DC Day Trip: Visiting George Washington’s Mount Vernon

The Mount Vernon Mansion in Northern Virginia.

Located about 40 minutes south of the bustling streets of Washington, DC, George Washington’s Mount Vernon offers a captivating glimpse into America’s past. Here’s how to spend a day exploring the first president’s historic home overlooking the Potomac River in Northern Virginia.

In a city packed with free museums, memorials, and more sights than anyone can realistically see in a week, is it worth the time and effort to travel outside the capital city and pay an entrance fee to see George Washington’s Mount Vernon? My answer is YES! (In all caps. For emphasis.)

About 20 miles south of DC, this historic estate is not just a window into the life of a Founding Father but an opportunity to experience life in the early days of the United States and compare and contrast it to the present. From its iconic mansion to the sprawling grounds, Mount Vernon is a day trip that offers far more than just a break from city life.

Each corner of this historic estate tells a unique story, echoing the legacy of George Washington and the era in which he lived. From the intimate details of the mansion’s interior to the expansive beauty of the estate’s grounds and the heartbreaking role enslaved people played, Mount Vernon is where history comes alive in the most extraordinary ways. Here’s how to explore it all in a day trip to George Washington’s Mount Vernon home.  

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George washington's mount vernon a complete guide.


George Washington’s Mansion at Mount Vernon

Taking a guided tour of the mansion at George Washington’s Mount Vernon is like walking through the pages of history. This grand residence, built of wood in neoclassical Georgian architectural style,  is the estate’s centerpiece, offering an intimate glimpse into the life and legacy of America’s first president. 

Although it lacks modern luxuries, like indoor plumbing, George Washington’s Mount Vernon mansion is still pretty swanky — even by 21st-century standards. Every floor boasts soaring ceilings. The mansion walls feature bold shades of blue and green or the most fantastic wallpaper patterns of the time. Elaborately carved mantels crown each fireplace, while a majestic staircase guides visitors from the central hall to the second floor.

A sign indicating where visitors should line up for a mansion tour at George Washington's Mount Vernon.
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

Sage Advice: Each general admission ticket includes a guided tour of the first two floors. While you can explore the grounds of Mount Vernon at your leisure, you must plan your visit around the tour time on your mansion ticket. 

You’ll especially want to note the following rooms and features when you visit. Each room offers a unique perspective on Washington’s life and times, inviting you to step back and imagine the world as he experienced it.

A wall of the New Room in George Washington's mansion at Mount Vernon.
Photo Credit: Gavin Ashworth via The Mount Vernon Mansion.

The New Room

The New Room is Mount Vernon’s largest and most magnificent space. Conceived by Washington as a multifunctional room for entertaining, dining, and important meetings, it reflects his aspirations for the young nation. The high-ceilinged room features vibrant green walls, symbolizes wealth and status in the 18th century, and is adorned with detailed architectural ornamentation. Its unpretentious beauty and fine craftsmanship stand as a testament to Washington’s vision for the new nation.

Washington's Bedchamber

On the second floor, Washington’s bedchamber is a room of both historical and emotional significance. This is where the first president spent his final moments in 1799 before passing away from a severe throat infection. The room, preserved with the utmost care, still houses the Washingtons’ original bed as well as a mantel clock and a French writing desk that belonged to them.

Visitors often find themselves in a reflective mood here, contemplating the life and death of a man who played a pivotal role in shaping a nation. The room, with its modest furnishings, contrasts with the grandeur of the rest of the mansion, offering a more personal insight into Washington’s life.

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Washington's Study

A highlight of the mansion tour is Washington’s Study, a private sanctuary where he managed his estate, corresponded with world leaders, and contemplated the future of the United States. During Washington’s time at Mount Vernon, very few people were granted access to what is now a common sight on the standard mansion tour.

In this original man cave, the first president of the United States freshened up, dressed, read, and wrote. The study is a treasure trove of personal artifacts, including Washington’s books and surveying equipment. While some may marvel at the unique chair Washington pedaled to fan himself during warm months, I covet the gorgeous, floor-to-ceiling, built-in bookshelf along the wall behind it.

Key to the Bastille

When you tour the central passage, the oldest part of the home where guests would wait to be welcomed by the Washingtons, your tour guide will point out the key to the Bastille, the infamous prison in France. It was gifted to Washington by the Marquis de Lafayette as a “symbol of French liberty to the father of all liberty” in 1790, shortly after the end of the French Revolution the year prior. 

The Mount Vernon Mansion in Northern Virginia.
Photo Credit: George Washington's Mount Vernon.

