Mount Vernon rates a "very good" due to the excellent Reynolds Museum (added in the past decade) and the effort/accomplishment of the private organization that has maintained and improved a site that enriches visitors' sense of our country's history and of our Revolutionary War hero and first President. Unfortunately, the Mansion tour fell far short.
We are locals who took out-of-state guests to Mount Vernon on the Sunday of Columbus Day weekend. It was crowded -- not only a holiday weekend but it was one of few important area attractions open during the federal shutdown. Still, the crowds were handled poorly for the Mansion tour. Our tickets were for 10:05 a.m. -- I think the 3rd time-slot of the day. Nonetheless, the wait to get inside was at least half an hour (how could they have fallen so far behind so early in the day?) and everyone waited outdoors in the rain. The real problem was that the tour itself was so thin and paltry once we got into the house. Each group was told to gather in an area from which the rooms (downstairs and upstairs) fanned out. But the groups were too large, and the guides gave their short and not particularly informative talks before everyone had a chance to even glimpse into each of the rooms. We all were shuffled out after the talk -- no additional chance to look into the rooms. Then the process was repeated. Each area of the mansion had its own guide (rather than one guide accompanying each group), so there was no chance for the guide to add anything or respond more to questions as the group went from area to area. The rooms have been well-restored but there was scarcely a chance to absorb what was in them. Having been to other historic homes in the U.S. and in other countries, this was one of the weakest tours we've encountered. Our friends described it as "embarrassing." The only guide with any verve was Washington's costumed manservant, who addressed us while we gathered on the outdoor covered veranda, but even his presentation was mistimed, so that our group heard only part of it before being ushered inside.
The rest of the visit was much better. Seeing the grounds, including visits the slave cabin and the multi-sided threshing barn, provided more lasting impressions and more information/responses to questions from the guides stationed in each. The gardens are lovely, even on a rainy fall day. And the well-designed Reynolds Museum is a standout, bringing George Washington to life with details about the boy, the man, the soldier, the enterprising landowner, and so forth. My husband and I had visited the Museum several years ago when it first opened, and it was well worth a return visit.
It's hard to advise visitors to skip the Mansion, the cornerstone of a Mount Vernon visit, but ratchet down your expectations. In our experience, the wait was curiously long (maybe the timing on "timed entry" tickets should be changed), we felt shortchanged on what we had time to see inside, and the guides added only a little of interest. The museum, the other structures, and the grounds are more deserving of a visitor's time.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
October 30, 2013
Thank you for your visit and review! I'm so glad that you enjoyed our new Museum & Education Center and appreciate all the work that the Mount Vernon Ladies Association and our staff has done to make Mount Vernon what it is today.
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I am sorry to hear that you did not enjoy your tour of the mansion. We receive over 1 million visitors a year and it is sometimes a challenge to make sure every guest is able to see the house at their assigned time. As you mentioned, the weekend you visited was particularly crowded because it was a holiday weekend and many other nearby sites were closed due to the shutdown. We also receive a large amount of groups (especially during the shutdown), and many of them arrive on the weekend and early in the morning. All of this most likely contributed to your later tour time.
In order to facilitate the large amount of visitors, the mansion tour itself must move at a faster pace than many other historic homes. The interpreters in each section of the house do their best to share as much information as the time allows. We also have interpretive staff stationed on the grounds outside the mansion that are always happy to answer any questions you might have had inside the house. The character interpreters give presentations at varying times throughout the day, but are also always willing to speak with guests one-on-one.
Thank you again for your visit. It seems as though you truly have a passion for the history and legacy of George Washington - so I am even more sorry that your visit could not have been more enjoyable. I hope you will come back and visit us again when the crowds are smaller (typically late fall and winter) or consider taking one of our specialty tours - both of which will allow you more time in the mansion.
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.