Metrorail Service Alert for Summer 2019!
In summer 2019, Metrorail service south of National Airport, which includes Alexandria and points beyond, will be shut down while the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) makes structural improvements to station platforms. Work should be completed by fall 2019, at which point service will resume. WMATA is working with local jurisdictions to provide alternative transportation. If you plan to visit D.C., Old Town Alexandria, Mount Vernon, or other parts of Northern Virginia during that time, consult WMATA’s status and alerts webpage (www.wmata.com/service/status/index.cfm) for the latest transportation information. Rail service north of the airport—that is, into Washington, D.C.—continues without interruption throughout 2019.
You will need a car to get to Woodlawn, Gunston Hall, and the other attractions south of Mount Vernon, but you can get to the first president's home by public transportation.
By Car -- It's a pleasant, picturesque drive to Mount Vernon, 8 miles south of Alexandria, via the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which in many places skirts the river's edge. If you’re going by car, take any of the bridges over the Potomac River into Virginia and follow the signs pointing the way to National Airport/Mount Vernon/George Washington Memorial Parkway. Travel south on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, the river always to your left, and pass by National Airport on your right. Continue through Old Town Alexandria, where the parkway is renamed “Washington Street,” and head 8 miles farther, until you reach the large circle that fronts Mount Vernon.
Fun Fact: The Parkway Is a Park
Though few people realize it, the George Washington Memorial Parkway is actually a national park. The first section was completed in 1932 to honor the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth. The parkway follows the Potomac River, running from Mount Vernon past Old Town and the nation’s capital and ending at Great Falls, Virginia. Today the parkway is a major commuter route leading into and out of the city. But even the most impatient driver will find it hard to resist glances at the gorgeous scenery and monuments you pass along the way—it's a beautiful drive.
By Subway, Bus & Taxi -- It's possible to get to Mount Vernon via Metrorail and connecting bus. Take Metro's Yellow Line subway (tel. 202/637-7000; www.wmata.com), which stops at the King Street Station in Alexandria, to Huntington Station south of Old Town Alexandria. Exit to Huntington Avenue and catch the Fairfax Connector bus no. 101 (tel. 703/339-7200; www.fairfaxconnector.com). The bus ride from Huntington to Mount Vernon takes about 25 minutes and costs $1.35 each way, exact changed required. Call or check the website for the bus schedules. You can also take a White Top Cab (tel. 703/644-4500); fares are about $20 each way.
By Guided Tour -- You might also take a narrated bus or boat tour to Mount Vernon; prices include the cost of admission to Mount Vernon. Gray Line (www.graylinedc.com; tel. 202/779-9894) offers a 4.5-hour tour Tuesday to Saturday year-round ($75/adult, $40/child) that includes a brief stop at historic Christ Church in Old Town Alexandria on the way to Mount Vernon. Buses depart and return to Union Station, allowing you to explore Mount Vernon on your own. The bus company OnBoard Sightseeing (http://washingtondctours.onboardtours.com/mount-vernon-tour/; tel. 301/839-5261) offers an April through mid-September daily 6-hour tour ($79.99/adult, $69.99/child Mon–Thurs; $89.99/adult, $79.99/child Fri–Sun) of Mount Vernon and Arlington Cemetery, via a drive-through of Old Town Alexandria, but on this tour, your OnBoard tour guide not only narrates your experience on the bus but also narrates your tour of Mount Vernon and Arlington Cemetery. The tour starts and returns to the White House Gifts shop at 15th Street NW and New York Avenue NW.
By Boat -- The Spirit Cruises’ Spirit of Mount Vernon (www.cruisetomountvernon.com; tel. 866/302-2469) narrated tour is a seasonal operation, cruising to Mount Vernon March through October (check online for daily schedules, which can vary). The vessel leaves from Pier 4 (6th and Water sts. SW; three blocks from the Green Line Metro’s Waterfront station) at 8:30am, returning by 3pm. The cost is $49.95 plus tax per person (free for children 2 and under).
The Potomac Riverboat Company (www.potomacriverboatco.com; tel. 877/511-2628) operates a narrated cruise aboard Miss Christin Tuesday through Sunday April through August; Saturday and Sunday September until late October. It departs at 10:30am for Mount Vernon from the pier adjacent to the Torpedo Factory, where Union and Cameron streets intersect, at Old Town Alexandria’s waterfront. The rate weekdays is $44/adult, $25/child (ages 2–11); Saturday and Sunday $47/adult, $25/child; and always free for children 2 and under. Arrive 30 minutes ahead of time at the pier to secure a place on the boat. The narrated trip takes 90 minutes each way, stopping twice at Gaylord’s National Harbor to pick up and discharge passengers. The boat departs Mount Vernon at 4pm to return to Old Town by 5:30pm, via National Harbor.
And here’s a clever way to travel to and from Mount Vernon: The Potomac Riverboat Company and Bike & Roll (book through www.bikeandrolldc.com) have teamed up to offer Bike & Boat, which includes bike rental from Bike & Roll’s Old Town Alexandria location at the waterfront, admission to Mount Vernon, and a narrated return trip back to Old Town aboard the Miss Christin. You pedal your own merry way along the Mount Vernon Trail (see box, “Biking to Old Town Alexandria & Mount Vernon,” to reach the estate, lock up your bike at Mount Vernon, where Bike & Roll staff pick it up, tour Mount Vernon, then board Miss Christin at 4pm to return to Old Town. You must pick up your bike in Old Town no later than 11:30am. The package costs $74 for ages 13 and older, $40 ages 6 to 12, and $20 ages 2 to 5.If you’re up for it, you can rent a bike and pedal the 18-mile round-trip distance at your own pace any time of year. Finally, it's possible to take public transportation to Mount Vernon by riding the Metro to the Yellow Line’s Huntington station and proceeding to the lower level, where you catch the Fairfax Connector bus no. 101 to Mount Vernon.
Don't Come Early in Spring, Summer, or Any Weekend You will need at least a half-day to see Mount Vernon and the nearby gristmill and distillery. Many people show up at 8am in spring, summer, or any weekend with the idea of beating the crowds, which they inadvertently create. The guides inside the mansion do not have time to give in-depth information or answer questions when it's crowded. I would tour the mansion later in the day during these busy periods. Rather than stand in line, I highly recommend buying your tickets and reserving your guided audio tours online in advance at www.mountvernon.org. This is especially important during summer and on holiday weekends, when the audio tours sell out quickly. Be sure to click on "Packages," some of which include the price of the audio tour.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.