Autumn is a fantastic time to plan a family outing to George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The views of the colorful banks of the Potomac River are worth the trip alone and provide the perfect backdrop for festivals and celebrations.
On October 22 & 23, the estate hosts its annual Fall Harvest Festival, a family-friendly event where you can meet General Washington, watch demonstrations of 18th-century farming, cooking and candle making, and purchase freshly baked bread from a reproduction clay oven. During Fall Harvest Festival, Mount Vernon’s 12-acre field becomes the site of a Craft Beer Tasting. Tickets purchased in advance include six tastings from local breweries and a commemorative glass.
Now that autumn is here, the holidays are right around the corner and with them, Mount Vernon’s annual holiday events. Kick-off the season with the Christmas Illuminations fireworks display, December 16 & 17. During Mount Vernon by Candlelight, which takes place on select weekends in November and December, take a guided candlelit tour of the historic area and learn about holiday traditions in 18th-century Virginia.
Mount Vernon is a destination where past truly meets present. George Washington’s Mansion and many of the estate’s original structures appear just as they did over two hundred years ago. A four-acre working farm, complete with heritage-breed animals, offers demonstrations of Washington’s innovative farming practices.
Included with general admission, the museum features exhibits filled with hundreds of artifacts detailing the history of Mount Vernon. While there, don’t miss the two high-tech theaters that let you experience history in uniquely interactive ways.
A fun way for families to explore Mount Vernon is with the Adventure Map that takes them on a puzzle-solving scavenger hunt. The maps can be picked up in the Ford Orientation Center. Written clues and colorful pictures guide families on an exploration of nine locations across the estate. Kids who complete the hunt and solve the puzzle even receive a special prize.
Ready to plan your visit? Save 20% on admission with the promo code KIDFRIENDLY: Buy Tickets Here
Summer is a time of year many of us generally seek activities outdoors, but when the temps start to soar, it’s great to have indoor options, too. So, when one place offers both at once and makes for a fun and interesting visit for the whole family, even better.
George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the historic estate of the nation’s first president, is just that place. Located right on the Potomac River in Northern Virginia, the attraction is perfectly situated to enjoy a nice day outside, with numerous exhibits, demonstrations, events, and scenic views along the beautiful grounds. But there is still plenty to explore inside when you want to take a break from the heat or rainy weather.
Out & About at Mount Vernon
Walking around the grounds of Mount Vernon is like taking a little trip back to Colonial days, with many of the estate’s original structures still standing or reconstructed and set up just as they would have been in the 18th century. Along with Washington’s Mansion, you can see the blacksmith house, stables, spinning house, homes of enslaved people, plus several more outbuildings. Four gardens are also open for visitors to tour, showcasing the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables that were grown there as well as lovely areas full of plants enjoyed during after dinner strolls. A four-acre working farm, complete with heritage-breed animals, is also part of the outdoor offerings. And not only can you tour, peer into, and walk among these sites, you might also encounter people who operated them and knew George Washington through Mount Vernon’s interpretive character programs.
A whole museum and education center on the estate brings history to life through modern installations, exhibits, and interactive features. There are elements that appeal to all ages, with large recreations of scenes from George Washington’s life, artifacts from Mount Vernon’s storied history, audio and visual displays that provide background and details on colonial life, and high-tech theatres that offer unique, interactive experiences. Also inside is a food court, so you can really make a day of it and include a bite with your visit. (And for a meal that takes you back into the more tranquil atmosphere of the 18th century, the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant is right next door.)
Colonial Market & Fair 2020
The next big event at Mount Vernon is the annual Colonial Market & Fair — and it’s one to mark on your calendar. Over the weekend of September 17-18, you can experience a lively re-created, early-American marketplace with demonstrations, crafts, and entertainment. It’s a great time to take in the sights and sounds of Mount Vernon as its 12-acre field is filled with colonial artisans selling traditional handcrafted food and wares. Colonial music transports you back to the 18th century as expert artisans demonstrate period crafting techniques, and there are opportunities to chat with them, too. Plus, the rest of the estate is still open to tour!
To see what else is coming up at Mount Vernon, including special tours and big events, check out the calendar. And when you plan your family’s visit, be sure to use the promo code KIDFRIENDLY and save 20% on admission: Buy Tickets!
If you haven’t been to George Washington’s Mount Vernon—or even if you have—you’ll want to put it on your family’s list of must-go places for this summer. Located in nearby Virginia, the iconic estate of our nation’s first president covers hundreds of sprawling acres along the banks of the Potomac River. Just a short drive from D.C., Mount Vernon offers a glimpse into the world of “The Father of His Country” and life as it was in colonial times.
Mount Vernon is a destination where past truly meets present. Washington’s Mansion and many of the estate’s original structures, including the spinning house, kitchen, and washhouse, still appear just as they did over two hundred years ago. A four-acre working farm, complete with heritage-breed animals, offers demonstrations of Washington’s innovative farming practices. You can even talk with people who knew George Washington at one of the interpretive character programs.
