Unlike the National Mall celebration, Mount Vernon isn't free, but it is packed opening to closing time with festivities: a patriotic concert, greetings by "General Washington" and Mrs. Washington," military re-enactments, a "Happy Birthday, America" birthday cake, a naturalization ceremony. And fireworks—daytime fireworks.
|A slice of America's birthday cake|
|Waiting around to begin the fireworks|
|And the fireworks! Small and colorless, they were still impressive for their daylight novelty.|
|A burst overhead with a bang, far less fierce than the usual baby-unfriendly cacophony.|
The fireworks were fixed to 1 p.m.—if you lollygagged around the grounds, you'd be sure to miss the brief display. We were 15 minutes late to the wheat demonstration and missed it entirely. But many other sights had no schedule at all. We wandered around the farm areas to find sheep and horses and made our way down a wooded path to the founding father's final resting place.
The modest tomb is nestled quietly away. Even on a landmark day with a steady stream of visitors, the wait was minimal.
The grounds also include a slave memorial and burial ground and a reconstruction of Washington's wharf on the Potomac River. Tickets include a tour (timed, so you need to reserve a spot when you purchase your ticket) of the Mount Vernon Mansion and admission to the distillery, gristmill, museum, and education center.
|The 21-room mansion at Mount Vernon|
We've heard that Christmas time is spectacular at Mount Vernon, so we'll be back. The only drawback to a July visit is the searing sun, unavoidable on the vast grounds with little shade. In the winter, the sun will be welcome, and, we imagine, the grounds quieter.
5 Tips for the Next Fourth of July
- Bring water—outside food isn't allowed, but water bottles are. Use the water fountains to refill.
- Reserve a table at the Mount Vernon Inn. (We ate at the food court, which was chaotic, noisy, and unmemorable.) The inn serves grits from the Mount Vernon gristmill, and the Virginia peanut soup gets raves on Yelp.
- Come early. The parking lots filled up fast. We had to park on the side of the road, about a mile away. Shuttle buses were available at some outlying parking lots, but they didn't seem stroller friendly. (Strollers are allowed on the grounds but not on the mansion tour.)
- Don't be late for scheduled events. Most things stayed on schedule and went by swiftly.
- If you are a local, consider purchasing the annual pass at $28. So long as you visit one more time, you'll save money, and you won't feel pressured to cram in the entire estate in one day.