in the background. Green grass is in front, along with a sliver of the sandy entrance driveway. It is a large tan house with a red roof.
George Washington’s Manor House is open for tours and makes Mount Vernon worth visiting.

Why is Mount Vernon Famous?

If you’re wondering if Mount Vernon is worth visiting, then you first need to know why the Mount Vernon mansion is famous.

Mount Vernon is famous because it was the home of George Washington, the Commander-in-Chief of American forces in the Revolutionary War and the first President of the United States.

Not only can you see the inside of the house where George Washington lived, you can explore his farm and learn about the agricultural innovations he made.

Situated along the Potomac River in Northern Virginia, Mount Vernon is the most popular historic estate in the United States, and has been toured by more than 80 million visitors.

The Mount Vernon Mansion House

There are presently nine bedrooms in the 21-room mansion, but it wasn’t always so. When George Washington inherited the house from his father, it was a one-story cottage.

Side Note: Mount Vernon was originally called Little Hunting Creek. It was renamed Mount Vernon in honor of an English naval officer Admiral Edward Vernon.

As you can see from the photos, the house looks like it is made from stone. However, it is actually made of wood through a process called rustication.

This was a way of saving on construction costs. Beveled edges are carved into wooden logs, and then paint mixed with sand is added to give the wood a grainy texture.

Related Story: Did you know there’s an abandoned town related to George Washington in Virginia? It’s called the Matildaville Ruins.

Seven Reasons Why Mount Vernon Is Worth Visiting

1. A Mount Vernon Mansion House Tour

There is no better treat than getting to go inside an old house, and a Mount Vernon mansion tour lets you get a real glimpse into colonial life and a behind-the-scenes look at George and Martha Washington.

Here are some of the rooms you get to see in a Mount Vernon Mansion Tour.

The New Room

The first room you enter on the Mount Vernon Mansion tour is the New Room, so called because it was part of the addition that George Washington added.

The "New Room" at Mount Vernon has a large window cascading light onto a fully set dining room table. The walls are green and the chair seats at the table are green.
The New Room set up for dining at Christmas.

During my visit at Christmas time, this room was set up as a festive dining room, but this space was one that would have been changed by the servants for special occasions and depending on the situation.

The room was probably used for dining only for guests of high rank or large parties that could not be accommodated in the smaller dining room.

The Front Parlor

A room with blue chairs, blue squares in the carpet and blue curtains that was used a parlor in the mount vernon mansion. Very elegant room with paintings on the wall.
Front Parlor at Mount Vernon.

This room was considered by Washington to be “the best place in my House” before the New Room was added. This elegant room was where visitors would assemble and where tea and coffee would be served.

The entire household gathered in this room in the evenings to read, discuss the latest political news, and play games.

The mantel, two Palladian door frames and the paneled walls make this room one of the finest surviving examples of colonial Virginia architecture.

The Dining Room in Mount Vernon Mansion

The dining room at Mount Vernon is empty except for a few chairs. The walls are green and the floor is wooden with a an intricate plaster ceiling.
The Dining Room at Mount Vernon is part of the original house.

According to the tour guide, George Washington had the walls painted that shade of green in 1785, because he believed the color to be “grateful to the eye” and less likely than other colors to fade.

(I’m not sure about that, George).

Amazingly though, this dining room is part of the original house that was built in 1734. Over the years, the room underwent a series of renovations, including the elaborately decorated ceiling and plaster ornaments.

Washington hired a plasterer in 1775, identified simply as the “Stucco Man,” who spent five months completing the hand-tooled ceiling.

George Washington’s Study or Library

A photo of George Washington's study, showing his writing desk and his 'fan' with foot pedals. There are two large windows and a bookcase.
This is George Washington’s study. Notice the fan above his chair that he operated with foot pedals.

After the Revolutionary War, the study became Washington’s retreat from both family and visitors. Reportedly, no one was allowed in this room without his invitation. From here, he directed the management of his estate.

The study was also where Washington bathed, dressed, and kept his clothes. In the background you can see that Washington’s chair that he used as President, and the fan over his working desk that he operated with pedals.

There are a number of artifacts from Washington’s life in this room including the bookcases and secretary.

Upstairs Bedrooms: The Blue Room And Others

The blue room at Mount Vernon shows a canopy bed with blue covers, blue patterned wallpaper and a wooden floor.
The Blue Room.

The Blue Room is one of the six primary bedchambers in the Mount Vernon mansion that you can see on a tour. Located at the top of the stairs on the second floor, the Blue Room overlooks the front entrance.

By the late 1790s, this room served as a bedchamber for visiting family and guests.