The Exterior of the Mount Vernon Mansion

The exterior of George Washington’s Mount Vernon is as captivating as its interior, showcasing architectural innovations and breathtaking views. Washington’s keen eye for design is evident in every aspect, from the majestic two-story back porch to the symbolic cupola atop the mansion. These features not only reflect his taste but also his vision for his beloved home.

The beautiful back porch overlooking the Potomac River at George Washington's Mount Vernon home.
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

Two-Story Back Porch

The two-story back porch of Mount Vernon, stretching the entire house, is a testament to George Washington’s architectural ingenuity. With its stunning views of the Potomac River, this porch served as more than just a relaxation spot — it made a bold statement in colonial Virginian architecture with its grandeur, a rarity in 18th-century private residences. One can easily imagine Washington sitting here, soaking in his estate’s natural beauty and tranquility.

The dove on the weathervane at Mount Vernon symbolizes peace.
The first president of the United States commissioned a dove weathervane to express his hope for peace in the new nation.

Cupola and Weathervane

This domed architectural feature, more commonly found on public buildings at the time, crowns the mansion and serves both aesthetic and practical purposes. Added by Washington partly to help cool the house by drawing hot air out, the cupola also cleverly disguises the asymmetry of the west facade.

Atop the cupola sits a weathervane, an emblem of Washington’s hope for peace in the new nation. This weathervane, depicting a dove with an olive branch, was commissioned from Philadelphia artisan Joseph Rakestraw in 1787. While the original is preserved in Mount Vernon’s collection, a replica graces the mansion today, symbolizing Washington’s aspirations for his country.


Outbuildings of Mount Vernon

The historic outbuildings at George Washington’s Mount Vernon are more than just functional structures; they are windows into the daily life and operations of the 18th-century estate. Each building, from the innovative greenhouse to the essential wash house, tells a story of ingenuity, labor, and life in colonial America.

The impressive outhouse at George Washington's Mount Vernon estate.
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

The Necessary

Without indoor plumbing, where did the first president of the United States do his business? Certainly not in a typical pit toilet! The “necessary” at Mount Vernon, an elegantly designed outhouse, challenges modern perceptions of colonial amenities. Far from being a rudimentary pit toilet, this facility was ingeniously crafted with three seats and waste drawers for easy disposal, minimizing odors and flies. Its exterior, blending seamlessly with nearby structures, and its surprisingly sophisticated design, reflect Washington’s attention to detail and care for his estate’s appearance and functionality.

The wash house at Mount Vernon.
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

Wash House and Laundry Yard

There are few chores I hate more than doing laundry. But washing laundry back in the 18th century would have been truly dreadful. And dangerous. The wash house at Mount Vernon offers a stark glimpse into the labor-intensive process of laundry in the 18th century.

Enslaved women toiled for long hours, boiling water over open fires and hand-washing clothes. This backbreaking work, essential for the estate’s upkeep, was performed six days a week, highlighting the relentless nature of the tasks assigned to the enslaved workers. The wash house stands as a sobering reminder of the hard labor that underpinned the daily life at Mount Vernon.

Sage Advice:  When you visit George Washington’s Mount Vernon, you will hear “enslaved workers” rather than “slaves.” The first time I heard the phrase, I thought the intent was to soften something ugly — like car dealers offering “previously owned” vehicles rather than “used cars.” I asked a staff member about the phrase, and he said that everyone at Mount Vernon will consistently use that term as a matter of policy. The intent is not to soften something sinister but to focus on the condition rather than categorize the individuals.

The bed in the overseers quarters at Mount Vernon.
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

Overseer’s Quarters

The overseer’s quarters at Mount Vernon, a modest one-room structure, starkly contrasts with the grandeur of the main mansion. This building, where the overseer, who managed Washington’s farms and supervised both paid and enslaved workers, lived, reflects the vast disparity in living standards of the time. The difference in accommodation between the overseer and the mansion’s opulence is a tangible reminder of the social and economic hierarchies in colonial America.

Wooden bunks in the slave quarters at George Washington's Mount Vernon estate.
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

Slave Quarters

The Slave Quarters at Mount Vernon are a poignant testament to the lives of the enslaved workers who formed the backbone of the estate’s operations. Housing over 20 individuals in cramped conditions, these quarters starkly contrast with the relative comfort of the overseer’s accommodations — and even more so in comparison to the Mount Vernon mansion. The crude wooden bunks and straw mattresses speak volumes about the harsh realities faced by the enslaved, making these quarters an essential stop for understanding the complete history of Mount Vernon.

