Fun Things to do at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Virginia Estate

Updated on September 12, 2023 by Julie McCool

Here is a complete guide to fun things to do at George Washington's beloved estate in Mount Vernon Virginia, plus tips for making the most of your visit. Extensive grounds, the restored Mansion and outbuildings, an education center and museum, and numerous activities make George Washington's Mount Vernon a perfect day trip from Washington DC.

Mount Vernon is on our list of the Top 10 Must-Visit Northern Virginia Attractions Near DC. The beautifully preserved and interpreted home and gardens are popular with visitors to the Washington DC area and Northern Virginia residents.

Disclosure: This article may contain affiliate links. We will make a small commission from these links if you order something, at no additional cost to you.

George Washington lived at Mount Vernon both before and after his time as a Revolutionary War General and his two terms as the first United States President. He personally oversaw the design and construction of his estate over a 45-year period.

Tip: Use promo code FBFALL for a 20% discount on up to 6 weekday general admission tickets now through 12/31/23. The Mansion will undergo restoration work in 2024 that will limit access, so now if a great time to visit.

There are so many things to do on a trip to Mount Vernon Virginia that you will need several hours or repeat visits to do them all. If you plan to make repeat visits, buy an annual membership to save money and support Mount Vernon.

Whether you only have time for the highlights or choose to spend the day, you'll find lots of interesting things to do in Mount Vernon Virginia for history lovers of every age.

George Washington's Mount Vernon in Northern Virginia
George Washington's Mount Vernon

Fun things to do at George Washington's Estate in Mount Vernon Virginia are listed in the order you will encounter them as you explore the grounds. Use our tips to prioritize which activities to include in your visit.

1. Purchase Mount Vernon Tickets and Get Oriented

All visitors enter and purchase tickets at the Ford Orientation Center. When you pay the entry fee, you are issued a timed ticket that tells you when to line up for your tour of George Washington's home.

As you enter, pick up a map and check the calendar for the day's special activities. There are interesting talks throughout the grounds on most days. Before you head out, take a photo with the first First Family, rendered in bronze just inside the center.

If you have plenty of time, watch the 25-minute film about Washington's experience in the French and Indian War, which prepared him to lead the Colonial Army.

Washington family in bronze at Mount Vernon Virginia
Washington Family, Mount Vernon Virginia

2. Tour George Washington's Mount Vernon Virginia

The most popular activity at George Washington's Mount Vernon is the Mansion tour. Tours cover all of the main rooms on the first and second floors, including the rooms where the Washington family lived and entertained a steady stream of important guests.

Tips for Mount Vernon tours:

  • Your Mount Vernon ticket will tell you when to line up for your Mansion tour. You will likely have a wait until your tour begins.
  • Once inside the Mansion, tours move quickly on crowded days at Mount Vernon. If you want more time to ask questions and a shorter wait, avoid visiting during the summer and nice weekends in spring and fall.
  • Photography is not allowed inside the Washington home, so plan to get your photos outside.
  • Special tours are available that include the basement and third floor. Special holiday season events include Mount Vernon by Candlelight tours. These excellent tours share how the Washingtons celebrated the holidays and what that meant for the enslaved workers. Check the Mount Vernon events calendar for special tour offers.
Lady Washington shared her holiday traditions in the Mount Vernon by Candlelight tour
Lady Washington, Mount Vernon by Candlelight Tour

3. Enjoy Potomac River Views

Your tour of Washington's house will include a stop on the East Porch as you move between rooms. A row of Windsor chairs line the porch and offer a nice spot to take a break during your visit. The Potomac River was busy with commerce in Washington's early days, so imagine the view filled with ships and traders.

Learn more about Mount Vernon's East Front Porch and this beautiful view.

Potomac River views from the porch at George Washington's Mount Vernon
George Washington's Mount Vernon Porch

4. Visit the Slave Quarters and Outbuildings

Contrast life in the slave quarters with the Washington family life in the Mansion. Shared rooms, meager possessions, and back-breaking physical work was life for the enslaved people at Mount Vernon. As you tour the kitchen, smokehouse, washhouse, and other outbuildings, imagine the difficult conditions experienced by the workers who toiled here.

Tip: Re-enactors in period dress are often on hand to answer questions and tell you more about what life was like at Mount Vernon. There is also a one-hour guided Slave Life Tour.

Slave quarters at Mount Vernon VA
Slave quarters at Mount Vernon

5. Take a Stroll in the Gardens

Mount Vernon is home to some of the most interesting and beautiful gardens in the DC area. There are several gardens and they all contributed to life on the Estate. George Washington was a successful and innovative Virginia farmer, always looking for ways to improve the fortunes of his vast farmlands.

There are formal and decorative gardens near the Greenhouse and Lady Washington Shop. The Lower Garden was used to grow produce and herbs to feed the Washingtons and their workers. Further down the hill are fruit orchards and a nursery.

