No, it’s not a gymnasium, playground, or arcade; it’s our own Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, and if you haven’t visited yet, do it! (Before your kids get old enough to protest your vacation choices.)
Although we have lived only about 10 miles from Mount Vernon for more than a decade, my husband and I hardly ever went until about six months ago, when we finally discovered what a fantastic place it is for kids. And if my friends are any example, we’re not alone. A friend who grew up in the D.C. suburbs had never been until K. and I took her a few weeks ago, along with her three-year-old daughter Z.
Indeed, when people think of Washington, D.C., they usually think of the Tourism Triumverate: The White House. The U.S. Capitol Building. The Washington Monument. The lovely and idyllic residence of the Father of Our Country barely comes to mind, and it’s a shame. (I suppose that’s also what makes Mount Vernon such a stress-free place for families: the lack of headache-inducing tourist overflow you see at so many other D.C. spots.)
Nevertheless, parents, give George Washington’s old stomping grounds a try the next time you are visiting our fair city. The site underwent a major renovation in the last few years, and it’s spectacular.
Particularly for the preschool set, here are some must-see Mount Vernon attractions:
- A treasure map of the entire estate with a puzzle “quest” that results in a prize at the end of your visit
- Live animals like the ones living on the plantation when Washington farmed it 200+ years ago
- A pioneer farm with real, live crops (and occasional hands-on demonstrations)
- Amazing wooded trails for those excellent toddler-length hikes
- “Olden days people” as K. calls them, from farmers to nursemaids to blacksmiths, doing their 18th century thang. Surprisingly, preschoolers (mine at least) seem to really get into interacting with these folks.
- And by far, the most appealing aspect of the trip for the little people: the Hands-on History room: “Geared toward Mount Vernon’s youngest visitors (ages three to eight), the Hands-on History area allows children to learn the same themes and ideas presented in the galleries by dressing in 18th-century clothing, putting on stage plays, reading books, exploring activity boxes, and learning about Washington’s farm animals.” (The dress-up area is a huge hit with kiddos and parents alike, as you can see by the photo we took, above, of K., who was so inspired by dressing up as George Washington that he’s decided to go as ol’ GW for Halloween this year.)
Mount Vernon stays open year-round, 365 days a year. Visiting hours are as follows:
- April through August, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
- March, September, and October, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
- November through February, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
To purchase tickets online and plan your trip, visit the Mount Vernon visitors webpage.
Go on, do it! Plan your trip to Mount Vernon today. I cannot tell a lie (yuk, yuk): your kids will have a blast, and learn a little something at the same time.