It’s been ages since I’ve been to Mount Vernon, just outside Washington, DC, and never once have I taken the kids, so when I saw the listing for Christmas at Mount Vernon in The Washington Post’s Weekend section, we had to go. I knew the visit would be historical and educational, but I was surprised at the how kid-friendly Mount Vernon was as well.
When we first arrived we headed to the theatre of the Ford Orientation Center for a short, 20-minute movie called We Fight to Be Free, which highlighted key moments from George Washington’s life. Interestingly, the movie was preceded by a brief introduction and overview of Mount Vernon from Pat Sajak (of Wheel of Fortune fame) of all people.
Next, we took a look at the Adventure Map of Mount Vernon we were given when we bought our tickets ($15 for adults, $7 for kids ages 6-11). The kids had to solve nine puzzles, looking for clues around the grounds of Mount Vernon. For example, one puzzle requires a visit to the Slave Memorial on the estate to find one of the three words that were selected for this special monument (Faith, Hope and Love).
Once you and your kids solve each puzzle, you’ll use one letter from each puzzle to solve a final puzzle about George Washington. At the end of our visit, the kids were able to turn in the completed Adventure Map in at the gift shop for a special prize (we didn’t quite finish, so we’ll need to solve the last few puzzles and collect our prize next time).
In order to take more away from the experience, I paid the extra $6 for the audio tour. Just like any other audio tour, you enter a few digits into a device to hear a narrative about one of the stops. I was excited though to see more than 20 stops just for kids in order to enhance learning on their level. I’m seeing this more and more, and always find this to be a nice touch.
We then headed out to the tour of George Washington’s mansion. Though we were unable to take pictures inside the mansion, you’ll have to trust me that the house is beautiful, with well over a dozen bedrooms. The grounds are pretty incredible too with stables, gardens, a blacksmith shop, even Washington’s Tomb where both George and Martha’s remains are kept.
As we worked our way across the estate and gardens, we ended with a visit with Cobbler and Gobbler, the two turkeys that recently received a Thanksgiving pardon from the White House. The two turkeys were probably the most popular stop of the entire visit, not just according to my kids, but according to just about everyone who was visiting Mount Vernon yesterday.
Once we finished the tour of the grounds, we headed to the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center. While we originally stopped in to get to the Hands-On History Center, which is ideal for kids ages 3 to 8 and is a place where kids can dress up in period clothing, learn about Washington’s farm animals and play with a Mount Vernon dollhouse, I was pleased that the museum for adults is pretty kid-friendly. There are lots of short movies and interactive exhibits, which really kept my kids’ attention as we wound around through the museum.
All in all, a great visit to Mount Vernon. If you go, plan to spend at least a few hours there in order to tour the mansion and the grounds, as well as get the most from the museum. There’s a nice food court at Mount Vernon, so you don’t even need to leave to re-fuel and complete your visit, which is good because there really aren’t any places to eat nearby!