Mount Vernon

Attending the Sunset Celebration at Mt. Vernon was, for me, the coolest thing we did on our trip.  The house and grounds were opened up after hours only on Memorial Day weekend for an amazing evening experience.  I have a feeling that it would have been even more spectacular had the clouds moved out so we could actually see the sunset.  But it really didn’t matter because everything else was so neat.

We arrived at the Ford Welcome Center at 6 PM.  There were many things to look at including this group of bronze Washington family statues.  A lady asked if she could take a photo of Wildman and me for us.  J had taken Cutie Pie to the bathroom so I figured why not.  While I was thanking her and retrieving my camera, Wildman busied himself shaking hands with the former president.  It was quite adorable.

We took a quick glance at the map of the grounds then headed outside to see what we could see.

The grounds were a beautiful, lush green.  A gravel pathway took us by several grazing goats.  The boys stopped to check them out for a while.  Then we wound our way toward the main house with the help of a few employees dressed in colonial garb pointing the way.  When we rounded the final bend the view was like a post card.  The white house with the red roof up on a hill was stately and serene.

As we made our way up the drive we noticed a group of ladies playing an 18th century hoop game on the lawn.  They offered to let us have a try but Wildman and Cutie Pie were feeling too shy.

We continued up the drive to the front of the house where we found this gentleman with his cart full of  instruments.  He was playing a portable harpsichord when we arrived but then offered to demonstrate anything the boys wanted.  The boys weren’t too sure what all the instruments were so he chose the bag pipes because he thought they would like them best.  We listened to him for a while.  I don’t play any instruments so I am always in awe of those who can.  And people who can play multiple instruments are just amazing to me.

We took a horse-drawn wagon ride around the property then toured the home.  Afterwards, we made our way toward the backyard where the dessert tents were set up.  Wildman and Cutie Pie insisted on the red velvet cupcakes while J and I indulged in the flourless chocolate cake and red wine.  Yum!

The boys worked off their sugar by racing up and down the hill toward the Potomac.  Even with the overcast conditions, the view was stunning.  J and I were amazed at how undeveloped the banks opposite Mt. Vernon were.  I’m sure that was by design but, in this age of rapid development, it’s nice to see some untouched land.  The view looked as it must have in Washington’s time.

It was neat to see a lady dressed as Martha Washington doing needlework on the back porch.  She had the character down pat and was very charming as she entertained the guests gathered around her with stories from her life.  We listened to her for quite a while.

Did you know that the Washingtons used to make their own chocolate on the plantation?  We got a little tutorial on the process (upper right photo above) before we selected our dessert.  The boys each received a cocoa bean to take home.  The demonstration is what swayed J and I to pick the flourless chocolate cake 🙂

We moseyed back around to the front yard because the boys were feeling more daring and wanted to try out the games.  There were several families out there giving it a try.  It was really fun.  We all did better at it that I thought we would 🙂

Most of the grounds were open so we were able to explore the kitchen building, the stables, the gardens, etc.  It was fun to watch colonial style line dancing in one of the formal gardens.  It was getting dark by then and my photos did not come out so well.

The boys got to see fireflies for the first time that night as well.  We don’t really have them here in Florida so it was a special treat.  They made a game of trying to spot them in the bushes and trees.

As darkness fell, the paths were lit by candlelight.  It was so pretty.  Between the glow of the candles, the flicker of the fireflies and the rise and fall of the trio playing music on the back porch, it made me want to stay forever.

The boys found the blacksmith’s shop fascinating.  We could hardly tear them away when it was time to leave.  The blacksmiths were making a chain.  They were demonstrating how the links were made and attached together.  I must admit that I was captivated too.  Sparks flew everywhere!

We lost ourselves in all the fun things to do and see that 9 PM came before we knew it.  The staff began ushering us toward the exit and I think everyone in attendance found it hard to leave.  I highly recommend this tour of Mt. Vernon if you ever get the chance.  There were no crowds.  The weather was mild.  We could explore everything at our leisure.  The atmosphere was almost magical.


National Harbor

We flew out of Melbourne last Wednesday afternoon for Washington DC.  It was our boys’ first plane trip.  And, boy, were they excited!  They absorbed everything about the airport and the planes while we waited to board.  The TSA officer gave them badge stickers to wear on their shirts which made them feel pretty special.

J was already in Maryland for a training class so I flew alone with Wildman and Cutie Pie.  I made sure to pack plenty of activities and snacks in their backpacks to keep them occupied.  They were remarkably well-behaved but super chatty due to all the excitement.  It was really very cute.  They charmed many of the passengers and crew members.


J left us the rental car while he was in class on Thursday.  It was just me and the boys with the entire day laid out in front of us.  I decided to take them over to National Harbor to do some exploring.  J had heard that the ferry over to Old Town was something that the boys might enjoy.

Luckily the harbor was nearby and easy to find.  It is a relatively new place with lots of shops and restaurants.  Some of the waterfront buildings are still under construction as indicated by the cacophony of power tools.

We stumbled upon this neat, half-buried (what I believe to be) Neptune statue at the water’s edge.

The boys enjoyed climbing all over the statue pieces but the metal quickly got too hot in the morning sun.  We retreated to the cool of the Peep Store for a bottle of water.  Did you know there were such things as Peep Stores?  I had no idea.

When our water and Peep samples were consumed we headed over to the dock to board the ferry.

As expected, the boys thought the boat ride was awesome!  They couldn’t make up their minds what was better: being in the cabin getting drinks out of the water cooler OR checking out the sights on the bow.  Both activities were probably about equal in their eyes.  Personally, I enjoyed being outside.  That’s where I took all my photos 🙂

We were starving by the time we set foot in Old Town.  It didn’t take us long to find a quaint little restaurant with a Chicago-style pizza buffet.  The boys and I made quick work of our pizza and salads then set out to find the King Street trolley.

The boys noticed an ice cream shop while we were waiting for the trolley.  We hurried over to buy a couple of cups before boarding.  I wasn’t sure if the driver would let us take the ice cream with us but he did.

The King Street trolley is free and took us all the way up to the George Washington National Masonic Memorial and back down to the water.  It was a nice little ride around Alexandria.  The boys weren’t too keen on walking around in the heat so it was the perfect solution.

We took the ferry back across the Potomac to National Harbor to retrieve our car.  By the time we got back to the hotel the boys were wiped out.  We all took a little nap while we waited for J’s friend to bring him back from class.  I am proud of myself for navigating through unfamiliar territory with my children and not getting lost!  We managed to have a great adventure just the three of us.