Don’t Skip The History: Mount Vernon Travel Guide

I did something crazy (I know, I know it is becoming a reoccurring theme).  I wanted to visit a high school friend of mine that lives in North Carolina.  Jimmy wasn’t able to take the time off work; so I decided to make the 8-hour drive by myself with the kids. Like I said, crazy, but I’m so glad I went!  I’ll admit, I was a little nervous so I decided to break up the trip rather than make the drive straight.  On our way home, we made a pit stop in Alexandria, Virginia and visited Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate.

Originally I wasn’t sure if this would be a good place to take my young kids to.  I knew I wanted to take Cam but wasn’t sure if the two tots would get in the way of him learning the history and being able to enjoy the estate.  But I was very pleasantly surprised at not only how kid-friendly it was, but how much there was for kids to do there.


Here are some things to note before you plan your trip:

  • Consider the weather.  We went in the end of July and it was HOT.  Like hot hot. Think melting popsicle hot, only you are the popsicle.  I spent a fortune on cold water bottles and was constantly on the look out for shade. It’s a lot of walking, which coupled with the intense heat had me constantly worried about the littles getting overheated.  I definitely want to go back and think fall or spring would be amazing.  There are several gardens on the property that would be just stunning in full bloom.  Rumor on the travel guide scene is that spring is the most popular and most crowded time to go.


  • Dress accordingly.  Most of your day will be spent outdoors.  Also, don’t forget to wear comfortable walking shoes.  You’ll be on your feet for several hours.


  • Plan for a whole day.  It’s a BIG property.  Beyond the mansion, itself are the gardens, slave quarters, working blacksmith, ice house, trails along the Potomac river, the Washingtons’ tombs, a slave museum, an old-fashion working farm, the George Washington education center, and you can also take a shuttle over to his distillery for additional tours.


  • Download the Agent 711 App.  It’s an interactive Spy-based scavenger hunt through out the grounds.  You are an undercover spy for General Washington and must complete activities, solve puzzles, and search for clues to decode secret messages.  You can also rent a smartphone there to play too.


  • There is also a paper adventure map that has some puzzles and scavenger hunt on it as well.  We opted for the electronic version since my Cam is very into all things spy related.  Both are really well done and keep the kids engaged through out your day.


  • Think through your stroller options.  You can take your stroller but most of the grounds are not paved so it was a workout, especially with my double stroller. The tombs are quite a bit a way from the rest of the property and I definitely regretted the extra donut I snagged at the continental breakfast as I huffed and puffed all around; specifically on the uphill trek back.  Did I mention it was hot?! That being said, I couldn’t imagine not having my stroller either.  The property is BIG and it’s a TON of walking.  Just be prepared for rugged terrain.

You actually can’t take your stroller into his house for the mansion tour.  I didn’t know that and wasn’t prepared to take 1-year old twins, unconfined, through the historic mansion.  Let’s just say I’m not sure we will be invited back anytime soon.


  • You can’t take outside food or drink in.  They do have a little food court, but you may want to including buying lunch in your budget.


  • Plan your visit.  Check the calendar before you go so that you don’t miss anything. There are kid friendly activities, crafts, a peddler band, farming demonstrations, forensic lab workshops, and a 4-D movie that are all time specific


  • Don’t skip the education center.  It is interactive, interesting, and definitely worth walking through. Apart from the spy app game, this was Cam’s favorite part of the day.


  • Purchase your tickets online.  You can save a couple of dollars on each ticket by purchasing in advance.  You will save money and skip the lines.


  • Bring extra money for the gift-shop.  It’s one of the best I’ve ever been to, and believe me, I’ve done my fair share of gift shops.


There is an intentionality behind our travel (you can read the specifics here) but I think stops like these are so important.

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything.  You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.” – Michael Crichton

I know some of you might be saying, “but history is so boring!”  Well, I’m certain you must be looking in the wrong places.  A day at Mount Vernon was rich in history in so many ways – American, culture, civil rights, heritage, and it was anything but boring.

Adventure on friends.