Sunday, September 29, 2013

During the Shutdown Go to Mount Vernon

First, the food for thought. George Washington would understand what's going on. His sage advice:

There is plenty more wisdom from where that came from.
“George Washington famously warned against ... 'ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear” ― George Washington
“Paper money has had the effect in your state that it will ever have, to ruin commerce, oppress the honest, and open the door to every species of fraud and injustice.” ― George Washington
“We must consult our means rather than our wishes.” ― George Washington
“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” ― George Washington
“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” ― George Washington 
“...overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty.” ― George WashingtonGeorge Washington's Farewell Address
“A free people be armed” ― George Washington
Blake and Blythe at the Mount Vernon
Colonial Market September, 2010
When you are in Washington DC it is well worth your while to drop down into Virginia and visit George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate. When I lived in the area we visited frequently to the point of purchasing annual passes. Admission is $17.00 per adult, $8.00 per youth (6-11) and free for the young ones. You can spend a full day at George's place and have no less fun than in a day at Disney World for 5 and 10 times the price. Washington was not beyond having fun himself.

“I have a great many instructive Books,
on many subjects, as well as amusing ones.” 
– GEORGE WASHINGTON to Lawrence Lewis, August 4, 1797
In his address during the dedication of Washington's library last week, historian David McCullough said Mount Vernon is one of the most interesting and important historical sites in the world. But a creature of the government it is not so it will be open even when the government is closed.
Mount Vernon is owned and maintained in trust for the people of the United States by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union, a private, non-profit organization [501(c)(3)] founded in 1853 by Ann Pamela Cunningham. The Association is the oldest national historic preservation organization in the country, and it has always been in the forefront of the restoration field. It is directed by a Board of Regents, comprised solely of women, who represent nearly 30 states. Also, a Board of Advisors of prominent citizens from across the country convenes twice a year to provide additional input on Mount Vernon's governance. The estate, gift shops and dining facilities are operated by over 500 paid employees and over 400 volunteers.
Mount Vernon is the most popular historic estate in America and is open 365 days a year. Over 80 million people have visited Mount Vernon since 1860, when the estate was officially opened to the public. Mount Vernon welcomes an average of one million guests each year.
Colonial era music, Mount Vernon, VA
The estate, gardens and farm of Mount Vernon totaled some 8,000 acres in the 18th century. Today, nearly 500 acres of this historic property have been preserved along the banks of the Potomac River. Guests can see Washington’s mansion and other original structures. The estate also includes the tomb of George and Martha Washington, a memorial dedicated to the slaves who lived and worked on the estate, the Ford Orientation Center, and the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center which includes 25 theaters and galleries. Mount Vernon does not accept grants from federal, state or local governments, and no tax dollars are expended to support its purposes. Primary sources of income are revenue from the retail and dining facilities, ticket sales, and donations from foundations, corporations, and individuals.

Yep, women owned and operated going back 160 years. The complex presents a fascinating look at our history and the man, his era and his home.

So this is what to do during the DC shutdown. Check out the mansion, the outbuildings, the gardens and the tombs. Don't forget to take in the sweeping view of the Potomac River out back with trees down the slope and across the river in Maryland beginning to take on a hint of their fall colors. Stop by Washington's Grist Mill and Distillery a couple miles down Mt. Vernon Memorial Highway. The man was entrepreneur and mercantilist to his core. Most of the guides are volunteers, working as a labor of love. Take a special tour or two. They are only 5 bucks. "The National Treasure 2, Book of Secrets" was our favorite.
Fairfax Connector bus at Mt. Vernon entrance.
The tour is dedicated to the behind-the-scenes filming of the blockbuster movie National Treasure: Book of Secrets at Mount Vernon. The National Treasure Tour combines Hollywood and history, giving visitors stories about the filming and also information on how the locations were used during George Washington's time. Included in this approximately hour-long walking tour is the Mansion's basement and cornerstone, the setting for a pivotal scene. Fans of the movie will recognize the space as the location where Nicolas Cage's character kidnaps the president.
To get to Mount Vernon, drive down the scenic GW Parkway, cruise down the Potomac, take the Gray Line Tour bus (sadly the Tourmobile is no more), use public transportation (Metro Rail to Huntington and Fairfax Connector bus from there) or ride a bike down the Mount Vernon Trail (the last hill is a doozy). However you go, it's an experience you will never forget.

While up in DC there's still plenty to see and do.  Take a long walk up and down the mall and across Memorial Bridge into Arlington National cemetery.  The street vendors are sure to be out offering vittles for lunch or a snack.  In the city,
[t]he group Cultural Tourism DC says there will still be numerous arts and cultural options for visitors and residents. Steve Shulman, the group's executive director, says a shutdown may give visitors a chance to see different sites than those on the mall.
Museums and attractions planning to stay open include the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Newseum, the International Spy Museum, National Geographic Museum, National Building Museum, The Phillips Collection, The Crime Museum and others.
There is an Art4All DC festival planned for this weekend. There are also more than 40 free tours of District of Columbia neighborhoods with the WalkingTown D.C. program through Cultural Tourism DC.
The Heurich House Museum is our offbeat favorite.  Make a tour reservation now. 

National Masonic Memorial across
from King Street Metro station.
In Virginia check out Old Town Alexandria, with historic Christ Church, Gadsby's Tavern, The Torpedo Factory, Carlyle House and dozens more historic sights and buildings up and down King Street and into the surrounding neighborhoods, mixed with eclectic shops and restaurants. See the George Washington National Masonic Memorial, visit the Lyceum on South Washington Street, or catch the sights with a waterfront cruise. These dig deeper attractions represent what we as locals did all the time. Stop in at Murphy's Grand Irish Pub and hoist a few, raising a toast to green alligators and long-necked geese during the Unicorn Song. If not quite so grandiose (but see Washington's Masonic Memorial) the Old Town sites are every bit as interesting and engaging as visits to the Smithsonians up and down the National Mall.  Enjoy.

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