The red bricked exterior of the impressive greenhouse at Mount Vernon.
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.


The greenhouse at Mount Vernon, a structure of both beauty and practicality, allowed for cultivating exotic plants like coffee, aloe, and citrus, even during harsh Virginian winters. Situated near the upper garden, designed for aesthetics, the Greenhouse symbolized Washington’s interest in botany and agricultural experimentation. Today, it is a reminder of his efforts to bring beauty and innovation to his estate.

A baby goat at George Washington's Mount Vernon
This kid was rather chatty, constantly bleating to the other baby goats.


The barn at Mount Vernon is more than a practical building. It’s a place of life and activity, especially in spring when the goats and sheep at Mount Vernon proudly show off bleating kids and baaing lambs to visitors. Beyond the sight of baby animals, the warmer months also bring many bustling activities to this vibrant, working estate.

The Grounds of the Mount Vernon Estate

George Washington’s Mount Vernon grounds are as rich in beauty as in history. Strolling through these well-preserved landscapes offers a unique opportunity to connect with the past, from the meticulously maintained gardens to the historic trees that have witnessed centuries. 

Bowling Green

Spreading out from the mansion’s front door, the bowling green is a striking example of 18th-century landscape design. This carefully manicured lawn was a focal point for social gatherings and leisure activities in Washington’s time. Enclosed by a winding path and flanked by impressive trees, the bowling green reflects Washington’s desire for order and beauty in his surroundings. Today, it continues to be a serene spot, inviting visitors to envision the estate as it was during Washington’s lifetime.

A garden outside the greenhouse at George Washington's Mount Vernon.
Photo Credit: Nayuta from Pixabay


The beautiful gardens at Mount Vernon are a living testament to George Washington’s passion for agriculture and horticulture. The lower garden, primarily focused on producing vegetables and herbs for the kitchen, showcases Washington’s practical approach to self-sufficiency. In contrast, the upper garden, near the greenhouse, was designed for aesthetic pleasure, blooming with a variety of flowers and ornamental plants. These gardens provided food and beauty and served as a laboratory for Washington’s botanical experiments.

A tulip poplar tree planted by George Washington in 1785 on the grounds of Mount Vernon.
Photo Credit: George Washington's Mount Vernon.

Historic Trees

The historic trees at Mount Vernon are silent witnesses to the estate’s storied past. These living monuments, some of which date back to Washington’s time, add a sense of continuity and timelessness to the grounds. Each tree, with its history and connection to the past, contributes to the estate’s character and is a natural link to the era of America’s first president.

A sign featuring a quote by George Washington at Mount Vernon.
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

Quotes by Washington

Scattered throughout the estate are various quotes by George Washington, offering visitors a glimpse into the mind of this Founding Father. These words, etched in different locations, reflect Washington’s thoughts on everything from agriculture to personal virtues. One particularly striking quote about the forest highlights his awareness of environmental stewardship and resource conservation, showcasing his forward-thinking approach to the natural world.

Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant

When you need to refuel after exploring the vast grounds of Mount Vernon, you have a few options. For speed and convenience, there’s the Mount Vernon Food Court Pavilion. However, when we visited, it was packed with young field trippers, and my family and I wanted healthier fare. Fortunately, there’s also the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant.

In contrast to the bustling food court, this charming eatery offers a serene and more refined dining option. My family and I especially enjoyed the inn’s famous peanut and chestnut soup, which perfectly encapsulates the essence of colonial cuisine. So, no matter what you select from the menu, I highly recommend trying it.

Sage Advice: You don’t need an admission ticket to dine at the Mount Vernon Inn, making it an ideal spot for a business lunch, a leisurely Sunday brunch, or a romantic dinner in the Washington, DC, area. The combination of historical ambiance and exquisite dishes creates an unforgettable dining experience.

Final Resting Spot of George and Martha Washington

In the southwestern corner of the estate, you’ll find the tomb of George and Martha Washington, just a short walk from the slave cemetery. These sacred spots, nestled within the serene landscape of the estate, offer visitors a moment of reflection.

A brick structure that was George Washington's original burial site at Mount Vernon
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

Original Burial Plot

The original burial plot at Mount Vernon, situated with a tranquil view of the Potomac River, was the first resting place of George Washington, his wife Martha, and 20 other family members. Recognizing the need for repairs to this old vault, Washington’s will requested the construction of a new, larger tomb. In 1831, officials moved the bodies of George and Martha Washington, along with other family members, from the original burial plot to the new family tomb. While the old crypt no longer serves as a burial site, it remains a significant historical landmark.

