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The Ultimate George Washington Tour

George Washington was born February 11, 1732. However, today, we recognize his birthday on February 22. When Washington was born, the Julian calendar was still being used. In Washington's lifetime, England switched to the Gregorian calendar.


When traveling to Alexandria, Virginia, Gadsby's Tavern is one of the most famous locations associated with George Washington. In fact, his birthday was celebrated at the tavern on February 11, 1799. In his diary, Washington wrote:


Went up to Alexandria to the celebration of my birth day. Many Manœuvres were performed by the Uniform Corps and an elegant Ball & Supper at Night. [1]

Washington turned 67. Unfortunately, that was his last birthday party. He did not quite make it to 1800 as he died on December 14, 1799.


On the second floor of Gadsby's Tavern is a beautiful ballroom. George Washington, would have danced in this ballroom. He was fond of dancing, light on his feet, and impressive in stature. It is no surprise that all of the ladies would have wanted a chance to dance with His Excellency. One of my favorite stories of Washington's dancing involves the dashing, Catherine ("Caty") Littlefield Greene, who was the wife of General Nathanael Greene. At an evening ball during the winter of 1779, General Nathanael Greene wrote, "His Excellency and Mrs. Greene danced upwards of three hours without sitting down. Upon the whole we had a pretty little frisk." Wow! That's a long time for the General to be up on his feet. [2]


When visitors travel to Alexandria, Gadsby's Tavern is one of the most popular historic locations that is associated with George Washington and other American presidents. In fact, there are several other historic taverns located near Gadsby's such as Duvall's Tavern and Wise's Tavern. However, Gadsby's is the only one that still functions as a working restaurant.


Gadsby's Tavern in Old Town Alexandria
Gadsby's Tavern in Old Town Alexandria

Alexandria is the perfect place for visitors to stay and make a central hub for what I like to call the "Ultimate George Washington Tour." The heart of Old Town Alexandria is only 8.5 miles from the Mansion House at Mount Vernon. It is about a 20-25 minute drive to get there. As a result, a lot of people will visit both Alexandria and Mount Vernon in one day. However, I recommend taking at least two days to enjoy both locations without feeling rushed.


Alexandria and Mount Vernon obviously provide the primary foundation for the Ultimate George Washington Tour. However, I recommend adding two additional dates to the trip and checking out three other places within easy driving distance of Alexandria. As we celebrate Washington's birthday today, let's start with the place of his birth along the banks of Popes Creek.


George Washington Birthplace


The George Washington Birthplace is located in Westmoreland County, Virginia, which is located in the Northern Neck peninsula between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers . From Alexandria, it is only 1.5 hours by car. Furthermore, a significant portion of the drive is along country roads.


Washington's Birthplace is run by the National Park Service. There is a visitor center with a few exhibits, a theater, and a gift shop. National park guides will offer tours of the birthplace that are roughly one hour. They are continuing to excavate the property. In the process, there is currently a debate about where Washington's birth house might have been located.


Washington Memorial House
Washington Memorial House

One of the big draws to Popes Creek is the natural beauty of the area. The creek feeds into the Potomac River, and there are a lot of nice trails along the waterfront. Like Mount Vernon, the place of Washington's birth is situated on a bluff that overlooks the water. However, the view is not as commanding as Mount Vernon.


Visitors will learn about Washington's family to include his father, Augustine, who purchased the property and grew tobacco on his farm. People can also see the Washington family burial ground where Washington's father, grandparents, and great-grandparents are laid to rest.


Two hours is an adequate amount of time to see the George Washington Birthplace. After visiting Washington's Birthplace, there are two options. Fifteen minutes away is Stratford Hall Plantation, which is the historic home of the Lee family. While I do recommend visiting Stratford Hall, I will stick with the George Washington theme and suggest driving 36 miles west to Fredericksburg, Virginia.


Fredericksburg, Virginia


Fredericksburg, Virginia is where George Washington spent much of his childhood specifically at Ferry Farm. Technically, Ferry Farm is across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg. Historically there was a ferry on the property that transported people into Fredericksburg. The home is open seasonally for visitors.


In conjunction with Ferry Farm is Kenmore Plantation, which was a property built by Washington's sister, Betty Lewis, and her husband, Fielding Lewis before the Revolutionary War.


Near Kenmore Plantation is the Mary Washington house, which is where George Washington's mother lived. The home is open for visitors and tours take place in the gardens and inside the home, which George Washington purchased in 1772 for his mother. Mary Ball Washington lived in the home until her death in 1789. Visiting the house and gardens does not take long, and visitors can generally plan for one to two hours.


