Visiting Mount Vernon With Elderly Parents

Much before the city of Washington, D.C., was planned, the banks of the Potomac River were occupied by wealthy families. Over time, the numbers of these palatial estates dwindled as the capital city grew in the 19th century. However, some examples still remain on the Virginia side of the Potomac River with George Washington's estate being one such example.

I had gone to Mount Vernon last year and loved it! It is a beautiful historic place to visit and is a perfect day trip if you are in the MD, VA or DC area. This year my parents are in town and I knew that I had to take them to Mount Vernon. I planned this trip way before they booked their flights to the US and made sure they arrived before President's Day so that we could take advantage of Mount Vernon's free admission day.

We reached at 9:15 am and went straight to the Ford Orientation Center to collect the timed tickets for the Mansion Tour. We wanted to see the orientation film at the Ford Center, however, the theater was closed for renovation. One of the volunteers told us that there are orientation films inside the Museum and Education Center as well. 

Also, last year, I had no idea about the special events that take place on President's Day. Moreover, we had reached mid-day and to enjoy everything, a full day would have been best. So, this year we arrived early and picked up an events schedule from the Ford Center to see the events for the day. 

We wandered the grounds near the gardens and the main house until the military demonstration at 10:30 am. Near the upper gardens, you can find the slave quarters which are set up to resemble what they have looked like while in use. The events schedule also has timings when you can meet the character actors portraying as the first President and Lady Washington. They are very friendly, interactive and make history come to life. It isn't rare to spot other members of Washington's family wandering the grounds and interacting with the visitors.

The Mansion Tour
The Mansion at George Washington's Mount Vernon.

This was the main attraction. We had 11:15 am tickets. The Mansion tour typically doesn't start on time. However, make sure you arrive at least 10 mins before your tour time so that you don't miss out when your time is called. The tour of the main house was interesting with informed volunteers explaining what you are looking at and they will willingly answer any questions. The Mansion is spread across two floors and the stairs were easily accessible for my elderly parents. 

The tour is for 15-20 minutes. Photography is allowed without flashes. You can also choose to hang out in the patio, relaxing on the rocking chairs placed there and enjoy the views of the Potomac River.

Stables and Tombs
This is the final resting place of George and Martha Washington and a number of family members.

Our next stop was the tombs since they were closer to the Mansion. On our way to the tombs, we saw the stables where we saw some cute farm animals, they even had a lamb when we were there. If you are lucky then you might get to spot Alladin, the camel. We saw both the old and new tombs. There is typically a line in front of the new tomb but it moves quickly so you don't have to wait for too long.

Lunch Break

By this time we were very hungry. However, the food in the Mount Vernon food truck was over and the food court inside the Museum and Education Center was full. So, if you want to eat at these two places, make sure you go before the peak lunch hour. Having no choice to eat, we decided to skip lunch and continue with our tour.
My mother with the performers

Before heading to the Museum and Education Center, we saw a musical performance at 1:00 pm in Bowling Green. The performers were very friendly and were more than happy to click photographs with the visitors before their performance.

Museum and Education Center
My mom at the Museum and Education Center in front of the Presidential Oath Ceremony exhibit

Here, we explored the fascinating array of George Washington related artifacts and hands-on exhibits, watched films on the President's life, and browsed beautiful galleries. You would at least require 2.5 - 3 hours at the Museum and Education Center to go through so many interactive exhibits and audio-visual features. We love the wax models of George Washington and the short films on his life. I got emotional watching the tender film on Washington's love letters. 

Things we missed that we would have liked to see

My parents got tired walking plus we were hungry, else we would have liked to visit the memorial for the slaves and spend more time at the museum. Also, some sites are closed during winter such as the gardens, Pioneers Farm, distillery and the Gristmill. But I guess that is okay because, on the positive side, we got free admission. Watch a video of our amazing visit to Mount Vernon. 

Some useful tips

It is free. But the parking lot gets filled up very quickly. If you want nearby parking (especially if you are traveling with kids or elderly parents) and want to avoid the bottleneck on the road approaching the estate then arrive before 0900 am. 

Admission fee:
The Mansion tour is for free but it does have timed tickets. You can collect timed tickets from the volunteers outside the Ford Orientation Center*. Mount Vernon offers free admission two times a year- on President's Day and on George Washington's Birthday (i.e. 22 February).

Special events:
On President's Day, there are special events that take place throughout the day. Hence, I would suggest that you pick up the free events schedule from the Ford Orientation Center as soon as you arrive. This will help you plan out your day accordingly.

Where to eat?
You can eat at the Mount Vernon food truck (12 Acre Field, Map #45) or inside the food court (inside the Museum and Education Center) or the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant (outside the main gate). Reservations are recommended for the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant.  

Restrooms and seating availability
There are plenty of seating areas where my parents were able to take some rest if they got tired. The restrooms are situated inside the Ford Orientation Center and the Museum and Education Center. 

*As of 17 Feb 2020, the Ford Orientation Center is under renovation. However, you can watch the orientation films inside the Museum and Education Center. 

Please read my other posts tagged Places To Take Out-Of-Town Visitors other Than The Malls if you run out of sightseeing ideas like I did.