Updated for 2022
Did you know that Presidents Day originated as a celebration of George Washington’s birthday? What better way to celebrate this former Fairfax County resident (and the dozens of leaders who have followed in his footsteps) than to dive into some of the presidential history found in the Capital Region? There are plenty of things to do in the DC area and in Northern Virginia for Presidents Day weekend.
Here are a few activities and events to attend to make the most of Presidents Day Weekend:
Celebrate with George at Mount Vernon
Image courtesy Mount Vernon
General Washington’s beloved home, Mount Vernon, sits atop a hill along the Potomac River in the southern part of Fairfax County. Presidents Day is one of the only times throughout the year that you can visit this famous estate for free. Just be sure to book your tickets online, as they will not be available on site.
On Washington’s actual 290th birthday, February 22, join Mount Vernon for the virtual National Birthday Celebration, featuring performances and stories from a variety of actors, musicians, and historians to celebrate his legacy.
Learn About Washington's Military Life
Image courtesy National Museum of U.S. Army
During Presidents' Day weekend, enjoy special activities that recognize George Washington at the National Museum of the United States Army. Explore the equipment that Revolutionary War soldiers would have carried, attend a history talk about "How George Washington Started the French and Indian War" and participate in a family activity about the U.S. Army's first spymaster - Washington! Register for the free events here.
Salute Washington at the Annual Birthday Parade
Image courtesy Washington's Birthday Parade
The George Washington Birthday Parade is the largest parade in America celebrating the birth of George Washington. Find a spot along the parade route in Old Town Alexandria to celebrate our Founding Father’s 290th birthday on February 21. Parade details found here.
Do a Tour of the Presidential Sites in DC
Washington, DC is intrinsically linked to presidential history, so during your long weekend, take a tour of some of the city’s key presidential sites, including:
- The White House
- Lincoln Memorial
- Thomas Jefferson Memorial
- Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial
- The Washington Monument
- Woodrow Wilson House
- President Lincoln’s Cottage
Local Sites for Little-Known Presidential History
Maltidaville: George Washington's Ghost Town
Although Mount Vernon is often hailed for its association with Washington's everyday life, it's little known that Great Falls was also a huge part of life for him. In fact, he began a project there to create a series of canals that would open up a waterway from DC to Pittsburgh for commerce to flow - establishing the Patowmack Canal Company. Of course, there needed to be a town established with a market, gristmill, inn, workers' barracks, homes, and more to host the construction company's workers. In the age of the Revolutionary War, Harry Lee (father of Robert E. Lee) named the town for his first wife, Matilda Lee. The town of Matildaville served as the home of the Patowmack Company while they operated on the project for 26 years, but unfortunately it was shut down due to high costs. Now recognized as an Atlas Obscura site, Matildaville stands as a ghost town of stone ruins off the beaten path of Great Falls National Park.
Nestled in charming Old Town Fairfax, Hamrock's Restaurant is located in the historic Moore-McCandlish House, which was built in 1842. The house has seen its share of history - including housing Confederate Colonel Mosby while he was plotting to capture Union General Stoughton during the Civil War. This eventually landed him in jail, and the property was purchased by Thomas Moore, Assistant Secretary of State for the Roosevelt Administration who visited the property. Although not confirmed, it's rumored to have had a visit from William Howard Taft during a garden party after his presidency. Bask in the footsteps of previous presidents while enjoying afternoon tea, a great glass of wine, or a fresh plate of food on their wrap-around porch.
Home of The Forgotten Founder
George Mason, who was great friends with George Washington, is often referred to as "The Forgotten Founder" because of his integral role in the shaping of core concepts and much of the language in both the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Gunston Hall, completed in 1759, was the plantation home of George Mason. His home is an outstanding example of Georgian architecture, and is highly regarded for its elegant interiors. The elaborate interior carvings, designed by indentured servant William Buckland and carved by William Bernard Sears, provide an impressive backdrop for guided tours of the 18th century plantation household.
What are your favorite presidential spots to visit around the National Capital Region? Tell us in the comments below or join the conversation on social media using #FXVA and @VisitFairfax.