Mount Vernon garden and greenhouse at George Washington's Virginia home
Mount Vernon garden and greenhouse at George Washington's Virginia home

6. Meet the Heritage Sheep and Pigs

Mount Vernon is home to several of the same animal breeds kept by George Washington, including hogs, sheep, chickens, and cattle. In late winter and spring, you'll see adorable baby lambs in the paddocks.

Tip: George Washington brought a camel to Mount Vernon during the Christmas season to amuse his guests, and that holiday tradition continues today. Visit Aladdin the Christmas Camel every December through early January.

Meet heritage breeds from George Washington's time at Mount Vernon VA
Heritage Sheep, Mount Vernon Virginia

7. Pay Your Respects at Washington's Tomb and the Slave Memorial

George and Martha Washington are buried side-by-side in a tomb located below the fruit orchard. Washington died in his bedroom at Mount Vernon, and his will specified that he be buried on the estate.

The Slave Memorial, located 50 yards from the tomb, is located on the site of a burial ground for slaves and free blacks who worked at Mount Vernon. Special wreath-laying ceremonies are held at Washington's Tomb and the Slave Memorial daily, but you can stop and pay your respects any time.

Tip: Washington's Tomb and the Slave Memorial are located downhill from the Mansion on a dirt path. The terrain can be steep and uneven and can be difficult for people with limited mobility.

8. Visit the Pioneer Farm and 16-Sided Barn

If your time and energy allow, continue down the hill, or follow the path through the woods, to visit the Pioneer Farm. Here you can see Washington's innovative 16-sided treading barn.

16 Sided Barn George Washington's Mount Vernon VA
16 Sided Barn Mount Vernon VA

The treading barn was carefully constructed to efficiently separate wheat from chaff using horses, but protected from the elements. The Pioneer Farm also includes a recreated slave cabin and farming demonstrations.

Tip: The farm is at the bottom of a steep hill, down a long flight of stairs. A seasonal bus is available for those who don't want to walk.

View of the Pioneer Farm and Potomac River from the barn Mount Vernon
Pioneer Farm, Mount Vernon VA

9. Take a Scenic Boat Cruise on the Potomac River

Steps from the Pioneer Farm, the Potomac River makes its way from Washington DC, past the Mount Vernon estate. Take a sightseeing cruise of the Potomac to view Mount Vernon as river travelers would have seen it during Washington's time. 45-minute narrated cruises leave from the Wharf from mid-March through fall.

Tips: Potomac River cruises are often free on special weekends and holidays like Presidents Day, on a first-come, first-served basis. The Wharf is a steep 30-minute walk from the Mansion, but a shuttle bus is available in season.

Potomac River cruise from the wharf at Mount Vernon
Potomac River Cruise, Mount Vernon

10. Explore the Education Center

Allow time at the end of your visit to explore the excellent Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center. The Education Center has interesting displays that cover George Washington's life, from his days as a young surveyor to his time as the first United States President. Don't miss our favorite interesting and interactive exhibits:

Interactive desks Be Washington Mount Vernon
Interactive Desks at Be Washington
  • Be Washington is an interactive and fun way to learn about important challenges in Washington's life before and during his Presidency. Get input from advisors like Alexander Hamilton, then decide how you will advise George Washington to handle each conflict.
  • The 4D Revolutionary War Theater is an immersive overview of the Revolutionary War, complete with fog, cannon blasts, and snow.
  • Learn the true story of George Washington's false teeth. Washington was plagued with dental issues throughout his life but, despite what you may have learned in grade school, he never wore wooden teeth.
George Washington teeth Mount Vernon
George Washington's Teeth

11. Have a Meal at the Tavern

The Tavern is the only table-service restaurant at Mount Vernon (there is also a food court near the gift shop). The rich and creamy Virginia Peanut soup is a popular first course. Try the grits and you'll be enjoying a bit of history. They are stone ground by water power at George Washington's Gristmill (details below), and a generous order is only $3.

You can also try a shot of the whiskey produced at Washington's Distillery, but it will set you back $25 to $70 per shot, depending on how long it has been aged.

12. Shop in the Gift Store

The gift shops at Mount Vernon are quite large and filled with interesting items, which are also available online. There's a large section for children, some fun POTUS1 gear, and the most extensive George Washington-themed bookstore in the world.

13. Visit George Washington's Gristmill and Distillery

If time allows, we highly recommend a visit to George Washington's Gristmill and Distillery. Both historic businesses have been restored and are fully operational. Expert docents in period dress demonstrate how to stone-grind grain and distill spirits as it was done in Washington's time. The huge wooden gears and waterwheel are really impressive when grinding demonstrations are underway.

George Washington's Gristmill Mount Vernon VA
George Washington's Gristmill Mount Vernon VA

Tip: The Gristmill and Distillery are open from April through October. On busy weekends, consider parking at the Gristmill and beginning your tour there before heading to the Mansion and estate on the free shuttle.