Other bedrooms upstairs include the Lafayette bedchamber (because it is where the Marquis de Lafayette is believed to have stayed when he visited), and the Yellow Room, the Chintz Room, and the Hall bedchamber at the top of the stairs.

George and Martha Washington’s Bedchamber

George and Martha Washington's bedroom shows a white canopy bed, a white-covered chair, and orange/green striped rug.
George and Martha’s bedroom, where George Washington died.

For those who are still wondering if Mount Vernon is worth visiting, the bedroom of George and Martha Washington is one of the most memorable rooms I have ever seen on an old house tour.

As you can see from the photo, the bedroom is decorated in a very simplistic white even though color was used throughout other rooms in the house.

It was the private bedroom of George and Martha Washington, and it is where George Washington took his last breath. He died from a throat infection on December 14, 1799. (And it is the actual bed that he died on).

Sadly, Martha chose not to sleep in the bedroom again, instead sleeping in another bedroom.

If you want to read more about his short illness and the treatments he received (pretty atrocious by today’s standards), you can click here. Needless to say, the medical knowledge was very limited back then.

For those who are interested in early medicine, you can learn a lot about the advancements made during the Civil War at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Md. It’s very intriguing!

Other Rooms In The Mount Vernon Mansion

You also get to go down the back staircase at the Mount Vernon mansion, which are the stairs that Washington used every morning to go down to his study.

The kitchen is also on the tour. It is in a separate building close to the house (common to that era in case of fire)

2. The Mount Vernon Museum and History Center

Display of a young George Washington sitting on a white horse.
A realistic depiction of a young George Washington is on display in the Museum at Educatioon Center at Mount Vernon.

When you book a tour at the Mount Vernon estate, you also get access to the Museum and Education Center that features 23 galleries and two theaters.

The Visitor Center (Ford’s Education Center) is where you enter the Mount Vernon mansion property.

Don’t forget to get your picture taken with George Washington and his family. They greet you right inside the door!

You can also pick up a map here and learn about the audio tour.

The center tells the detailed story of George Washington’s life with more than 500 original artifacts, 11 video presentations, and even an immersion theater experience.

Pro Tip: This is also a place where you can get warm in the winter or cool off during the summer.

Take a private tour of Mount Vernon.

3. Washington’s Tomb

The old tomb where George Washington was first buried. It is an old brick building with a wooden door and paved bricks leading up to it. The sun is setting through the trees behind it.
This is George Washington’s old tomb at Mount Vernon. He was moved to a new tomb on the property in 1831.

George and Martha Washington are both buried on the Mount Vernon estate property.

Washington made provisions for a new brick tomb to be constructed after his death, which then replaced the original family burial vault.

In 1831, Washington’s body was transferred to the new tomb, along with the remains of Martha Washington and other family members. There is a wreath-laying ceremony at the new Washington’s Tomb daily.

In addition to Washington’s Tombs there is also a slave cemetery on the property and a Slave Memorial that commemorates the community of enslaved people with a special wreath-laying presentation each day.

4. The Wharf At Mount Vernon Estate

The wharf on the Potomac River at Mount Vernon, was integral to the running of the farm. It’s were supplies and some communications were received and where things from Mount Vernon were shipped out.

It also provided the farm with fish. Records show that more than 1.3 million herring and 11,000 shad were taken from the river in 1772.

The wharf is where visitors can learn more about the different types of boats used at Mount Vernon.

It’s a bit of a hike, but the view is worth it! During the busy summer season, you can catch a trolley ride.

By the way, you can book a bike and boat tour at Mount Vernon, where you can ride a bike to the estate, and take a boat back to Alexandria. (Sounds like fun)!

5. The Outbuildings

A lantern on an iron stand is in the foreground with an outbuilding at Mount Vernon in the background. A white fence is to the right.
One of the outbuildings at Mount Vernon with a lantern that lights the way for the holiday candlelight walk.

Its important to note that Mount Vernon was a working plantation that covered 8,000 acres (with about 3,200 acres in crop).

Today the estate encompasses 500 acres so is still quite wide and vast, with many original outbuildings. (Truly amazing to see).

✔️ The Blacksmith Shop: This had a blacksmith pounding away during my candlelight tour at Christmas. Very cool!

✔️ Spinning House

✔️ Shoemaker’s Shop

✔️ Smokehouse

✔️ Slaves’ Quarters

✔️ The Washhouse

✔️ The ‘Necessary’

✔️ The Salt House

✔️ The Paint House

✔️ The Stove House

✔️ The Gardener’s House

✔️ The Ice House

6. Pioneer Village

This four-acre farm site is where you can learn what a visionary George Washington was in the field of agriculture, and where he experimented with farming techniques, tools and plants.

