Mount Vernon: 9 miles S of Old Town Alexandria

Only 16 miles south of the capital, George Washington’s Southern plantation dates from a 1674 land grant to the president’s great-grandfather. Anyone with the slightest interest in early American thought, politics, sociology, art, architecture, fashion, agriculture, or the decorative arts won't want to miss the scenic drive south along the Potomac from Alexandria to Mount Vernon, the home of George and Martha Washington. Their famous estate, one of the most visited homes in America, is on the way to two other Potomac plantations with Colonial roots. The first president gave Woodlawn, on a hilltop 3 1/2 miles west of Mount Vernon, as a 2,000-acre gift to their adopted daughter, who was Martha's actual granddaughter via her first marriage. And at the less imposing but more fascinating Gunston Hall lived their creative neighbor and friend, George Mason, the most influential revolutionary you never heard about. A liberal thinker, his words inspired Thomas Jefferson when he penned the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Together these three great homes make a fine day trip from Alexandria or Washington, D.C.