When I was little, my family would drive down to Washington, DC, from New Jersey every year or so to visit friends and sightsee. We’d “ooh” and “ahh” over the pandas at the zoo, wander through Smithsonian museums, and pose for pictures in front of the monuments on the National Mall. Once we even saw President Reagan speak at a ceremony at Arlington National Ceremony.
After college I lived near Georgetown for years, affording me even more opportunities to explore DC’s historic sites. I might’ve made it down to the National Mall a couple of times, but, at the time, my friends and I were more interested in checking out the bars on M Street than DC’s oldest building on the same block.
Now that we’re back, I’m determined to make the most of living so close to our nation’s capital. My list of things to do in DC is growing and includes sightseeing activities like visiting Mount Vernon, The Library of Congress, The National Archives Museum, and, of course, The White House.
I’m dying to take a tour of The White House.
Last month, The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization on a mission to create parks and protect land for people to enjoy for generations, reached out to me about experiencing one of their affiliated spaces. Searching their website, I was excited to see that one of the historic sites on my list was also on theirs: George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
Thanks to the strong protection efforts of The Trust for Public Land and other organizations, Washington’s picturesque view across the Potomac River into Maryland from his famous piazza remains largely unchanged today. According to their website, The Trust for Public Land, in conjunction with the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, has permanently protected a total of 232 acres that have been added to the 4,000-acre Piscataway Park in Maryland within view of the estate.
Eager to experience Mount Vernon’s view while the trees on the shores of the Potomac still had their leaves, we hopped in the car on a Saturday morning in early November to visit Mount Vernon. There was some midday rain in the forecast, but we were hoping the meteorologists would be wrong.
Under the cover of umbrellas, the four of us sloshed through the muddy paths of Mount Vernon. The rain had kept away many of the tourists, so we were quickly able to join the Mansion Highlights Tour.
Unfortunately, strollers aren’t allowed inside Washington’s home, so we had to leave ours outside in the pouring rain. Somebody tried to cover it with a large plastic bag while we were in the house, but it was mostly soaked when we went to retrieve it.
So Jordan and I took in as much information about the Mansion as possible while trying to keep Levi engaged and Asa from destroying any of the artifacts. We probably should’ve brought a baby carrier for Asa, but honestly, neither of us were keen on shlepping an extra 33 lbs in an Ergo.
After the tour, we took a few minutes to relax in the chairs on the Mansion’s porch and enjoy the view across the Potomac into Maryland. Despite the rain and the overcast sky, the scene was positively serene. Somehow the gloomy day only seemed to enhance the glow of the red, orange, and yellow color of the leaves across the river.
With our eye on the time (our plan was to stay at Mount Vernon for about two hours), we walked down the hill for a meet-and-greet with Martha Washington. I was worried that Levi might get nervous near a woman dressed in character, but he bravely stood next to her as she read a vintage children’s story to the group.
Asa was more interested in her props.
Our last planned activity while visiting Mount Vernon was story time in the Hands-on-History Center inside the Museum and Education Center. Levi and one other boy patiently listened as woman read a children’s book about a fox hunt at Mount Vernon, but Asa was too hangry to sit still.
We had crossed the two-hour mark, and it was time to leave.
But I want to go back. There was so much we didn’t explore like the tombs, the distillery, and the farms, and I wouldn’t mind getting a better look at the estate in the sunlight. We’ll probably wait until the boys are a little bit older, though, because dividing my attention between Asa and all of the history was exhausting.
Reflecting on our day at Mount Vernon, I can’t help but imagine how different our experience would’ve been if the viewshed from Washington’s piazza included high-rise buildings and shopping centers. Thanks to The Trust for Public Land’s commitment to saving the places people love — from neighborhood playgrounds to vast wilderness — our modern-day view across the Potomac into Maryland is nearly the same as Washington’s view more than 200 years old.
If you’re interested in helping to protect America’s open spaces, I encourage you to participate in The Trust for Public Land’s #OurLand campaign. Share what nature means to you and create a postcard for the #OurLand movement by uploading your story and a photo on The Trust for Public Land website. Because our outdoor space is too precious to lose.
Disclosure: This post is a collaboration with The Trust for Public Land. All ideas and opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that allow me to continue producing valuable, thoughtful, original content for this blog.