Visitors can watch costumed interpreters demonstrate things like hoeing the fields, cooking over a fire, shearing sheep, and harvesting crops.

The highlight of this area is Washington’s 16-sided treading barn, one of his amazing agricultural inventions that was used to process grain.

The second level had a slatted wooden floor where work animals would walk in a large circle treading upon the grain. The seeds would fall through the slats to the solid wooden floor below.

7. The Gardens

The greenhouse at Mount Vernon is a large brick building with tall glass windows. There is a chimney on each side.
The Greenhouse at Mount Vernon. I learned how to “dance like a Colonial” in this building during a candlelight tour.

I think maybe I saved the best for last.

There are four gardens at the Mount Vernon estate, all with very different purposes. Since I visited in December, I don’t have any garden photos — only the greenhouse picture above.

The Upper Garden was intended for the enjoyment of the Washington’s guests. It contained a variety of plants that showcased Washington’s skill as a gardener. The focal point of this garden is the greenhouse pictured above.

In this heated space, Washington cultivated tropical plants, as well as lemons, limes and oranges. This “technology” was extremely rare in Washington’s time.

The Lower Garden at the Mount Vernon mansion was the “kitchen garden,” and would have been overseen by Martha Washington.

While George Washington oversaw most aspects of managing the pleasure grounds, Martha Washington to grow fruits and vegetables for her table.

The Botanical Garden behind the Spinning House was Washington’s little garden where he experimented with plants and species. Washington first grew alfalfa and oats here and learned he could increase the productivity of his fields.

The Fruit Garden and Nursery was actually a failed attempt at a vineyard.

The nursery area was where plants that required more space were planted, including grasses, vegetables and ornamentals.

Apples, pears, cherries, peaches, and apricots were the standard fruit trees grown at Mount Vernon.

George Washington would have loved the gardens at Middleton Place Plantation and Boone Hall.

Pro Tip: For a closer look at the Mount Vernon mansion and estate, you can take a virtual tour.

Bonus: Why Mount Vernon Is Worth Visiting

Aladdin the camel stands behind a wooden fence at Mount Vernon as part of their annual Christmas display.
Aladdin the camel is part of the Mount Vernon estate Christmas holiday events every year.

Where else can you see Aladdin the Camel?

Thanks to a note written by Washington about a camel that was brought to Mount Vernon in 1787, Aladdin the camel is part of the Mount Vernon estate’s special Christmas offerings every year.

Aladdin is just one of the many special activities, events, demonstrations and tours that take place at Mount Vernon throughout the year. Some of these are included with admission, others cost a nominal fee.

Riverside Of The Mount Vernon Mansion

The back of the mansion was undergoing renovations when I visited so I didn’t get any photos, but the river views from Mount Vernon are spectacular.

I’m sure if I had been able to sit on the porch, I would have listed the portico as another feature that makes Mount Vernon worth visiting.

Here is how it is described by a visitor.

“On the side opposite the front is an immense open portico supported by eight pillars. It is from there that one looks out on perhaps the most beautiful view in the world. One sees there the waters of the Potowmak rolling majestically over a distance of 4 to 5 miles. Boats which go to and fro make a picture of unceasing motion.”

Since the 1950s, there have been threats to the magnificent vista from the mansion across the Potomac River, but the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association has fought encroaching development attempts (including a sewage treatment plant).

Mount Vernon Mansion History

The original Mount Vernon mansion structure was built for George Washington’s father in 1734 when George was just a toddler. It had four rooms and a foyer, called a central passage.

George Washington added 8,000 square feet to the original house and 4,000 acres to the original property. 

He designed several major renovations that resulted in raising the roof to add a story to the main house thereby creating more bedrooms, a garret (attic), and a two-story piazza facing the river.

He also added the wings on each side to increase living and entertaining spaces.

Top Tips For Visiting Mount Vernon

✅ Wear comfortable shoes! There is a lot of walking, so sneakers or some sort of walking shoe is highly recommended.

✅ Check the weather. A lot of your time will be spent outdoors exploring the grounds. It was freezing the day I visited, but northern Virginia can be hot and steamy during the summer months.

✅ Make sure you take water with you. I recommend this eco-friendly re-useable EMBRAVA Sports bottle because of the click top, no leak, and long leash to snap to your waist or purse. (I love click tops).   

Pro Tip: Mount Vernon has water in the museum, gift shop and a few on the grounds, including the pioneer farm, which is one of the most distant sites.

✅ Since I went in December (hence the cold temperature), there were no lines upon entry. However, it is highly recommended that you purchase your Mount Vernon tickets in advance.