George Washington is buried next his wife, Martha, at Mount Vernon in Northern Virginia.
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

Tombs of George and Martha Washington

Today, the remains of George and Martha Washington rest in a new tomb, a dignified red brick structure flanked by two obelisks reminiscent of the Washington Monument. This final resting place, a testament to the enduring respect and honor bestowed upon the first President and his wife, draws visitors from around the world. The tomb, a symbol of the nation’s reverence for its founding figures, stands as a solemn and respectful site, inviting contemplation on the lives

A red brick arch that serves as the entrance to the slave cemetery and memorial at Mount Vernon.
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

The Slave Memorial at Mount Vernon

A short walk southwest of the Washingtons’ tomb lies the Slave Memorial, a poignant and necessary acknowledgment of the enslaved individuals who lived and labored at Mount Vernon. This memorial, marked by a brick arch, leads to a cemetery where many enslaved people were laid to rest, often without the dignity of marked graves. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association first recognized this site in 1929, pioneering the commemoration of enslaved people at historic sites. Architecture students from Howard University designed a more fitting tribute in 1983, establishing it as a significant acknowledgment of the site’s history.

A concrete memorial marker in the slave memorial at Mount Vernon
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

The memorial, symbolizing “life unfinished,” is a powerful representation of the unfulfilled lives and aspirations of those who endured enslavement. Three steps inscribed with the words “Faith,” “Hope,” and “Love” encircle it, representing virtues that many enslaved individuals clung to despite unimaginable hardships. This site serves as a place of remembrance and starkly reminds us of the painful complexities woven into the fabric of American history.

Placed throughout George Washington’s Mount Vernon are quotes that give visitors an insight into the Founding Father who was the first president of the United States. One of my favorites is about the forest, showing that even more than 200 years ago with the natural resources available in the United States to a much smaller population, George Washington was conscious of the balance of all things.
Bronze statues of the Washington family at Mount Vernon.
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

Museum and Education Center

With 23 galleries and theatres that share even more about George Washington’s life and the estate’s enslaved community, the Museum and Education Center is a great place to wrap up your day trip to Mount Vernon. This modern facility, equipped with interactive exhibits and rich historical artifacts, provides a comprehensive understanding of Washington’s role as a military leader, statesman, and private citizen. Visitors can delve into detailed displays that cover everything from Washington’s role in the American Revolution to his efforts in agriculture and his presidency.

The Education Center, in particular, brings history to life with its engaging and interactive approach, making it an ideal destination for learners of all ages. The center doesn’t just focus on Washington’s achievements but also addresses the complexities of his time, including slavery at Mount Vernon. By offering a balanced and nuanced view of history, the Museum and Education Center ensures that visitors leave with a deeper, more informed understanding of one of America’s most pivotal figures and the era he shaped.

To Visit George Washington's Mount Vernon

Planning a visit to George Washington’s Mount Vernon is an opportunity to step into a pivotal piece of American history. This iconic estate, nestled along the Potomac River, offers a unique glimpse into the life and legacy of the first President of the United States. Here are answers to frequently asked questions as you plan your visit.

Where is George Washington’s Mount Vernon?

George Washington’s plantation home is about 16 miles south of Washington, DC, and about eight miles south of Old Town Alexandria. 

The street address is 3200 Mount Vernon Hwy., Mount Vernon, Virginia.

What is the Phone Number for Mount Vernon?

You can reach George Washington’s Mount Vernon by phone at 703.780.2000.

What's the Best Way to Get to Mount Vernon from DC?

To Reach Mount Vernon by Car

How to Use This Map

  • Zoom in or out using the + and – keys in the bottom right corner.
  • Click the “More options” text link in the upper left corner to open this embedded map in a new browser window and take advantage of more  options including the ability to send these directions to your phone.

To Reach Mount Vernon Using Public Transportation

How to Use This Map

  • Zoom in or out using the + and – keys in the bottom right corner.
  • Click the “More options” text link in the upper left corner to open this embedded map in a new browser window and take advantage of more  options including the ability to send these directions to your phone.

You Can Also Visit Mount Vernon with a Tour from Washington DC

  • This day trip to Mount Vernon from Washington DC includes a guided tour of Old Town Alexandria, a stop at the US Marine Corps War Memorial, and an hour at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
  • Or visit Mount Vernon in style with a private tour of George Washington’s estate and other historic sites tailored to your interests and preferences.

How Much is Parking at Mount Vernon?

There is no fee to park at Mount Vernon.

Can You Get to Mount Vernon on the Metro?

