Over the weekend we went to visit friends in Virginia. They are good friends, the kind where it doesn’t matter how long you have been apart, you just pick right back up where you left off. The kind of friends where we feel comfortable doing just about anything together; or nothing at all. Between the two couples we have eight children! This was not even a thought in our minds eleven years ago when we were on a road trip from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon. Just the four of us on parts of Route 66. So much fun doing what we wanted, making it up as we went along! Yet here we are with two ten year old boys, a nine year old boy, an 8 year old girl, twin seven year old girls, a five year old boy, and a three year old girl between us. It’s pretty much constant noise and chaos when we’re together now!
After a relaxing day (if you can’t hear the sarcasm, see above paragraph) of hanging out at their house, catching up on life and celebrating the new year, we decided it was time to go somewhere. Our friends are like us in that they do not restrict what they do because of the children, they simply work them into their hobbies and activities, so all of our kids are always pretty much up for anything! January 1, 2012 in Northern Virginia was beautiful, sunny, and in the 50’s. A real treat for this time of year. We decided a trip to Mount Vernon would be a fun activity for the day. George Washington’s home on the Potomac River. So we piled in our two cars, girls in one and boys in the other, and we were off. On the way movies were watched, games were played on a new Kindle Fire, two separate bathroom stops were made plus one U-turn, but we made it eventually.
Mount Vernon is extensive. It contains the estate with the mansion, outbuildings, gardens, museums, animals, a pioneer farmer site, a wharf with boat rides in the summer, Washington’s tomb, trails, a food court, a restaurant, and, of course, no less than three gift shops! According to the Mount Vernon website it is the most popular historic estate in America. I think two days would be needed to really see everything. We had 4-5 hours since it was winter and everything is closed by 5pm when it is dark. I thought the cost was typical, $15 for adults, $7 for children, and free to 5 and under (woo-hoo 2 free tickets!). We started with an orientation movie, “We Fight to Be Free” which was 25 minutes long and included an 18 minute movie of Washington getting ready to cross the Delaware River on Christmas Eve while having flash backs of how he had reached this point including meeting Martha, his home, and a battle scene during the French Indian War which was very realistic and the Indians scared my three year old some! We were warned with signs outside of the movie about this scene. The movie also threw off my ten year old because, since it takes place on the Delaware, he thought that we were on that river and not the Potomac! Oh well, better than my eight year old, she thought George Washington was the 2nd president of the US and Thomas Jefferson was the first! Please don’t tell her teacher!
After the movie we spent a long time wandering the grounds and an even longer time feeding sheep. Then came the “I’m starving” whines and collapses in the middle of walking because they could not walk any further without food. I mean it had been 3 hours since food had crossed their lips so how could we expect them to move! So my husband and his friend went to grab snacks with half the the kids who were on bathroom trip #3 in the same three hour time span while the rest of us fed some more sheep (and went to a different bathroom). The guys came back after spending $20 on water, chips, and two cookies and we checked out the tomb (interesting) and the wharf on the Potomac (dirty, the tire floating in the river had my fiver year old worried about where the rest of the car was). It was then time to tour the house.
When you purchase your tickets, the ticket prints out a time for you to get in line to tour the mansion. This allows for the whole experience to be very organized and keeps things moving along. We filed through the house in one never ending line only to stop for 30 seconds in a room while a guide stationed in the room described it. The guides varied from friendly to grumpy, from interesting to rote. The entire tour took about fifteen minutes, but was interesting and honestly a perfect amount of time for kids. We only got yelled at once for hanging on ropes and only set one room alarm off due to leaning on the divider so I call the tour successful!
After the tour we checked out the outhouse which created a number of “George Washington sat here” jokes from the boys, then headed for a quick walk on the Forest Trail as dusk was settling in. We stopped to pet some cows and continued on to a bridge that spanned a high ravine. The boys searched for the biggest rock they could find and had fun dropping it down onto the rocks below. The warmth of the day had gathered here, making it a nice place to sit a bit, but it was getting dark fast and we decided it was time to go. On the way out we stopped at a camel. I guess George Washington had a camel brought in one Christmas, so now, every year at Christmas, there is a camel. It is a very friendly camel and he made my three year old’s day because she got to hug his neck while he licked her! A good ending to a fun day!
Mount Vernon is open 365 days and you can get more information at Mount Vernon’s website.