After visiting Fredericksburg, drive back to Alexandria. The total driving time will be a little over 3 hours but broken up throughout the day. Here is a sample itinerary for what the day might look like:


  • 7:30 AM: Depart Alexandria

  • 9:00 AM: Arrive at Washington's Birthplace, tour, walk the park, visit the burial ground

  • 11:00 AM: Depart for Fredericksburg

  • 12:00 PM: Lunch in Fredericksburg

  • 1:00 PM: Visit the Mary Washington House

  • 2:30 PM: Visit Ferry Farm or Kenmore Plantation

  • 5:00 PM: Depart Fredericksburg

  • 6:00 PM: Arrive in Alexandria

  • 7:00 PM: Dinner at Gadsby's Tavern

It is possible to fit all of these Washington activities into one day. However, visitors might have to prioritize seeing some locations over others.


Mary Ball Washington House
Mary Ball Washington House

Here is a timeline of George Washington's early life and the places associated with them on this trip.


  • 1732- 1735: Washington's birth and life until age three. Location: George Washington Birthplace

  • 1735- 1738: George Washington moves to Little Hunting Creek, which is later renamed Mount Vernon by Washington's half brother, Lawrence. He lives at this property from age 3-6 and then later leases the property in 1754. He then inherits it from Lawrence's widow, Ann Fairfax Washington, in 1761. Location: Mount Vernon

  • 1738- 1748: Washington lived across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg at Ferry Farm for 10 years until age 16. Location: Ferry Farm

  • 1748: George Washington begins his career as a surveyor and conducts his first major survey of the Fairfax landholdings in the Shenandoah Valley. Location: Winchester, Virginia

  • 1749: Washington becomes surveyor of Culpeper County, Virginia.

  • 1754: Washington spends time in Alexandria, Virginia as he becomes a lieutenant colonel in the Virginia militia. Location: Alexandria


Winchester, Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley


At the age of 16, George Washington took an epic trip to the Shenandoah Valley as part of his career as a surveyor. In Alexandria, there is a house where Colonel William Fairfax and his son, George William Fairfax, lived. Colonel William Fairfax was a land agent for his cousin, the prominent Lord Fairfax, Sixth Baron of Cameron. Lord Fairfax held a proprietorship of land stretching from the Northern Neck to the Shenandoah Valley. His land holdings added up to 5,280,000 acres. It's good to know people in high places!


To see the locations associated with Washington's career as a surveyor and also his service in the French and Indian War, then take a trip to Winchester. Winchester is a historic town in the Shenandoah Valley and is about 1.5 hours driving distance from Alexandria. In Winchester, visitors can see George Washington's Office Museum.


George Washington's Office is associated with the period of his life in which he served as lieutenant colonel in the Virginia militia and was tasked with defending Virginia's frontier during the French and Indian War. While Washington stayed at his office in Winchester, Fort Loudon was built as one of the primary means to defend Virginia's western settlements. In fact, this period of Washington's career occurred after the fateful Braddock Campaign. As a result, Winchester and Alexandria will help people gain an appreciation for the pivotal moments of Washington's service during the French and Indian War.


On the way back from Winchester, stop through Middleburg, Virginia. It is appropriately named Middleburg because it is the middle point between Alexandria and Winchester. While there is not a lot of Washington history in Middleburg, it is a charming town in the heart of Virginia's horse country. As a result, it is a very scenic drive and has a lot of historic character. Middleburg is smaller than Alexandria and Winchester. However, it has a charming downtown with small shops and great restaurants.


The Ultimate George Washington Tour Itinerary


To put together the Ultimate George Washington Tour from Alexandria, consider planning 3-4 days for the trip. Here is what a 3-day itinerary would look like beginning in chronological order of Washington's life.


Day 1: George Washington's Birth and Childhood

  • Morning: Visit George Washington's Birthplace

  • Afternoon: Visit Fredericksburg including Ferry Farm and the Mary Washington House

Day 2: George Washington's Early Life and Service in the Virginia Militia

  • Morning: Take a guided tour of Old Town Alexandria

  • Afternoon: Visit Winchester and see Washington's Office

Day 3: George Washington's Revolutionary War Service and Later Life

  • Morning: Visit Mount Vernon

  • Afternoon: Take a Revolutionary War Tour in Old Town Alexandria to learn about Washington's service in the American Revolution.


In Alexandria, all of our tours cover aspects of George Washington's life. Our George Washington specific tour will definitely cover all aspects of Washington's life and can be the primary point of focus.


With a few days and a central location like Alexandria, there are a lot of historic sites corresponding with George Washington's life that are within easy driving distance. It is possible to take a long weekend and plan in advance to learn about America's most prominent founding father. Many of these places include lesser known areas of Washington history like his childhood years and service in the Virginia militia.


As we celebrate George Washington's birthday, consider making plans to learn more about his life by coming to Alexandria. Using the above itinerary as a template, we can help craft a wonderful 3-4 day adventure exploring the life and legacy of His Excellency George Washington.


Pope's Creek
Pope's Creek

Source:

  1. "[Diary entry: 11 February 1799],” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/01-06-02-0008-0002-0011.

  2. Carbone, Gerald M. (2008). Nathanael Greene: A Biography of the American Revolution. Palgrave Macmillan.




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