Unfortunately, the Metro will only get you part of the way to Mount Vernon. To use public transportation to reach Mount Vernon, take the Metro to Huntington Station (yellow line) and connect to bus #101 which will stop at the entrance to Mount Vernon.

What Time Does Mount Vernon Open?

From April through October, Mount Vernon is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. The other months of the year, Mount Vernon closes at 4:00 pm.

How Much is Admission to Mount Vernon?

Standard adult admission to Mount Vernon is currently $28. The ticket includes a one-day grounds pass and a timed entry, guided tour of the mansion. Mount Vernon offers discounts to children, military members, first responders, and medical professionals. Children under five can visit for free.

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What Does a General Admission Ticket to Mount Vernon Include?

A general admission ticket to Mount Vernon includes access to the Mount Vernon Museum & Education Center, mansion, outbuildings, gardens, tomb, farms, and trails. Please note that visitors can only enter the line to tour the mansion at their assigned time.

How Many Acres is Mount Vernon?

Although George Washington’s home once covered approximately 8,000 acres in the 18th century, today the site covers 500 acres along the Potomac River in Northern Virginia.

Did George Washington Build Mount Vernon?

George Washington did not build Mount Vernon, but he greatly expanded and improved the estate. The mansion was originally built by his father, Augustine Washington, in 1734, and George inherited it later, significantly enlarging and enhancing the property over several decades.

How Did George Washington Get Mount Vernon?

George Washington inherited Mount Vernon after the death of his half-brother Lawrence Washington and, subsequently, his widow. Initially, George leased the property from Lawrence’s widow, but he eventually inherited it outright after her death.

Is George Washington Buried at Mount Vernon?

Yes, George Washington is buried at Mount Vernon next to his wife, Martha. You can pay your respects when visiting Mount Vernon.

Where is George Washington's Tomb?

You’ll find the tombs of George and Martha Washington in the southwestern portion of the estate, situated between the fruit garden and nursery and the slave memorial.

What are the Best Places to Stay Near Mount Vernon?

For an apartment-like stay at an affordable rate, Stay APT Suites in Alexandria can’t be beat. The Hampton Inn & Suites in Alexandria is another great accommodation in Northern Virginia with convenient access to Mount Vernon and other popular sights in the Washington, DC, area. Or check out these other highly-rated hotels near Mount Vernon.

Have You Visited George Washington's Mount Vernon?

What did you do and see? Any advice you’d share with travelers planning their visit? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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9 thoughts on “DC Day Trip: Visiting George Washington’s Mount Vernon”

  1. Took my kids on a field trip to Mount Vernon last weekend. The estate is well-preserved, and the staff does a great job bringing history to life for all ages. A must-visit for history enthusiasts!

  2. I visited Mt. Vernon 2 years ago by myself . I am now getting to share the experience with my 11 year old grandson. I was able to participate in a very moving wreath ceremony at the Slave Memorial and learned about George freeing his slaves. However, Martha’s slaves were not freed and upon her death were divided among family members by value.

    1. I was so surprised to learn that George Washington had freed his slaves upon his death but heartbroken to learn that Martha didn’t follow in his footsteps (and the way that tore loved ones apart). Did you read my article about the Arlington House? Such fascinating history (and it has a tie back to George and Martha Washington!)

  3. I’m a bit conflicted on visiting sites like this one because of the strong historical ties to my lineage. I go because I need to know the history, but I never feel uplifted, so I always have to mentally prepare for what I’m going to see. The stark difference between how the enslaved people lived compared to the people they were forced to serve. It’s a fantastic lesson in where we have come as a country, but also constant reminder that we still have a long way to go.

    1. I really appreciate you sharing your perspective. While I don’t have the same personal connection you do as an African American, I agree with your comments 100%. America gained her independence from England nearly 250 years ago, yet our children are still primarily taught the white European male version of her history. And I really have a tough time glorifying historical figures who owned slaves, slaughtered Native Americans, sent Americans citizens of Asian ancestry to concentration camps, treated women as second-class citizens, etc. Yes, we’ve come along way. But, man, do we still have a long way to go. I hope I’m doing my part to shine a spotlight on these parts of our history by including them in my articles.

  4. Wow there are so many things to see here! I bet it was quite sad as well as interesting. Seeing the slave quarters must have been upsetting.

    1. While I really enjoyed our day at Mount Vernon, I did feel like there was sadness that hung over everything for me as I envisioned 300 enslaved people supporting the lives of 5 rich, white landowners. I thought of them when I gazed at the amazing mansion and the beautiful gardens and had to fight back tears when I saw their living conditions in the slave quarters and their final resting place.

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