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Mt. Vernon help!!

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texas
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Mt. Vernon help!!

My daughter and I have been to Washington's home. My son and husband have not. We would like to shop and take in some local sites while they tour the grounds. We will be driving in from Charlotesville VA. We plan to go to DC from there. Is there any place that we could get dropped off and shop and spend the morning while they take the tour?

Alexandria, VA
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1. Re: Mt. Vernon help!!

Your best bet, and a good one, would be to be dropped off in Old Town Alexandria, which is about 7 miles up the river (toward DC) from the Mt. Vernon estate.

Alexandria is one of the oldest cities in the US, established in 1749, and one of the very few US cities to retain its original late 18th/early 19th century character. Lots of historic sites to visit, and lots of small shops of all kinds.

The drive between Old Town and Mt. Vernon is only about 15 minutes, but along one of the most beautiful scenic roads in the US -- the George Washington Memorial Parkway, directly along the very broad Potomac River, the view across which is still pristine wooded hills (thanks to federal government scenic easements preventing development that would spoil the view). The drive alone would make the trip up to Old Town worthwhile.

If the kind of shopping you have in mind is national chains, Old Town is (mostly) not for you, but there are a couple of upscale malls not too far away.

You might give some thought to your route from Charlottesville. Traffic in Northern Virginia ranges from awful to horrendous. Much depends on the day of the week and time of day you'll be leaving Charlottesville. There also are massive traffic dislocations (think 15-mile+ backups) scheduled for several upcoming weekends by reason of major ongoing road construction projects. If you post your travel calendar, I (and others, I'm sure) would be happy to review the possibilities.

texas
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2. Re: Mt. Vernon help!!

We will be driving in on Monday July 25th. We are staying in Gordanville at Shenandoah Crossing. We had planned to leave about 8:00a.m. and arrive at the Mt. Vernon Estate about 10:00 a.m. Will this be enough time to travel?

The little shops and unique areas are just what we had in mind. If you can direct us to anything that we will not want to miss and also give us ideas on the traffic. We are going from there on into to DC and spend the night. We will travel back to Gordansville Tuesday night.

Thanks for letting me know about the traffic. Any info. will be greatly appreciated.

Alexandria, VA
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3. Re: Mt. Vernon help!!

OK, 3patch9, here are my suggestions:

1. Routing: From Gordonsville to Mt. Vernon/Alexandria will take 2 hours + under the best of circumstances. I would allow at least 2-1/2, just to be safe. In any case, you have several choices, none good. Let's take them by segment:

The most quickest (absent traffic, which is never entirely absent) would be Rte. 15 North to Orange (a pleasant time-warp town with one principal street, which you can see by taking 15 Business rather than the bypass); then Rte. 20 North (or East, whichever it's signed) to Rte. 3 East toward Fredericksburg, then I-95 North to Alexandria.

The most immediate problem with this routing is that on your schedule you may hit Rte. 3 into Fredericksburg before the morning commuter rush has ended, which these days is highly congested. And when you do get to I-95, the morning congestion from inbound commuter traffic begins well south of Washington and continues into the mid-morning. So you should consider an alternative:

At Orange, stay on Rte. 15 North to just before Culpeper where it joins Rte. 29, or (even better, if you have the time) take the parallel but much more scenic Rte. 615 to Rtes. 15/29 North.

From there, you again have two choices: You can stay on 15/29 past the exits for Warrenton to I-66 East toward Washington, then to I-495 (the Capital Beltway) to Alexandria. This again would be the quickest absent traffic, but the inbound commuter traffic both on 15/29 and on I-66 is very heavy and slow at that hour of the morning (think "gridlock").

The alternative is to leave 15/29 at a nameless junction with Rte. 28 (a short distance past the turnoff for Remington) toward Manassas, then Rte. 234 North to I-66 East toward Washington, then to I-495 to Alexandria. But this also puts you in heavy I-66 traffic, although a little later and for a shorter distance.

If I were doing it at that time of day on a weekday, I think I'd do the following: Proceed as first stated above to Rte. 3 toward Fredericksburg, then I-95 North. But leave I-95 just past the Woodbrige exits, at Exit 163, just after you cross the Occoquan River. This puts you directly on Rte. 1 North, which by that time should not be too crowded. Continue on Rte. 1 North through Ft. Belvoir (a large military reservation) to just past Woodlawn Stables on the right, to Rte. 235 toward Mt. Vernon. Drop your family off at Mt. Vernon, then continue on the GW Memorial Parkway to Alexandria.

There are lots of sights you could see on this route. Fredericksburg is a really charming late 18th century town on the Rapahannock River (the one the youthful George W. reputedly through a silver dollar across, which was odd because at that time the local currency was British pounds and shillings). Worth a half-day on its own. On Rte. 1, between the exit from I-95 and Ft. Belvoir, is Pohick Church, an early- to mid-18th century church that was George W.'s home parish. At Rte. 1 and Rte. 235 is Woodlawn Plantation, Martha Custis Washington's home before she married George, well restored and quite beautiful.

If you finally make it to Old Town Alexandria, check in at the Visitor Center at Fairfax and King Sts., in an old dwelling called the Ramsay House (moved from its original site). Then see Carlyle House (mid-18th century, open to visitors), around the corner on N. Fairfax St., whence Gen. Braddock set out to fight the French at Ft. Duquesne (now Pittsburgh) in 1754 assisted by Col. George W. of the local militia, who saved the expedition from total disaster and thus made his military reputation. See Christ Church, a lovely late 18th century Episcopal Church at N. Washington and Cameron Sts. (George's church when he was in town). See the Old Presbyterian Meeting House on S. Fairfax St., missing its cupola from an early 19th century fire but otherwise beautifully restored a number of years ago to its late 18th century glory. Be sure to walk along Queen St. between the river and N. Washington St.; S. Lee St. between King St. and Wolfe St., and any other north-south street for the few blocks south of King St. And of course go through the Torpedo Factory Arts Center at King and N. Lee St., and walk up along the waterfront from the Torpedo Factory to Oronoco St.

Sorry for the length of this post, but you have a lot to do in a short period of time. Have fun.

Alexandria, VA
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4. Re: Mt. Vernon help!!

I should have nentioned one more thing: In Old Town Alexandria, if you walk down S. Lee St., keep going one more block to Wilkes St. and see the large and lovely 18th century house on the SW corner, with a splendid view across the Potomac, now owned and occupied by Virginia's Gov. Mark Warner when he's not in Richmond (the State capital), complete with "dependencies" now fitted out as guest houses visible from the street.

texas
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5. Re: Mt. Vernon help!!

Wow! Thanks so much for your help. I had not really factored in the traffic. That comes from living in a rural east Texas town that it takes 15 min. to drive 17 miles to work. I guees I need to rethink some of my plans. This sounds like a winner. My daughter is very excited about visiting the town instead of Washingtons home again. Thanks again. We leave the 23rd and I am really getting excited.

Alexandria, VA
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6. Re: Mt. Vernon help!!

3patch9, my pleasure.