5 Historic George Washington Sites in Northern Virginia

Updated on February 5, 2024 by Julie McCool

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.

Washington learned his trade as a surveyor with close family friend George William Fairfax. The Fairfax family lived just 4 miles from Mount Vernon, and Washington remembered his time with the Fairfaxes as “the happiest moments of my life.”

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Here are 5 sites in Northern Virginia that offer a chance to explore and remember the life of George Washington, his family, and his formative role in the creation of the United States. Several of these sites host special President's Day Weekend celebrations, but they're worth a visit all year long.

1. George Washington's Mount Vernon

George Washington's Mount Vernon is open daily including Christmas Day
George Washington's Mount Vernon

If you can only visit one Washington site in Northern Virginia, take a trip to George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate, where he spent much of his life. Washington lived at Mount Vernon before and after his time as a General in the Revolutionary War and his two terms as the first President of the United States.

The Mount Vernon Estate preserves the mansion, furnishings, gardens, and outbuildings that were so beloved by Washington. Inside the mansion, you'll see the bed shared by George and Martha, where he died in 1799. Tours also include his private study and the public rooms where he entertained other founding fathers, foreign leaders, and countless friends and admirers.

Washington family at Mount Vernon
Washington Family at Mount Vernon

Tours give an in-depth look at his private and public life and also tell the stories of the workers and enslaved people who lived at Mount Vernon. The Visitor Center and museum include extensive displays including a fun, interactive Be Washington exhibit and a 4D Theater.

Swearing in of George Washington
Swearing in of George Washington

Check the calendar for special events and tours that add more detail and fun to your visit, like the Signature Tour that takes you through the normally closed 3rd floor and basement.

2. George Washington Birthplace

Washington Birthplace buildings
Washington Birthplace Buildings

A lesser-known destination, in Virginia's Northern Neck, is the birthplace and first home of George Washington, now operated as a National Monument. Washington only lived at the farm on Pope's Creek for 3 years and the original buildings were destroyed by fire. Fortunately, the park service has done an excellent job recreating the life of a Virginia gentleman farmer.

Washington Birthplace withdrawing room
Withdrawing Room, Washington Birthplace

You'll learn about Washington's father, who died when he was 11, and the values that shaped George into the leader he would become. The park includes interpretive displays, buildings to tour, a working farm, a scale replica of the Washington Monument, hiking trails, and beautiful views of this tidewater property.

3. Great Falls National Park

Continue your exploration of George Washington's life with a visit to Great Falls National Park, a beautiful and turbulent section of the Potomac River.

Patowmack Canal at Great Falls
Patowmack Canal at Great Falls

After the Revolutionary War, Washington was convinced that better transportation and trade with lands to the west were key to developing a strong United States. His goal was to make the Potomac River navigable as far as the Ohio River Valley. This led to the creation of the Patowmack Company, which built a complex canal system to safely bypass the falls.

Patowmack canal model at Mount Vernon
Patowmack Canal Model at Mount Vernon

Today you can view the remains of Washington's canals, which were not completed until after his death, both near the Visitor Center and on the Canal Trail. If the ground is not too wet, you can hike to Riverbend Park, following portions of the canal and the Potomac River. Hike to the river in Seneca Park to visit another segment of the Patowmack Canal and its original stone wall.

4. George Washington Memorial Parkway

It's named after Washington, but you'll find more to explore about other Presidents and periods of history along the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Traveling from Mount Vernon in the south to Turkey Run Park in the north, and west to Great Falls Park, there are lots of stops for hiking, biking, nature, and history along the parkway.

Fall Foliage on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, One of the Most Historic Scenic Drives in Northern Virginia
George Washington Memorial Parkway

On Theodore Roosevelt Island you can hike trails by the Potomac and visit the statue and quotes from Teddy Roosevelt at the top of the hill. The island is actually in DC, but you'll park in Virginia before crossing a footbridge to the island.

Theodore Roosevelt Island in Winter
Theodore Roosevelt Island in Winter

Another good stop on the George Washington Parkway is the parking area at Belle Haven where you can hike in Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve or bike on the Mount Vernon Trail. Both trails include pretty boardwalks over the marsh.

Dyke Marsh boardwalk
Dyke Marsh Boardwalk

5. Arlington House

Our final George Washington highlight in Northern Virginia, Arlington House, is more commonly associated with Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Lee's wife owned the property and his family lived in the house before the Civil War, when he decided to resign from the United States Army.

Arlington House path
Arlington House Pathway

Mary inherited the house from her father George Washington Parke Custis, who was the stepson of George Washington. He was raised by Martha and George at Mount Vernon and he was very fond of his stepfather. Custis intended Arlington House to serve as a home but also as a memorial to Washington.

Arlington House interior
Arlington House Interior

Unfortunately, the Civil War brought conflict to the area, and the site was turned into a burial ground for Civil War dead. Now, Arlington House is surrounded by Arlington Cemetery, another stop on the GW Parkway. Here you can also visit the gravesite of President John F. Kennedy.

Other Washington destinations in Northern Virginia include the George Washington Masonic Memorial in historic Alexandria. Head south to Fredericksburg to visit George's boyhood home at Ferry Farm.

George Washington Masonic Memorial Alexandria Virginia
George Washington Masonic Memorial

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