Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mount Vernon or Monticello which do I visit first?

The pros and cons of visiting Mount Vernon or Monticello this time of year. Both are equally fascinating places to see and visit. Both have recently had major infusions of corporate cash to beef up the educational aspects as well as making them far more interesting and fun places to visit. Depending on where you live their proximity to you may dictate your selection. Both are worth the drive. I will talk mostly about Mount Vernon in this posting. Interestingly enough neither are National Parks nor Smithsonian Museums. Mount Vernon is owned and managed by The Mount Vernon Ladies Association:

About The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association
Mount Vernon is owned and maintained in trust for the people of the United States by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union, a private, non-profit organization (501c3) founded in 1853 by Ann Pamela Cunningham. The Association is the oldest national historic preservation organization in the country, and it has always been in the forefront of the restoration field. It is directed by a Board of Regents, comprised solely of women, who represent nearly 30 states. Also, a Board of Advisors of prominent citizens from across the country convenes twice a year to provide additional input on Mount Vernon's governance. The estate, gift shops and dining facilities are operated by over 500 paid employees and over 400 volunteers.
Mount Vernon is the most popular historic estate in America and is open 365 days a year.  Over 80 million people have visited Mount Vernon since 1860, when the estate was officially opened to the public. Mount Vernon welcomes an average of one million guests each year.
The estate, gardens and farm of Mount Vernon totaled some 8,000 acres in the 18th century. Today, nearly 500 acres of this historic property have been preserved along the banks of the Potomac River. Guests can see Washington’s mansion and other original structures. The estate also includes the tomb of George and Martha Washington, a memorial dedicated to the slaves who lived and worked on the estate, the Ford Orientation Center, and the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center which includes 25 theaters and galleries.
Mount Vernon does not accept grants from federal, state or local governments, and no tax dollars are expended to support its purposes. Primary sources of income are revenue from the retail and dining facilities, ticket sales, and donations from foundations, corporations, and individuals.
Click for more information on how you can Support Mount Vernon’s Mission.

Mount Vernon: Recent addition of a comprehensive museum complex called The Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center.

Included in the price of admission, the museums will hold your interest as well as your child's. I have been going to Mount Vernon for well over forty-five years and its never been this nice before. Before the museums were added, all there was to see was the house and sprawling grounds. Now you can make an entire day of it. The museums dive much deeper into the life and times of GW as well as life on the estate. A number of amazing relics, art work, furniture, paintings and documents are on display. Most of this collection had never before seen the light of day. It is truly an amazing thing to see. probably the thing that most of your kids will remember is GW's actual set of false teeth are also on display. The other really cool thing is a virtual reenactment of the battle of Valley Forge complete with visuals, an extensive visual explanation complete with snowfall. It is very well done. Monticello has nothing that compares to this.

All in all Mount Vernon is packed with things to see and do all year round. You have to come back in the late spring to see the magnificent grounds and gardens. The food service has also been upgraded as well and is worth a visit. If I had only one day to see either one and travel time was not a consideration, I would definitely pick Mount Vernon. Mount Vernon is far better organized and gives a comprehensive view of the man, his contributions, his lifestyle and his legacy.

 Monticello is a smaller more intimate and narrower view of Thomas Jefferson. The Monticello tour leaves you wanting more, but fails to deliver a similar comprehensive experience as Mount Vernon. Both now offer private,scheduled and behind the scenes tours for larger fees.Have a great time. I think theses tours are great for the veteran tourist, a bit much for the first timer.

At Mount Vernon, there is also the new Distillary and Gristmill:

The distillery produces whiskey using Washington’s original mash bill (60% rye, 35% corn, and 5% malted barley). Costumed interpreters discuss 18th-century fermentation and distilling techniques and demonstrate how the boiler, mash tubs, and copper pot stills function.
The two-story building also includes an office, whiskey storage cellar, and living quarters. A museum on the second floor features a History Channel video, George Washington’s Liquid Gold and an exhibit, Spirits of Independence: George Washington and the Beginnings of the American Whiskey Industry.
George Washington’s Distillery is the gateway to the American Whiskey Trail. While supplies are limited, whiskey produced at the distillery is sold at the Gristmill Shop and The Shops at Mount Vernon when available.
The reconstruction of Washington's Distillery was made possible by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
A 16-foot waterwheel powers the large wooden gears and millstones of Washington’s remarkable gristmill, which features the only operating Oliver Evans Automated Milling System in America. This system connects all of the machines in the mill in a continuous milling process. The Evans system won U.S. Patent No. 3 in 1790 and helped to make the gristmill at Mount Vernon a commercial success by greatly improving the production of flour.
Demonstrations of the mill are given by millers in early-American attire when open during seasonal hours. Grain products made on site, including cornmeal, grits, pancake mix, and flour are available for sale at the Gristmill Shop and The Shops at Mount Vernon.
Admission and Hours of Operation
Open daily, April 1 - October 31, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Entrance to the site is included in admission to George Washington's Mount Vernon. Admission to the Distillery & Gristmill is also sold separately for $5 for adults, $2 for youth ages 6-11, and free for children 5 and under.
Location and Transportation
Located on Route 235, three miles south of Mount Vernon Estate. Visitors are advised that they must plan their own transportation to the Distillery & Gristmill.  For bus information and to verify bus schedules, please contact the Fairfax Connector office at 703-339-7200.
5514 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway
Alexandria, VA 22309

This February you can celebrate Washington's 281st birthday. Details below from the Mount Vernon website. If you visit during the 16th and 17th of February, you will be given the opportunity to place a red carnation at the foot of Washington's tomb. This is a very unique opportunity, one I shared with my son a few years back.

Celebrate George Washington's Birthday weekend at Mount Vernon. Each day “General Washington” is on the grounds to greet visitors and receive birthday wishes. All events listed below are included in estate admission.

Last chance: Monday, February 18, is the last day to view George Washington’s personal copy of the Constitution - complete with his own handwritten notes. On display in the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center (included with admission to Mount Vernon). Click here for more information.
Schedule of Events
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.         
“Breakfast with George Washington” on the 12-Acre Field
Foodways demonstration, music, and samples offered while supplies last.
10:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.        
Wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb
11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.          
“As I Know Him” in locations around the Historic Area
Meet people from Washington’s World as they share personal stories about Washington. Guests are encouraged to submit their stories about Washington for the afternoon program.
2:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.           
“General Washington, We Honor You” on the Bowling Green
People from Washington’s World gather with guests to share selected stories with the "General", who reflects and speaks to the assembly.
3:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.            
Wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb

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