The long President’s Day weekend adds a boost of extra fun to a sometimes bleak month, and provides an opportunity to explore new destinations in the Northern Virginia and Washington DC region. We’ve rounded up presidential destinations and special events that offer fun for all ages over the three-day weekend.
Every three day weekend is a chance to discover a new place to visit, or return to an old favorite. We love to uncover hidden gems in the greater DC region, and in our area there are many destinations that have a presidential connection. Here are some fun and interesting places worth visiting during the President’s Day weekend, though all have year-round appeal.
Trace George Washington’s Life in Virginia
DC is home to iconic presidential places like the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument obelisk, and the Jefferson Memorial rotunda. But Northern Virginia has a special relationship with George Washington, who lived here for much of his life. Trace the changing fortunes of Washington’s life at these Virginia destinations.
George Washington Birthplace, Colonial Beach, Northern Neck, Virginia
Virginia’s Northern Neck is the birthplace and first home of George Washington. Washington only lived at the farm on Pope’s Creek for 3 years and the original buildings were destroyed by fire, but the National Park Service has done an excellent job recreating the life of a Virginia gentleman farmer, and capturing the influences that would shape Washington’s life.
Ferry Farm, Fredericksburg, Virginia
Plan to visit this location later in the year, as the farm is closed in January and February. At the age of 6, Washington and his family moved to a farm along the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg. The site is now preserved and a project is underway to reconstruct the Washington home on it’s original site.
Great Falls Park, Great Falls, Virginia
Washington surveyed the banks of the Potomac River as a young man, but his larger contribution to Great Falls came after the Revolutionary War. It was the site of George Washington’s ambitious project to build a navigable canal from Ohio to the Chesapeake, in hopes of better uniting a fledgling country through trade. You can visit the remains of a complex canal system built to safely bypass the falls, and learn more about Washington’s impact at Great Falls Park, which offers free admission on President’s Day.
George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Alexandria, Virginia
If you can only visit one George Washington site in Northern Virginia, take a trip to Mount Vernon, where he spent his life before and after his time as a General in the Revolutionary War and his two terms as the first President of the United States. Washington’s home and grounds are beautifully preserved and there are a wealth of special activities during each President’s Day weekend (see below).
Visit Presidential Homes In and Near Charlottesville Virginia
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Charlottesville
Monticello was Thomas Jefferson’s home and plantation for much of his life, both before and after he served as America’s third President. Tours of Monticello highlight Jefferson’s life as scholar, inventor, and founding father. Docents also discuss the conflicting reality of his devotion to American freedom, and his role as a slaveholder.
James Monroe Highland, Charlottesville
Highland is close to Monticello for good reason—Monroe selected the site so that he would be near his mentor, Thomas Jefferson. James Monroe was America’s fifth President, and the last from the Founding Fathers. He served with George Washington at Valley Forge, studied law under Jefferson, and served 50 years in public office as Senator, Ambassador, Secretary of State, and President.
James Madison’s Montpelier, Orange
James Madison, America’s fourth President, spent much of his life at Montpelier, as a boy, a family man, and a founding father. Tours of the mansion at Montpelier interpret the life of James and Dolley—the first American power couple—after he was elected President. The building underwent extensive restoration to bing it back to the time when James entertained the nation’s founders, and Dolley defined the role of First Lady. Specialty tours are offered on President’s Day weekend.
Visit all three Presidential homes on a Charlottesville, Virginia getaway.
Explore Other Destinations with a Presidential Link
Arlington National Cemetery and Arlington House, Arlington
Only two Presidents are buried in Arlington National Cemetery—John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft—but the eternal flame at the Kennedy gravesite is one of the most visited spots in the cemetery. Arlington House, which sits on the hill overlooking the cemetery, was intended as a living memorial to George Washington, and was built by George Washington Parker Custis, Washington’s adopted son. Today the mansion is more commonly associated with Confederate General Robert E. Lee, whose family lived here before the Civil War.
Eisenhower National Historic Site, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Located next to the Gettysburg Battlefield, the site preserves the home and farm of Dwight D. Eisenhower. The 34th President used the home as a family retreat and as a meeting place for world leaders.
George Washington Masonic Memorial, Alexandria
View a giant statue of George Washington, murals, and artifacts including the Washington family Bible at the George Washington Masonic Memorial. “The exhibit’s alcoves present Brother Washington as a Virginia Planter, Model Citizen, Military Officer, our Nation’s First President, Mourned Hero, and American Icon.” Note that tours end early on the President’s Day weekend in preparation for the annual Washington’s birthday gala.
Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond
Two US Presidents are buried in Hollywood Cemetery—James Monroe and John Tyler—along with Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America. Other important Hollywood Cemetery burials include six Virginia governors, two Supreme Court justices, and over 18,000 Confederate soldiers (including 22 Generals). The cemetery offers beautiful views of the James River, and is an interesting stop to include in a Richmond, Virginia getaway.
Maryland State House, Annapolis
At the Maryland State House, take a self-guided tour to see the newly restored Old Senate Chamber, where George Washington resigned his commission as Commander in Chief in 1783. Annapolis, Maryland makes a wonderful day trip or weekend getaway from the Northern Virginia area.
Seneca Park, Great Falls
Take a hike to the Potomac River in this uncrowded park to see a small remaining section of George Washington’s Potowmack Canal.
Theodore Roosevelt Island, Arlington
On Theodore Roosevelt Island you can stroll a boardwalk along the Potomac and check out the statue and sayings of Teddy Roosevelt at the top of the hill. The island is actually in DC, but you’ll park in Virginia before crossing a foot bridge to the island.
President’s Day Weekend Special Events
Washington’s Birthday Weekend, Mount Vernon
Special activities will honor and celebrate George Washington all weekend long, with free admission on President’s Day. Activities include dancing demonstrations, character performances, and birthday cake. 9:00 – 4:00 daily.
George Washington 285th Birthday, Colonial Beach
Celebrate George Washington’s birthday where America’s Founding Father was born, the George Washington Birthplace National Monument on Virginia’s Northern Neck. A first person 18th century interpreter, James Cameron, will portray John Robinson, a free African American who knew and associated with most of the prominent Virginians of the time, including George Washington. Visitors will also enjoy period music and birthday cake. Free; 11:00 – 2:00.
George Washington Birthday Parade, Alexandria
Celebrate the 285th anniversary of George Washington’s birth at the nation’s largest George Washington Birthday parade. The one-mile route through the streets of Old Town Alexandria attracts nearly 3,500 participants and honors one of Alexandria’s favorite sons. Additional events throughout the month of February include a Cherry Challenge among Alexandria’s best restaurants, free admission to historic sites, popular walking tours, and an 18th-century banquet and ball. Parade is free; 1:00 – 3:00.
Free Entrance to National Parks, President’s Day
The US National Park Service is hosting 10 fee-free days in 2017, and President’s Day is the second Free Entrance Day of the year. It’s the perfect time to visit National Parks in the Northern Virginia area and save a few dollars in the process. George Washington surveyed Great Falls Park as a young man, so that would be a fitting place to celebrate the day.
While special celebrations add extra fun to the President’s Day weekend, these historic and natural sites listed are worth visiting any time of year. However you choose to celebrate, we wish you a very happy President’s Day weekend.