Historic Mansion Tours In Fairfax County
Nothing will give you a taste of history more than this Virginia historic homes tour. Visit famous homes that were occupied by George Washington, George Mason, and more and see all the best architecture Fairfax County has to offer. The suggestions below will get you started on your tour of the most historic estates in the DC area.
Estates, Mansions, and More
- George Washington's Mount Vernon and the Donald W. Reynolds Educational Center
- Mount Vernon Inn
- George Washington’s Distillery and Gristmill
- Woodlawn Historic Site
- Pope-Leighey House
- Pohick Church
- Gunston Hall
Soak up a little history on this Northern Virginia historic homes tour. Start your tour at our nation's first Presidential Estate. George Washington built his famous home along the Potomac River in Fairfax County, and today it remains as the #1 most visited historic estate in the United States, with more than one million visitors per year.
You'll trace George Washington's steps as you learn about his life, his work, his passions, and his military history. Run your hand down the original bannister in the entry way of the home, peek into the living quarters where Martha Washington's daughter gave birth to their first grandchild, stroll into Washington's library where you'll find his original desk chair that he used while President, and then explore the incredible gardens on the property by the greenhouse. While on the grounds, keep a look out for George and Martha themselves, as they sometimes are seen going about their work.
Don't forget to explore the stunning Donald W. Reynolds Educational Center & Museum, where you'll find interactive exhibits, hands-on activities for children, movies, original housewares, and so much more.
After an informative morning at the Estate, be sure to stop by for lunch at the Mount Vernon Inn - a restaurant that serves up dishes from Washington's lifetime, including Virginia's famous peanut soup recipe and a really delicious pot pie!
On your next stop, only a few short miles from Mount Vernon Estate, you'll find Washington's other passion project - and his most successful business endeavor - at his Distillery and Gristmill. While the original structure was destroyed in a fire, this recreation is identical to its predecessor. Learn from the master distiller how Washington made his famous rye whiskey. The whiskey is still made today on property, using the exact method Washington employed years ago. If you're lucky, you can still buy bottles of the unaged rye whiskey during certain times of year - so make sure to check with the gift shop on your way out.
George Washington's Distillery & Gristmill is the only site in North America that can demonstrate 18th-century distilling from seed to barrel. The distillery and museum serve as the gateway to the American Whiskey Trail.
On Day 2 of your Historical Homes of Southern Fairfax County tour, you will learn how George Washington's roots stretch from his own Mount Vernon Estate to other areas of Southern Fairfax.
Built between 1800 and 1805, Woodlawn Estate served as the home of Eleanor "Nellie" Custis and Lawrence Lewis, Martha Washington's granddaughter and George Washington's nephew, respectively. At Washington's behest, the Estate was designed by the architect of the first U.S. Capitol, Dr. William Thornton and was constructed by slaves from bricks fired in a kiln on the property. Today, you can see many Washington and Lewis family heirlooms and furnishings on display.
In 1951, Woodlawn Estate became the first site named to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Next on your tour, you won't have to go far. Also on the property of Woodlawn, you'll find Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian architecture masterpiece, the Pope-Leighey House. Originally built in Falls Church, Virginia, the home was moved to avoid demolition due to highway construction. Commissioned in 1939 by Loren Pope, its style intended to be both affordable and distinctly American. Its second owner, Marjorie Leighey, donated the home to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1964.
For your last stop, you will visit Pohick Church. Built in 1774, and supervised by vestrymen George Washington, George Mason, and George William Fairfax, the construction was completed just before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. Both before and after the war, Washington was a faithful attendant at the church.
During the Civil War, occupying Union forces stripped the building's interior for souvenirs of "Washington's Church" and used its worship space as a stable. Soldiers scrawled their names on the inside walls, carved graffiti onto the doorposts, and pockmarked the exterior with bullet holes. The interior damage can be seen from an iconic 1862 Mathew Brady photo, while the outside markings can still be viewed today.
On Day 3 of exploring these famous homes in Virginia, you will find yourself at Gunston Hall, the home of another Founding Father - George Mason.
George Mason played an equally important a role in the early history of the United States. A delegate to the Constitutional Convention, Mason chose not to sign the document because it did not include an individual bill of rights. It may have cost him his friendship with George Washington, and certainly relegated him to lesser-known status among the Founding Fathers.
At Mason's home, Gunston Hall, you'll learn all about his life, his work, and his family. Tour his home, an 18th century Georgian Mansion, and learn about the building's design and architecture. Stroll the massive central Boxwood allee, or hike down from the house to the banks of the Potomac, where the Masons and their children might have frolicked.
Take a garden walk, play "Plantation Sleuth," learn the art of hearth-cooking, or experience the rigors of daily life at a military encampment during special events at the Estate. (Check their event calendar before visiting to find out details.)
After your visit at Gunston Hall, head out to Mason Neck State Park, Fairfax County's only Virginia State Park. Located on a peninsula formed by Pohick Bay, Belmont Bay and the Potomac River, the park is an active heron rookery, and also attracts several other migrating and non-migrating species of birds, including whistling swans and several species of duck. The park boasts several hundred acres of hardwood forests consisting of oaks, holly, hickory and other species of trees, and several wetland areas. Opportunities for boating, fishing, biking, hiking, and picnicking are all available in the park. Don't forget to also make a trip to nearby Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge, the United States' first preservation refuge for bald eagles.
Your last stop is Pohick Bay Regional Park, a water-oriented park that occupies a spectacular bayside setting on the historic Mason Neck peninsula in Fairfax County. In early times, George Washington visited the area frequently. Today the park features an 18-hole golf course, camping, an outdoor swimming pool, sailboat, pedal boat, canoe and sea kayak rentals, boating and fishing, miniature and Frisbee golf, four miles of bridle paths, nature trails, and a complete water park perfect for the kiddos.