The COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have prevented me from traveling to any new Presidential sites this month. However, several of my previously reviewed Presidential sites in Virginia have reopened their extensive hiking trails and gardens. With many parents looking for a place to let their children play in the outdoors, these sites make a perfect place to visit during the pandemic!
**Note that the information provided below may change. You are encouraged to check each individual website before your visit.**
George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Alexandria, VA
With a multitude of gardens, grounds, and historical buildings, the vast estate of our nation’s first President is a great place to see historical sites in the fresh air. The mansion is still closed but the 160-acre estate reopened for visitors on Sunday, June 21st. Read my recommended tour here and use this map to help you plan your visit. The site still has costumed (and masked!) historical interpreters to help you understand what life was like in colonial times. The outside activities are fun to visit with kids, including the paddock with the farm animals.
Kids will also enjoy the beautiful walk through the forest to the pioneer farm site where they can learn all about farming in the 18th century. In the historic area, the outbuildings are open for exploration, and you can pay your respects to George and Martha’s tomb. Don’t miss my favorite place to visit on the estate – the gorgeous back piazza with breathtaking views of the Potomac River!
To learn more about the enslaved persons who lived and toiled at Mount Vernon, you can visit the somber slave memorial and cemetery, visit a recreated slave cabin in the pioneer farm area, and step into the enslaved lodgings near the mansion.
While its sit-down dining areas are currently closed, Mount Vernon is hosting a food truck daily at the 12-acre field and take out is available from the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant. Patio seating is available in front of the Shops at Mount Vernon, where the main museum store is open as well.
The mansion, theaters, and nearby distillery/gristmill remain closed for now. The site’s museums are reopening on Friday, June 26th. Due to the limitations on the number of guests allowed on the grounds, it is recommended that guests purchase their grounds passes in advance, and only clear bags are allowed on property.
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Charlottesville, VA
Monticello, the main home of our nation’s third President, is located on top of a mountain near Charlottesville. With its recently reopened grounds and mansion, it is a refreshing place to visit throughout most of the summer. Kids will love exploring the extensive farms and gardens including the vegetable garden that overlooks the mountains in the distance.
There is a leafy trail that leads from the entrance to the mansion that will take you by the Jefferson family cemetery (best to walk this on your return trip due to the incline!). The 89-acre Saunders-Monticello trail has miles of boardwalks and pathways to explore. Unlike most of the other Presidential sites, Monticello has also reopened the mansion to tours, albeit with limited numbers of guests. The house tour is now more family-friendly, however, as it allows you to go at your own pace and use a tour app to learn about the rooms. You can linger as long as you want rather than having to move along with a group! The cool interiors of the underground passageways in the mansion is one of my favorite spots.
Keep an eye out for the new digital scavenger hunt for families!
**Pro tip – on your way home, visit the next-door Carter Mountain Orchard for the best apple cider donuts. There are plenty of picnic tables overlooking the beautiful mountains so you can eat the donuts while they’re hot!
Tuckahoe Plantation, Richmond, VA
Reviewed last month on the blog, Thomas Jefferson’s boyhood home, Tuckahoe Plantation, is open to visitors and is a perfect place for kids to run and play in a historic setting.
James Madison’s Montpelier, Orange, VA
Montpelier, the estate of our nation’s fourth President, James Madison, recently reopened its 2,650-acres for visitors. Located in the beautiful rolling hills of Orange County, the estate has over 8 miles of walking trails and plenty of outdoor spaces to create a fun, historic visit for kids. Take your kids on a walking loop through the formal DuPont gardens or in the footsteps of a Civil War brigade. Take a family photo in front of the picturesque gazebo and visit the Madison family and enslaved community cemeteries. Your kids can explore the south yard where extensive archaeological research has uncovered the stories of the enslaved population that lived at Montpelier.
Montpelier is also hosting guided tours of its grounds that provide more details about the Madisons, the Constitution, and the enslaved population.
While its excellent onsite cafe is currently closed, visitors are allowed to bring their own picnic food. The museum store has also reopened. See the site’s visitor guidelines for more information on what to expect during your visit.
The mansion, museum, and theater remain closed for now. It is recommended that you purchase your grounds passes and guided tour passes online before your visit.
Other outdoor Virginia Presidential sites to visit include:
- Hollywood Cemetery: Located in Richmond, this picturesque cemetery sits high on a bluff overlooking the James River. It is the final resting spot of two Presidents, James Monroe and John Tyler. Be sure to check out the Virginia Mysteries guide to the cemetery before visiting with children!
- George Washington Birthplace National Monument: Located near Colonial Beach, this park is full of hiking and biking trails along a beach on the Potomac River. Note that the historic area and visitor center buildings are still closed.
- Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest: Located near Lynchburg, Poplar Forest has reopened on a limited schedule and tours are available Thursday – Sunday (tour is mostly outside). Walking and hiking trails are currently being developed.
- Belle Grove Plantation: Located in King George, this is the site of James Madison’s birthplace (now a bed and breakfast).
- James Monroe Birthplace Park: Located in Colonial Beach, this outdoor park includes a replica of Monroe’s birthplace and a small museum.
- Sherwood Forest: Located on the James River between Richmond and Williamsburg, the home of John Tyler is currently closed but its grounds are open for exploration.
- Pine Knot: Located in Keene, just south of Charlottesville, this small cabin was the country retreat of President Theodore Roosevelt.
Pick a site to visit this weekend and enjoy the nice weather and fresh air! Be sure to read my reviews of each site to get helpful book lists that will enhance your tour. Visit my Presidential and First Ladies page to see all of my Presidential site reviews!