If you are looking for a day trip to take with children in the Washington DC area, you’re in the right place! Whether you have several hours or more, George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate is a fun summer outing idea. You can walk in the home George Washington lived in, watch a 4D movie, and more! Check out some reasons why you should visit.
About George Washington’s Mount Vernon
Located 40 minutes from Washington DC, 20 minutes from the National Harbor, and 70 minutes from Baltimore, the Mount Vernon estate was where George Washington lived with his family in the 18th Century. Whether you love history or know little about George Washington’s life, there’s always something new to learn here. With eight main attractions to visit, learning about his life can appeal to all ages.
When You Arrive At The Ford Orientation Center
After buying your tickets, you will receive a time when you can enter the Mansion. Make sure that you get a map to help you navigate the area. Several people work at the front of the Ford Orientation Center, and they can help answer any questions about where to go. You can also watch an action adventure movie, We Fight To Be Free, while you are there.
Make sure to get a schedule to see what events are happening. Children enjoy picking up a treasure map at the front entrance, and they receive a special prize if they answer all the questions correctly by the end of their visit!
Museum And Education Center
At the Museum and Education Center, you can find restrooms, water fountains, and air conditioning. Whether you are interested in George Washington’s life or American history in general, you can find plenty of interesting exhibits. One of the first exhibits showed how even though we don’t really know what George Washington looked like, historians have worked to create an image in his likeness.
Although many of the exhibits offer an interactive element, the museum-style set up appeals more to adults than to young children. I would have enjoyed spending more time reading the descriptions, but I will have to return another time to see everything in greater detail.
One part that the family appreciated was the 4D movie. Snow fell, the seats shook, and steam rose from the ground. My daughter was able to remember the events shown in the movie. Because the movie was interactive, it captivated her!
At the Museum and Education Center, you can find an area for children. Inside, there are stuffed animals, a toy house, books, games, and more. Visiting allows children to relax before continuing on to the next place. My children enjoyed signing their names to the Declaration of Independence!
Visiting The 16-Sided Barn At Pioneer Farm
Next, we stopped by the 16-sided barn, which is a replica of the original. With a unique round shape, the barn was designed this way for a practical reason. George Washington would let his horses inside the barn, where they would walk around the circular path. As the horses walked, they would stomp on the wheat on the ground. Grain would come out of the wheat stalks and fall to the floor underneath.
Inside the barn, two re-enactors answered any questions we had. Although my children’s favorite part was getting out of the sun, I enjoyed learning the purpose of this unique building.
Looking out from the 16-sided barn, you can see the farm land as well as the Potomac River. If you want to enjoy the view of the water, you can get on a boat at the Wharf and take a sight-seeing cruise.
In the fields, corn and potatoes grow. The chef at the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant cooks with the crops in some dishes! During George Washington’s time, the crops would have been planted in a specific crop rotation. Even though the farm is not preserved exactly as it was, it is interesting to get some idea of what life would have been like then.
Pioneer Farm is also home to animals! Walking from the 16-sided Barn to the waterfront, you pass the sheep paddock. During George Washington’s ownership of the property, sheep were used for wool for blankets and clothing. He owned up to 1000 sheep! Since sheep were an important part of the farm, they continue to stay there today.
Although children enjoy seeing the animals, you aren’t supposed to feed or pet them. Each March, the farm welcomes new lambs. Guests can watch the lambs have their wool sheared every May.
Children’s Activities On The Farm
If you check your schedule when you arrive to Mount Vernon, you can find interesting activities the family can enjoy. My children had fun planting seeds at Pioneer Farm. The activity only lasted about 5 minutes, but it was an interesting way to learn about life on the farm.
Tour George Washington’s Mansion
On your ticket, you receive a time when you can visit George Washington’s Mansion. You may enter after that time, but not before. Even during the week, there was a long line to enter, but it only took about 10 minutes before we could go inside the home.
George Washington’s Mount Vernon mansion had 10 bedrooms and overlooked the Potomac River. The view is incredible!
Outside the mansion, you find a beautiful garden. We enjoyed discovering a variety of plants and flowers.
We also enjoyed seeing the trimmed hedges. My children pointed out that the hedges look like a maze, but you can’t walk through them. There weren’t many places to sit in the garden, but the path through the garden was short.
Shops and Food Court
If everyone needs to rest and eat before heading home, stop by the Food Court for an inexpensive meal. You can find chicken tenders, hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, and more.
Also, don’t forget to bring your stamped treasure map to the shops to receive your prize. My children were delighted to receive a special coin!
The Mount Vernon Area
Outside George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, there are several places to stop to enjoy nature in the area. For about 10 minutes, you drive next to the Potomac River, and plenty of the land has been preserved. There are several places to pull off and park if you want to enjoy the view for a few moments.
Overlooking the water of the Potomac River, the Mount Vernon Trail is a 17 mile paved path. This path is perfect for biking or running. Even on a hot day, the cool shade of the trees overhead makes this a comfortable place to visit.
You can also visit the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, which is a freshwater tidal marsh on the bank of the Potomac River. Because we ran out of time, we weren’t able to visit it, but we have plenty of things to do in the area when we return!
Tips For Visiting
- Parking is plentiful and easy to find. To get from the parking lots to the estate, you cross a busy road. Hold children’s hands or keep them securely in their stroller.
- Admission is discounted if you purchase tickets online in advance.
- At the children’s section of the Museum and Education Center, a sign asks that guests spend no more than 20 minutes there so more children can visit throughout the day.
- To get to Pioneer Farm from the Museum and Education Center, the walk takes about 20 minutes. The shuttle is much easier, and it picks up next to the Museum and Education Center.
- You cannot take pictures inside George Washington’s mansion, and you have to leave strollers outside.