There are also modern attractions that bring history to life and offer a break from the summer sun. Included with general admission, the museum features exhibits filled with hundreds of artifacts detailing the history of Mount Vernon and the legacy of George Washington. While there, don’t miss the two high-tech theatres that let you experience history in uniquely interactive ways.
A fun way for families to explore Mount Vernon is with the Adventure Map that takes them on a puzzle-solving scavenger hunt. The maps can be picked up in the Ford Orientation Center, and written clues and colorful pictures guide families on an exploration of nine locations across the estate. Kids who complete the hunt and solve the puzzle even receive a special prize.
Another unique way to experience Mount Vernon is on a River Cruise along the Potomac River. The 45-minute ride offers a different perspective of the estate during a narrated excursion that offers stories of the people and animals that have inhabited its shores, as well as an explanation of the river’s vital role in the Civil War.
While Mount Vernon is great to visit any time—it’s open 365 days a year—summer is an especially good time to go. On June 24 & 25, the estate hosts Independence Fireworks, a family-friendly evening that includes fireworks, patriotic music, and even an 18th century ice cream-making demonstration. On July 4th, you can experience An American Celebration, where you can meet General Washington and watch him inspect the troops, observe a moving naturalization ceremony for new citizens, and enjoy a concert by the National Concert Band, all followed by made-for-daytime fireworks over the Potomac River.
Ready to plan your family’s visit to George Washington’s Mount Vernon? Save 20% on admission with promo code KIDFRIENDLY: Buy Tickets!
[Note: This guest post was written by JoAnn Hill, a DC area educator and author of the upcoming book “Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.” You may be aware of some that have been featured on KFDC, but JoAnn provides more background and details to make a visit to see them even more interesting and fun!]
Spring is here, and Mother Nature is summoning us to get outside, explore, and relish in the abundant sunshine and crisp fresh air. While our nation’s capital is brimming with parks, gardens, and urban green oases, taking a day trip outside of the city can serve as a welcome change of pace and lovely opportunity to reset and recharge. A respite from the city is sometimes the exact remedy for chasing away those lingering winter blues and jumpstarting the highly anticipated new season.
Below are four outdoor, family-friendly, off-the-beaten-path places to explore outside of Washington, DC. A couple of them are free and can be explored further in local DC author JoAnn Hill’s upcoming book Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure. Check out Secret DC to discover dozens of additional outdoor and family-friendly spots in and around the Washington, DC, area.
Enchantment in a Storybook Forest
Many of our childhoods were defined by the stories and games that we played. Those looking to recapture their favorite childhood memories will be delighted to know that less than 45 minutes outside of Washington lies an enchanted forest, a storybook haven brimming with innocence, nostalgia, and magic.
In August 1955, the Enchanted Forest opened its storybook park in Ellicott City, MD. For over thirty years, families from near and far visited the popular fairy tale complex. Generations were captivated by the park’s ability to recreate a spellbinding world filled with delight and allure. As larger and more impressive entertainment complexes began to open throughout the area, the Enchantment Forest’s appeal began to wane, causing the park to close in the early 1990s.
More than a decade later, nearby Clark’s Elioak Farm made the decision to revive the storybook-themed park by gradually acquiring and reinstating a number of the forgotten fairy tale items. In 2004, much to the delight of parents and kids, they procured the Cinderella pumpkin coach. A year later, they restored a slew of other items, including Mother Goose and her Gosling, the Beanstalk affixed with the Giant at the top, multiple Gingerbread Men, the six Mice that pulled Cinderella’s Coach, and the Crooked House and the Crooked Man.
Over subsequent years, more items were obtained and refurbished, further enhancing the revived forest by adding over 20 new fairy tale characters and a newly created Enchanted Forest Pine Tree Maze.
Read All About It: Read more about the Enchantment Forest at Clark’s Elioak Farm on pages 134-135 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure. You can also find it in the KFDC round-up of best outdoor places around the area and among the places to go for Easter fun.
Go and Explore: Clark’s Farm will reopen on Thursday, April 1. The farm and forest are open Tuesday through Sunday from 10am to 5pm. Admission is $7 per person.
Where: Clark’s Elioak Farm, 10500 Clarksville Pike, Ellicott City, MD
Gravelly Point Park
Aviation enthusiasts and those simply dreaming of escaping to faraway destinations should look no further than Gravelly Point Park, a small grassy park located a mere hundred feet north of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. It’s here in this delightful park in which both aircraft lovers and travel addicts can convene to witness commercial planes soaring overhead throughout the course of the day.
