Exploring Historic Alexandria and Mt. Vernon
Washington, DC might be all about political heavyweights, special interest groups and hard-hitting news, but Alexandria, VA, located on the other
side of the Potomac River, offers a vastly different experience. The decidedly unstuffy nature of this town is even reflected in the name of its visitors' website: www.Funside.com. Offering culture as well as kids' attractions, living history and spooky
mystery, Alexandria, neighboring Mount Vernon and this entire part of Virginia is a fascinating, vibrant destination perfectly suited to families.
Mount Vernon offers more grown-up fun too. There's actually a working distillery on the grounds, which currently brews Washington's finest malt
whiskey. (Washington was quite the distiller, in his day.) Even if you don't like the taste, it makes for good souvenir shopping (if only because
you'll shock the stuffing out of everyone who expected you to bring back tri-corner hats).
Explore the Natural Beauty
Historic Old Town
Two historic buildings to visit during your Old Town stroll are Ramsay House, which is now the Visitors' Center, and Gadsby's Tavern, a former social hall and inn which is now ... well, pretty much the same, actually. Though people don't drink, sup or sleep there anymore like they did in Colonial days, the rooms are still set up as though the "tavern keepers" (museum curators) are expecting customers any second. There's even a plastic feast laid out in the dining hall, with jugs of mead and platters of local shellfish.
Though kids will get about two seconds' worth of enjoyment out of Gadsby's on a non-event day, they might fall in love with the place when it's
holding a special event. On these delightful days the curators bring in attractions you might have seen 200+ years ago: a "learned pig" that can do
math sums, a feast that you eat with your fingers, perhaps a holiday masquerade.
Carriage rides are a fun way to explore the city -- but if you want to do it the way Washington did it, you'll have to hop on a mule. Wait for your
noble steed at the intersection of King and Lee ... and be careful. Mules are known to kick.
You may be so happy on "the Fun Side," you don't even want to venture into DC, but if you do go into the capital, pay a visit to the fabulous Smithsonian, which always has a new slate of attractions for children. If you're going in fall or later, pay a visit to the Newseum, the latest cultural addition set to open in October, 2007. Or take the family on a weekend
jaunt to fabulous Eastern Market, a historic hodgepodge of farm stand produce, artisan food producers, crafters, artists, flea market vendors and more.