Visiting George Washington's Mount Vernon Near DC with Kids

Kids of all ages will find lots to explore at Mount Vernon. Photo by Jennifer Marino Walters
Kids of all ages will find lots to explore at Mount Vernon. Photo by Jennifer Marino Walters

Washington, DC—home of the Smithsonian—is known for its fantastic free museums. But there are also some great museums in and near DC that are absolutely worth paying to visit. One of them is Mount Vernon, George Washington's home in Alexandria, Virginia. Roughly 15 miles south of DC, Mount Vernon is full of interesting places to explore, historic items to see, and hands-on activities to enjoy.

Here's everything you need to know about visiting Mount Vernon, America's most popular historic estate, with kids. Find more great museums to explore, including our list of the best museums for kids in the DC area, in our Museum Guide for Kids and Families in DC.


Things To Do at Mount Vernon with Kids

1. Explore the Museum and Education Center

Mount Vernon's Museum and Education Center feature more than 700 original Washington artifacts, over 20 galleries, and several theaters (including a 4D one). Interactive exhibits take visitors through Washington's life, from his childhood to his role in various wars to his presidency. Objects on display include furniture and instruments belonging to Washington's family, native tools and weapons, Martha Washington's jewelry, and more. History buffs both young and old will absolutely love it.

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Mount Vernon with Kids: Hands-On History Center
Now that's what we call an immersive experience!

If you have kids ages 3-10, be sure to visit the Hands-On History Center. We went when my twin boys were 6 and my daughter was almost 3, and all three kids absolutely loved it. They tried on 18th-century clothing, read books, explored a large Mount Vernon dollhouse, played with toys from George Washington's era, and more.

2. Tour the Mansion

The mansion where George and Martha Washington lived was built in 1734 and inherited by Washington in 1761. Visitors can only enter it via a 20-minute guided tour. During the tour, you'll see Washington's private study and other rooms, family portraits, the Washington coat of arms, and more. Even though my kids were young when we visited, they really enjoyed looking into the rooms and seeing all of the old decor.

3. Visit Historic Outbuildings

Families can explore more than a dozen historic outbuildings on the grounds of Mount Vernon, including the blacksmith shop, the spinning house, the stables, the smokehouse, and more. Costumed demonstrators are sometimes on hand to show how the various buildings were used in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

4. Step Back in Time at the Farm

From April through October, enjoy live demonstrations by costumed interpreters at Mount Vernon's farm. Watch the interpreters shear sheep, harvest crops, cook over a fire, and more. Families can also go inside a replica slave cabin and a 16-sided treading barn.

RELATED: Visiting Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in DC with Kids

Mount Vernon with Kids: Gardens
Mount Vernon's gardens look pretty in any season.

5. Meander the Gardens

Mount Vernon is home to four gardens full of plants and trees for visitors to enjoy. They are especially gorgeous in the spring!

6. Visit George and Martha Washington's Tomb

George and Martha Washington, as well as dozens of other family members, are entombed on the grounds of Mount Vernon. Families can visit the outside of the tomb and even participate in a daily wreath-laying ceremony, which must be reserved in advance.

Be sure to also honor the enslaved (and a few free) Black Americans who worked at Mount Vernon in the 18th and 19th centuries at the nearby Slave Memorial.

RELATED: Visiting Arlington National Cemetery with Kids: What to Know Before You Go

Mount Vernon with Kids: Mansion tour
Be sure to schedule a mansion tour when you purchase your Mount Vernon tickets.

Know Before You Go to Mount Vernon

Hours and Admission

Mount Vernon is open 365 days a year, including holidays. Hours are 9am-5pm April through October and 9am-4pm November through March. The Museum and Education Center remain open to guests for one hour after closing.

Tickets to Mount Vernon are just over $25 for ages 12 and up, half price for ages 6-11, and FREE for kids 5 and under. They include an audio tour and access to the the grounds, including the historic outbuildings, the tomb, the farm and gardens, and the Museum and Education Center. On weekends from April through October, tickets also include access to the Distillery and Gristmill, located less than three miles from the estate's main entrance.

Mount Vernon tickets can be purchased online in advance. While they do not include entry to the mansion, you can schedule a mansion tour during the checkout process for an additional $2 per ticket. Parking is free.

Note that Mount Vernon offers FREE admission on both Presidents Day and George Washington's birthday! While that will save your family money, you can also expect large crowds on those days.

Length of a Visit

While the Mount Vernon website recommends allocating at least three hours for a visit, you can easily spend an entire day there and still not see everything. Our family was there over four hours and would have stayed even longer if our daughter had been a bit older.

Dining at Mount Vernon

There are two main dining options at Mount Vernon. The food court offers quick bites for breakfast, lunch, and on-the-go snacks, such as scrambled eggs, bagels, burgers, personal pizzas, salads, and wraps.

For a sit-down, classic American meal, there's the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant, which has a kids' menu.

During the summer and/or special events, you might also find food trucks on the property. Note: No outside food or drinks other than water is allowed on the estate.

RELATED: Visiting Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in DC with Kids

Mount Vernon with Kids: Christmas Illuminations
Christmas Illuminations at Mount Vernon is a popular holiday event. Photo courtesy of Mount Vernon

Special Events at Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon hosts various family-friendly events throughout the year. Some of them cost an extra fee, while others are free. From family days and musical performances to holiday events like 4th of July fireworks and trick-or-treating, there is something for everyone. Check the calendar to see what's happening at Mount Vernon.

More Tips on Visiting Mount Vernon with Kids

  • You'll be doing a lot of walking, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes, and bring a stroller for young kids. Just note that strollers are not allowed inside the mansion, so you'll have to park it outside if you book a mansion tour.
  • The Shops at Mount Vernon offers unique gifts, classic toys and games, and reproductions of Mount Vernon treasures. It's located in the same building as the food court and the restaurant, so you can't really avoid it if you're hungry.
  • Leashed dogs are allowed on the property, but not inside any of the buildings.
  • No bags larger than 16x16x8 inches are permitted.
  • The property is huge, and it's easy to get lost. Download a map to help you find your way around.

To immerse yourself even more into George Washington's world, visit his adopted hometown of Old Town Alexandria, where he owned a townhouse. It's located less than 20 minutes from Mount Vernon by car. Our list of the 21 best things to do in Old Town Alexandria with kids will ensure the whole family has a great time.

All photos by author Jennifer Marino Walters unless otherwise noted

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