✅ They have different options and designated tour times, so make sure you know what you are purchasing.

George Washington During the American Revolution post: A Visit To Valley Forge

The Mount Vernon Distillery

Just three miles down the road from the Mount Vernon Mansion is George Washington’s Distillery and Gristmill, a beautiful structure that has been reconstructed and is now capable of producing 5,000 to 8,000 pounds of flour and cornmeal a day.

The Distillery produced nearly 11,000 gallons of whiskey in 1799, valued at $7,500 ($120,000 today).

The average Virginia distillery produced about 650 gallons of whiskey per year which was valued at about $460, making Washington’s Distillery was was one of the largest whiskey distilleries in America.

The distillery is open seasonally and continues to produce small batches of spirits.

Mount Vernon is an American landmark and a lasting reminder of the life and legacy of the Father of Our Country. I’m lucky that I live less than two hours away, but it is worth the effort to visit it no matter where you live!

If you’re in Virginia, I highly recommend a visit to Arlington House and the Arlington Cemetery during your stay.

 


Quick Facts About The Mount Vernon Mansion:

Where is George Washington’s Mount Vernon Historical Site?

Mount Vernon is located in northern Virginia, less than 10 miles south of Alexandria, a charming historic town that is also worth a visit. It is only 18 miles from Washington, D.C. and 55 miles from Baltimore.

Does Mount Vernon Have Free Parking?

Yes, there is plenty of free parking at Mount Vernon as well as a convenient drop-off area.

How Did Mount Vernon Get Its Name?

Mount Vernon was named after a British Admiral, Edward Vernon, under whom Lawrence Washington served in 1740 in the Cartagena Expedition.

What are the Dimensions of The Mount Vernon Mansion?

The house is 96 ft. long and 30 ft. deep. The porch columns are about 20 ft. high and 16 in. square.

Is The Mount Vernon Mansion the original house?

The center portion of the mansion is the original part built by George Washington’s father in 1734. George Washington added onto the modest house.

Is Mount Vernon part of the National Park System?

No. Mount Vernon is not part of the National Park System.

Who owns the Mount Vernon Mansion Now?

Mount Vernon is owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, and is run at no expense to taxpayers. The Association bought the Mansion and about 200 acres for $200,000 in 1858. They took over operation of the estate in 1860. They are the first national historic preservation organization in the country and the oldest women’s patriotic society in the United States.

Should I Purchase Tickets To Mount Vernon In Advance?

It is a good idea to buy tickets in advance to avoid long lines on site.

You can also purchase an audio tour that leads you through George Washington’s estate.

How Much Time Do You Need To Explore Mount Vernon?

This is an important question! I never seem to leave enough time. The Mount Vernon Ladies Association recommends three hours at the least. I would recommend five hours.

Does Mount Vernon Estate Have a Gift Shop?

Yes, Mount Vernon has a gift shop and it is expansive. You can also shop for gifts online.

Getting to the Mount Vernon Estate

Because of its close location to our nation’s capital, a visit to the Mount Vernon mansion makes a great day trip if you’re staying in Washington, D.C.

If you’re using public transportation coming from the capital city, you will need to use both Metro and a bus, which you can find out about HERE.

I toured Alexandria before my visit to Mount Vernon mansion and I’m so glad I did. It’s a beautiful historic, waterfront town. If you’re in Washington, DC, you can purchase a full day Washington DC Tour with Old Town Alexandria and Mount Vernon ticket and not have to worry about your own transportation.

You can also rent bikes in Alexandria and ride to Mount Vernon.

The address is 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, VA.

Hotels close to the Mount Vernon Mansion

Best Western No frills, but a great hotel that is four miles from Mount Vernon. This is where I stayed because I was driving at night. Fifteen-minute walk to the George Washington’s Distillery.

The Alexandrian Pet friendly. Close to everything in Old Town Alexandria.

Embassy Suites by Hilton in Alexandria Old Town: My favorite hotel brand. Indoor pool. Restaurant. Happy hour.

Wrap-Up of Is The Mount Vernon Mansion Worth Visiting

Whether or not you’re into history, a visit to George Washington’s Mount Vernon is a worthwhile venture.

I’ve been there twice, and I’m still not sure if I’ve seen everything.

If you visit over the holiday season, don’t miss going on a Candlelight Tour. This special event is a Christmas tradition for many, so purchase your tickets ahead of time!

Some call the Washington’s Mount Vernon estate a “privately-owned treasure” and no truer words were ever spoken. It’s a place that everyone should visit once in their lifetime.

The pages of the history books you read in school come alive in the Mount Vernon mansion — and you might just want to dust them off and start reading them again.

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