GUEST POST: Mt. Vernon

Sometimes when you are writing and posting online, it is hard to know if your words are having any impact. So, it is ALWAYS nice to hear back from readers that they are enjoying the blog and using the info.

When one of them asks if you want a review of a museum visit they just had…that might be even better! Jim Chandler, a friend from my hometown, recently visited Mt. Vernon and asked if I wanted an updated review. Since I haven’t been back since 2012…I jumped at the chance!

Read his thoughts below and, if you need more tips on places to visit in D.C., check out “Your Family Adventures in Washington, D.C.” Also, if you have something you are interested in writing about, let me know!

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If you think that Mount Vernon, home of George Washington, is just a collection of buildings and antique furniture, you need to think again. In a 3-hour visit to Mount Vernon today, we just scratched the surface.There are many experiences for all ages. Admission is free for children under 5 and quite reasonable for adults. If you live in the area you might consider an annual pass that would pay off after the second visit. The whole region is steeped in history and you are surrounded by experiences that bring history to life. For younger children it is a chance to explore the life of colonial America as well as introduce them to real the George Washington, Martha Washington and their life. A trip to the Mansion will give people a feel for the surrounding of Washington’s life. There is a guided tour that is not too long to lose the interest of children.   However the real attraction is the Education Center and the special interactive programs that vary from day to day and from season to season.

The Education Center is a fully interactive series of displays that follow all aspects of George Washington’s life from childhood to his later years.   This is how every museum should be with hands on displays and videos that surround you with the sounds and images of the time. A particular pleasing highlight for children would be the video on Washington and the Revolutionary War , “Revolutionary War Theater” ,where you can feel the rumble of war in the seats and feel and experience the fog and snow they had to endure. Quite amazing! There are also displays that show his false teeth, agricultural innovations, life with his wife, the issue of slavery and his impact on the modern presidency. It is organized in chronological order and is very easy to follow. There is a special place within the Education Center for children 3-8 years old called the “Hand-On History Center”. It has manipulative exhibits and special programs for young children and their parents.   There is a Museum in the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center. I did not make it into the museum but it is advertised to cover in-depth various aspects of Washington’s life. It was created at the same time as the Education Center and I look forward to visiting it in my next visit.

Another very worthwhile part of the tour for young children is the Pioneer Farm.   George Washington was a strong believer in the power of America to produce food here and for the world. He was a very progressive farmer and the Pioneer Farm recreates his farming practices and often has seasonal demonstrations of farm life.   When I visited they were demonstrating Wheat Treading, separating wheat kernels from the straw, in the innovative 12-sided barn that Washington designed. If it looks like the hike to the farm would be too far you can take a shuttle that runs regularly from the Mansion/Education area to the farm.

Pick up a list of “Today at Mount Vernon” at the Orientation Center next to the Museum. It shows all the live demonstrations and tours for the day, some of these have an additional cost but most are free. These include a “National Treasures Tour” showing places at Mt. Vernon highlighted in the recent movie. You can meet a live “Martha Washington” who brings the nation’s first lady to life. There are also garden tours, cruises, demonstrations and much more.

Beyond all the history, the grounds and gardens are a natural feast of relaxing landscapes with plenty of places to explore and spend an enjoyable day. This is a delightful break from city life.

All in all, Mount Vernon has much to offer over and over, and from season to season for people of all ages and is well worth visiting and revisiting.

Jim Chandler, Science and Environment Educator, Bryant Pond, Maine

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