What says “historical tour” quite like The Mount Vernon Estate? George and Martha Washington’s expansive home and favorite renovation project is now one of the best day trips the DC area has to offer.
With in-depth tours for your inner history nerd, expansive gardens and outbuildings spreading out from the main estate, informational exhibitions and plenty of shopping and dining opportunities, Mount Vernon deserves a place on your itinerary.
Don’t let its Virginia location dissuade you: there are ample ways to conveniently reach your destination, from guided cruise tours to scenic riverside bike rides.
Directions to Mount Vernon By Car
Mount Vernon lies outside the network of DC’s transportation system, so a car will definitely be your fastest mode of transportation.
Starting from DC’s city center, you have the option to travel through either Virginia or Anacostia.
On the Virginia route, get on I-395 South just below the National Mall. Make sure you hang right as you merge; all those exits can be confusing! You should pass the Jefferson Memorial on your right and the East Potomac Golf Links on your left before crossing the 14th Street Bridge.
From there, take exit 10A toward Boundary Channel, making a loop before merging with the George Washington Parkway. It’s smooth sailing from there: You’ll pass through Alexandria and get a beautiful view of the Potomac on your drive.
True to its name, the George Washington Parkway actually ends at Mount Vernon, so just follow signs and wait until the highway turns into a roundabout.
Alternate Driving Route to Mt. Vernon
If you’d prefer to travel the Anacostia route, head down I-695 going East from just below Capitol Hill. As you cross over the Anacostia River on the 11th Street Bridge, hang left to merge with I-295 South. You’ll follow that highway along the length of Anacostia; then, take Exit 1C to get on I-495 South and cross the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge. On the other side, take the exit for US-1 and follow signs for Mount Vernon.
Now, you’re on the George Washington Parkway, and can follow it up to your destination.
Take the Bus and Metro to Mt. Vernon
Public transportation could take much longer, probably over an hour. The good news is that although Metro lines don’t go to the estate, Virginia’s buses do. To begin, catch a Yellow train running South towards Huntington and ride it to its final stop.
Both the 101 and 151 bus lines will take you from Huntington all the way to Mount Vernon. Notably, when you exit the Metro station, follow signs towards the “Kiss and Ride” Lot to reach the bus station.
Both routes leave around twice an hour in the mornings and up to every 10 minutes in the afternoons, but make sure you check exact bus schedules when planning your trip.
The best news is that all Fairfax Connector buses take DC-style SmarTrip cards, so there’s no need to pay for anything new.
The total trip should take around 30-45 minutes, with the 101 bus running slightly faster.
Bike to Mount Vernon
If you’re considering public transportation, why not take a bike instead? The breathtaking Mount Vernon Trail runs all the way from Rosslyn to Mount Vernon along the Potomac’s coast; you could even begin your journey in DC’s Georgetown and cross from there.
- Unlimited Biking offers rentals from $16 out of two store locations in Alexandria’s old town and DC’s Wharf.
- Pedego Bikes, also recommended on Mount Vernon’s website, offers electric bike rentals for up to a full day at a steeper price of $100 per day.
- Alexandria’s Wheel Nuts bike shop will rent you a bike for a day for just $30, and Big Wheel Bikes in Arlington charges $35 a day.
The Alexandria area has a wealth of bike shops, many of which offer rentals, so I encourage travelers to shop around for the best deal.
Once you’re on two wheels, there are several ways to get on the Trail. You can turn left off of the Arlington Memorial Bridge if you are starting further up. From Alexandria’s old town, head south through the grid of streets towards Jones Point Park, or catch the trail at the easternmost end of Wolfe Street near the Potomac.
If you need parking, it’s available at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove, Gravelly Point, Dangerfield Island, the Jones Point Lighthouse, or Belle Haven Park.
Alternate route to Mt. vernon.
Coming from DC allows for other options, like crossing over the 14th Street Bridge.
If you’re coming from the Wharf, get on the trail that goes West from Benjamin Banneker Park a few blocks away. That will lead you over the Francis Case Memorial Bridge. Make a U Turn on the other side of the water and turn left on Ohio Drive. Make another left onto East Basin Drive and look out for the bike trail on your left. This will take you conveniently to another Mount Vernon Trail entrance.
Mount Vernon Boat
Scrap the stuffy Uber ride–why not travel to Mount Vernon by water?
A number of tour companies offer boat cruises from DC down the Potomac to your estate destination. City Cruises offers a ride from either DC’s Wharf or Alexandria every morning, heading down the Potomac for just over an hour, with three hours free time to explore the estate. Another packaged deal gives you the option to bike to the estate from Alexandria and take a boat back.
The Sightseeing Pass also offers their “Spirit of Mount Vernon” cruise for $48, entry ticket included. Virgin Experience Gifts’ cruise costs $59 per person with a discounted rate for Mount Vernon admission, and features a narrated tour of the coastline.
Mount Vernon Tours from DC
As such a popular tourist destination, it’s no surprise that a host of different tour bus companies will take you to Mount Vernon. Many include day packages, with options to add on other nearby landmarks like Arlington National Cemetery.
Mount Vernon’s visitor web page lists several popular options, like Loba Tours, which will take you from DC to the estate and back, stopping in Alexandria’s old town, for $79 per adult. Loba offers other packages, like a tour covering both Mount Vernon and DC landmarks and night, and a packaged deal with Arlington Cemetery for $120.
OnBoard Tours will take you to Mount Vernon and the Cemetery, with extra stops in Alexandria, the Custis-Lee Mansion, and the Kennedy Grave Sites for $80 on weekdays, $90 on weekends.
I encourage travelers to do their own research on the best tour for their money that covers the places they want to go, as many of these trips vary slightly in their routes.