Imagine being an architect of the Bill of the Rights, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, an OG Patriot and a Founding Father. Yet 250 years later, all anyone can talk about is the guy next door.  


It’s hard to fathom that two men as influential as George Mason and George Washington lived at the same time—practically next door to each other as the fish swims—and managed to establish a democracy with a Constitution and Bill of Rights that are all still very relevant today. Their words and intentions are still honored, interpreted and debated on a daily basis all these years later.  


Mason was born in Fairfax County and both were raised here. They attended the same church. They visited each others’ homes. If not exactly friends, they were friendly. And they left their historic legacies here at their homes and museums. If you want to know why the Patriots broke with the British, how they architected a new nation, what the thinking was behind it all and how it still impacts us today, there is only one place that tells the story in context—the Potomac Banks region of Fairfax County.  


George Washington, the founding father of all founding fathers

George Washington's Mount Vernon

Built in 1758, George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate is the most visited, most popular historic home in the nation. It’s not because of the Palladian architecture or its jaw-dropping siting, overlooking the Potomac River. It’s because of the man who was raised there and lived there until his death.  

What to see and do near Mount Vernon

George Washington’s Distillery and Gristmill - Fall

Mount Vernon is in the heart of Fairfax County’s Potomac Banks region, filled with American history. It has a museum on site, as well as multiple exhibits and demonstrations to see on the property. Nearby, you’ll find George Washington’s Distillery and Gristmill where they still make spirits according to Washington’s ways. Also nearby is Woodlawn, an historic home that Washington built for Martha Washington’s granddaughter, Nellie Parke Custis. This site also has Civil War significance and, surprisingly, a Frank Lloyd Wright home to tour.  


Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant

As an FYI, you’ll need a weekend to give justice to all these sites because Mount Vernon alone will take the bulk of a day to explore. We recommend eating at the Mount Vernon Inn, both for the convenience and quality of food. Afterward, try the veteran-owned Woodlawn Press Winery. And, speaking of veterans, the National Museum of the US Army is situated between Mount Vernon and Gunston Hall—hard to pass by on your founding father’s tour. Of course, no exploration of George Washington would be complete without making the 20-minute drive to see our country’s most iconic monument in the city that bears George’s name.  


George Mason, the founding father who architected our freedoms

George Mason's Gunston Hall

Photo Courtesy Gunston Hall

In the 1770s, George Mason was a planter and country squire who was growing increasingly frustrated with the constraints of British rule. Rather than march off to war, however, he used his pen and his intelligence against the Crown, finding ways around the around the Stamp Act of 1765 and serving in the pro-independence Virginia Conventions in 1775 and 1776.  

What to see and do around Gunston Hall

Mason Neck State Park - Lorton - Summer

When you go to visit Gunston Hall, you may wonder if you’re a little lost. Because you turn off the highly populated Route 1 area and immediately enter into a forest. Then you drive a couple miles into the trees, with no signs of human life anywhere. Roam through the captivating scenery of Pohick Bay Regional Park and Mason Neck State Park with its large bald eagle population. A visit to one of these parks is a must.  


The Lucy Burns Museum at the Workhouse Arts CenterPhoto Courtesy Mina Habibi at the Workhouse Arts Center

If you want more of a side trip, visit the Workhouse Arts Center, an artist colony housed in a former prison. Don’t miss the suffragist history at the prison and nearby. It’s a shocking story that most people have never heard. To eat, try Hometown Grill and Bar in Lorton Station, followed by a local brew at G34.3 Brewing Company. There is a memorial dedicated to George Mason about a half hour north of his estate in Washington, DC.  


Where the Georges merged

Pohick ChurchPhoto Courtesy Pohick Church's Facebook

George Washington and George Mason lived less than 10 miles from each other—maybe 4 miles if you went by boat. They lived in similar looking homes, both sited on peninsulas of the Potomac River. They served in the Virginia House of Burgess together. They visited each other often. And they even worshipped at the same church where they were both vestrymen. Pohick Church still stands today, with its 12th century baptismal font, Civil War graffiti and Washington family pew.  


George Washington's Mount Vernon - Kitchen GardenPhoto Courtesy Cameron Davidson for Virginia Tourism Corporation

The Georges interacted frequently and were friendly, but there was strained tension between them because they had different ideals and different ambitions. 

Set aside enough time for a thorough exploration of the Georges.  

National Air and Space Museum

George Washington and George Mason were both complex men whose lives were aligned in creating our nation, but whose legacies took different trajectories. These two Fairfax County residents went on to establish the freedoms we hold today, one as a great warrior and president, and the other as the architect of our independence. And they lived very close to each other, making their historic homes perfect for a founding father weekend tour you won’t find anywhere else in the nation.

With Washington, DC, two Smithsonian Air and Space Museums and sites like Great Falls Park calling to your curiosity, you could spend a week in Fairfax County without seeing it all! Put some of these stops on your Fairfax County itinerary today. Which site will you visit first? Let us know in the comments below or share with us on social media using #FXVA and @VisitFairfax.