Situated along the George Washington Parkway in northern Virginia, the attractive picnic spot is where arriving planes descend to their landing strips. Flights arriving at the capital city travel over the Potomac River to reduce noise disturbances to the city. The park’s proximity to the north end of Reagan’s runway 1/19 makes it one of the premier spots in the United States for airplane sightings. Spectators willing to brave the thunderous noise are rewarded with unobstructed views of aircraft departing and arriving at the airport.
While flight tracking is the primary draw here, Gravelly Point Park attracts more than just aviation fanatics. It’s also a wonderful place to enjoy a picnic lunch, throw a frisbee or football, walk your dog, or ride a bike while surrounded by arresting scenic views. Regardless of your reason to visit, you’re guaranteed to be flying high in this picturesque park.
Read All About It: Learn more about Gravelly Point Park as you soar through pages 50-51 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure. You can also find it in the KFDC round-up of best outdoor places.
Go and Explore: Entrance and parking are free to the public. By car, Gravelly Point is only accessible heading north on the GW Parkway. Runners and cyclists can access the park by taking the scenic Mount Vernon Trail.
Where: George Washington Parkway, Arlington, VA
The Abandoned Shipwrecks of Mallows Bay
Near the shores of Mallows Bay, a small bay on the Maryland side of the river, lies what’s known to be the largest shipwreck armada in the Western Hemisphere. Over the last century, the bay’s turbid waters have become home to nearly 230 fallen ships, creating an enormous fleet graveyard.
When the United States entered World War I in 1917, 1,000 wooden steamships were commissioned for construction to help boost the number of transport vessels needed. Due to time constraints, the wooden ships were hastily and shoddily built, falling far below the standard of being ready to be used in wartime. In fact, not one of these poorly crafted vessels ever even crossed the ocean. The following year Germany surrendered, and the availability of steel increased, causing the ill-conceived wooden ships to become abandoned and obsolete. The decaying remnants of the nearly forgotten ships continue to occupy the muddy waters of Mallows Bay to this day.
In the 1960s, researchers began to evaluate the environmental effects of the shipwrecks on the river and its inhabitants. It was determined that the wooden shipwrecks were non-toxic and had in fact become a foundation for a flourishing ecosystem. The ghostly ships have managed to bring new life to the river, completing the circle of life!
Read All About It: Plunge into Mallows Bay and learn more about its abandoned shipwreck fleet on pages 60-61 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.
Go and Explore: Kayakers and canoeists who paddle up and through the wreckage will ultimately get the best views of the neglected ships. Charles County Recreation & Parks will soon be offering guided kayak tours of Mallows Bay. Visit their website to learn when 2021 tour dates will be added.
Where: Wilson Landing Road, Nanjemoy, MD
The Awakening at National Harbor
Over the past several years, National Harbor has burgeoned as an expansive multi-use waterfront development. Conveniently located across the Potomac River from the District and Alexandria, VA, the lively complex is an ideal place to escape the city and enjoy a relaxing day. One particular attraction here, particularly for kids, is “The Awakening” sculpture, a gigantic statue emerging from a man-made beach along National Harbor’s waterfront. The statue is practically begging to be touched and climbed upon by gaggles of giggling children.
Constructed from five cast-aluminum pieces and measuring more than 70 feet across and 15 feet high, “The Awakening” was created in 1980 to portray a bearded man trapped on Earth who has been aroused. Artist J. Seward Johnson’s colossal creation is comprised of a man’s head, hand, outstretched arm, bent knee and foot that’s been arranged to suggest that he’s breaking free from Earth. The aluminum sculpture was previously buried at the public parkland at Hains Point in Washington, DC and was owned by the Sculpture Foundation, an organization that promotes public art. The foundation sold the colossal sculpture for a whopping $740,000 and subsequently dug it up from its previous residence and transported it by trucks to its current waterfront home.
While no real restoration was needed when “The Awakening” arrived at National Harbor, a small change to the art installation was needed. When the sculpture resided at Hains Point, the five pieces were slightly askew, causing the figure to be anatomically incorrect. When the statue’s wire base was reburied in the man-made beach, one of its legs was marginally moved. “The Awakening” instantly became a popular attraction of National Harbor and continues to be a major draw today.
Read All About It: See more about visiting The Awakening and National Harbor in this KFDC post.
Go and Explore: National Harbor is accessible from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, I-495, I-95, and I-295, as well as by water taxi from Washington, DC, and Alexandria, VA.
Where: National Harbor: 153 National Plaza, Oxon Hill, MD
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JoAnn Hill has lived in Washington, DC, with her husband Thalamus and dog Jackson for over 19 years. An avid traveler and foodie, JoAnn writes about their DC living and dining experiences, as well as their global travel adventures, on her blog dcglobejotters.org. Her writing has been published in BELLA Magazine, Escape Artist, and Triptipedia. JoAnn served as a DC Public Schools teacher for 17 years before co-founding Capitol Teachers, a tutoring company servicing the greater DC area. This is her first book.