George Washington's Distillery Mount Vernon VA
George Washington's Distillery Mount Vernon VA

14. Attend a Special Event at Mount Vernon

There are special tours at Mount Vernon every day, and special weekend events are a great time to visit. On President's Day, you can meet and get a picture with “George Washington.” Fourth of July, Fall Harvest Days in October, Mount Vernon by Candlelight holiday tours, and other annual events feature special activities on the estate.

Tip: Admission is free on President's Day. Several annual events include fireworks over the Potomac River. Check the Fun in Fairfax VA monthly events in Northern Virginia for the latest events in and near Mount Vernon.

George Washington on President's Day at Mount Vernon
George Washington on President's Day at Mount Vernon

15. Bike the Mount Vernon Trail

The Mount Vernon Trail follows the Virginia side of the Potomac River from Theodore Roosevelt Island to Mount Vernon Virginia. The bike route links natural and historic sites and offers beautiful views across the river to Washington DC. While most of the trail is level, the mile closest to Mount Vernon VA is a steady climb.

READ MORE: 8 Epic Virginia Trails to Hike and Bike Less Than 2 Hours from DC

Fall Foliage on the Mount Vernon Trail Boardwalk at Dyke Marsh
Mount Vernon Trail Boardwalk

16. Visit River Farm

The current Mount Vernon estate is large, but it is a small portion of Washington's original holdings. Nearby River Farm, 5 miles northeast of the Mansion, was once part of Washington's sprawling farmland. Today River Farm is a lovely garden and headquarters of the American Horticultural Society.

The Meadow at River Farm Alexandria Virginia
River Farm, Alexandria Virginia

More Tips for Your Visit to George Washington's Mount Vernon Virginia

  • General admission Mount Vernon tickets are $28/$15 for adults/youth 6 to 11. Children 5 and under are free. Discount tickets are available online and parking is free.
  • Mount Vernon hours are 9:00 to 5:00 daily from April through October; 9:00 to 4:00 November through March.
  • Admission includes the Distillery and Gristmill on weekends from April to October. A free shuttle runs between the two sites approximately every 20 minutes. If you visit on a busy day you could park at the Gristmill and shuttle to the main estate.
  • Special Events are popular and often sell out at Mount Vernon. If an event is one of your top things to do at Mount Vernon, purchase tickets well in advance.
  • Only the first floor of the Mansion is wheelchair accessible. Some of the gardens and outbuildings are also viewable from accessible pathways, but the paths to the tomb, the barn, and the Wharf are steep. Shuttle buses travel to The Wharf from April to October.
  • Strollers must be parked outside the Mansion during tours.
  • Mount Vernon welcomes leashed dogs on the grounds, but they are not allowed in the Mansion or other indoor spaces.
  • Photography is not allowed in the Mansion or the museum.

Learn more and follow George Washington's Mount Vernon Virginia: web | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Instagram

Here are more places in the Virginia and Washington DC area where you can visit sites important in the life of Virginia farmer and President George Washington:

Follow Fun in Fairfax VA on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram for more places to visit and things to do in and Northern Virginia and the Washington DC area.

Virginia / Washington DC USA history and travel. Fun things to do at George Washington's estate in Mount Vernon Virginia, near Washington DC, plus tips for making the most of your visit.
George Washington's Mount Vernon, Virginia

15 thoughts on “Fun Things to do at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Virginia Estate”

  1. As Brits we visited this year 2018 Brilliant place to visit plenty to do and Read .the guides raised through the talk in the house. And more in traditional costume would be good apart from that a great day out.

  2. I’ve never been to Fairfax. I visited the archaeological site of George Washington’s boyhood home in Fredricksburg, but Mount Vernon is so much more elaborate and beautiful. The living history and the views are amazing!

    • Hope you can visit Mount Vernon the next time you are in Northern Virginia. It’s beautiful and there is so much to see. Time for another visit to Ferry Farm too. They have now recreated the house where Washington lived in Fredericksburg.

  3. We never been to Mount Vernon but it sure looks like a wonderful place to visit. We love these historical places. To eat at the tavern and try their house made spirits would be fun.

    • I hope you have a chance to visit Mount Vernon, Doreen. There is so much history in Virginia, plus we’ve got Shenandoah National Park and other gorgeous natural areas. A lot of them are close to DC too. Happy travel to you!

  4. It has been a long, LONG, time since I visited Mt. Vernon. At the time, pretty much the only thing available to the visit was the main house. Based on your account, it seems like a re-visit is in order.

    • Yes, time for a return visit. The Education Center is particularly impressive and has lots of interactive displays that appeal to all ages. One display has visitors guess the number of US cities, counties, and schools named after Washington. Can’t remember the answers but we were way off on every guess. (p.s. It’s a lot!)

    • Yes, the Tavern is a nice addition to a Mount Vernon visit. We love that you can even order items like grits that are ground in George Washington’s Gristmill. History on a plate. 🙂

Comments are closed.