Minutes from Washington, D.C., and George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Alexandria, Virginia, is a “best of” when it comes to the spectrum of sites and special events associated with General Washington. With Mount Vernon just eight miles south of historic Old Town, more than 140 locations in present-day Alexandria are associated with the nation’s first president who conducted business, gathered with friends, worshiped, and even owned a townhouse in the city. Here are nine experiences waiting for Washington fans in Alexandria.
1. Step into Washington’s shoes at Mount Vernon
In 2018, George Washington’s Mount Vernon launched a new experience to immerse visitors in George Washington’s world. “Be Washington: It’s Your Turn to Lead” is a first-person interactive experience that puts you in the shoes of the first president and commander-in-chief. Discover key moments in Washington’s life and see how you stack up to the decisions Washington made as the events of the Revolutionary War and presidency come alive on a massive 6K-resolution screen. Chris Jackson, the actor who played George Washington in the Broadway hit “Hamilton,” introduces each of the scenarios onscreen and later describes the course of action that General or President Washington took.
2. Tour Washington’s presidential estate
After the “Be Washington” experience, explore George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The historic estate includes not only the Mount Vernon mansion, George and Martha Washington’s home, but also a host of colonial era buildings, beautiful gardens, a working distillery and gristmill (open spring through fall), and an expansive museum and education center.
3. Stay overnight in Washington’s town house
Did you know that you can stay overnight in the same place where Washington once did? Alexandria is home to a replica of George Washington’s town house, located on the site of the original house built in 1769. Washington used the two-bedroom house primarily before 1776 as an office and to spend the night when he was in town for business or social reasons. The town house was also used to house Washington’s guests when there was not room at his nearby estate, Mount Vernon. Today, you can rent it on Airbnb.
4. See where Washington dined and partied
Once the center of political, business and social life in Alexandria and in the new federal city of Washington, D.C., Gadsby’s Tavern Museum now allows visitors a glimpse into Alexandria’s five-star hotel of the 18th century. See where George Washington held his Birthnight Ball in 1798 and 1799. If you happen to be visiting February 16, 2019, you can don your dancing shoes for a celebration of Washington’s birthday, set in the year 1799. The evening includes an 18th-century banquet, English country dancing, dessert collation, character re-enactors plus the General and Mrs. Washington.
5. Celebrate Washington’s birthday throughout February
From a Cherry Challenge at area restaurants to free weekly Walking with Washington Tours to the nation’s largest parade celebrating the birth of our first president on February 18, 2019, visitors are invited to take part in more than 15 events marking the 287th anniversary of George Washington’s birth in his adopted hometown.
6. Sit in Washington’s pew at Christ Church
Located in the heart of Old Town, Christ Church is an English country-style church built between 1767 and 1773. George Washington was first elected to the Truro Parish in 1762. The parish, a geographic area, included Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church and Mt. Vernon. Washington bought and later rented a box family pew and attended services when in Alexandria. Today, visitors can sit in the same pew Washington once did.
7. Tour the apothecary where Martha ordered medicine
Stepping inside the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, which dates back to 1792, is like stepping back in time. Tour the pharmacy where Martha ordered medicine from and see a letter from her requesting castor oil. Marvel at the more than 15,000 objects that still remain entact from when the pharmacy closed in 1933.
8. Learn about Washington’s Masonic roots
The George Washington Masonic National Memorial is a memorial and museum, an active Masonic temple, a research library, a community and performing arts center, and an important regional landmark. The magnificent nine-story neoclassical structure has been erected and maintained by the Freemasons of the United States as an expression of the high esteem in which the memory of George Washington is held within the Masonic fraternity, and to preserve the history and heritage of American Freemasonry. Visitors are invited to tour the memorial and see several Washington relics.
9. Visit the farmers’ market where Washington sold produce
Held each Saturday morning year-round from 7 a.m. until noon, the Old Town Farmers’ Market is the oldest farmers’ market in the country held continuously at the same site. In fact, George Washington sent his produce from Mount Vernon to be sold at this farmers’ market. Today, the market offers residents of and visitors to Alexandria a way to reconnect to the past while participating in an ongoing local and national tradition. During the peak season, there are more than 70 vendors offering fruits and vegetables, breads and pastries, flowers and art.
While in Old Town, head to 309 Cameron Street. Along the serene street filled with independent boutiques and picturesque historic homes you’ll find the perfect photo opp, a bench with a seated statue of George Washington. Sit down and snap a selfie.
Header Image Credit: Tisara Photography