Holidays at George Washington’s Mount Vernon in Northern Virginia are an experience that shouldn’t be missed. Whether you’re visiting during the day or participating in the annual evening celebrations, prepare to be swept away by the estate’s history, heritage and holiday traditions.
One of the most visited historic sites in the United States, Mount Vernon offers visitors the chance to tour the mansion, four gardens, farm, and 12 historic outbuildings such as the blacksmith shop and wash house. In addition, from November 25 to January 6, guests will be treated to towering Christmas trees in the Ford Orientation Center, Aladdin the Christmas Camel, and holiday shopping at the Shops at Mount Vernon – be sure to grab the 2022 Mount Vernon ornament.
Believe it or not, Mount Vernon is the annual holiday host for Aladdin, the Christmas Camel. This tradition started in 1787 when General Washington paid 18 shillings to have a camel brought to the property to entertain his Christmas guests. Today, guests can meet Aladdin starting the day after Thanksgiving. Standing seven feet tall and 15 years old, this Arabian camel has been spending the holidays at Mount Vernon every year and is a big hit with the kids.
If you’re planning a trip to Mount Vernon this holiday season, save 20% on up to six daytime admission tickets* with code PLACESTRAVEL.
Of course, the highlights of the winter festivities are Christmas Illuminations and Mount Vernon by Candlelight. Not only will guests enjoy holiday activities, light shows and reenactments, but seeing the estate at night is spectacular.
Christmas Illuminations (Dec 16-17, 5:30-8:30 pm)
See George Washington’s historic estate illuminated with wintry lights at Christmas Illuminations, a family-friendly event featuring a holiday fireworks show over the Potomac River.
Witness the mansion, upper garden and greenhouse illuminated with amber, lavender and blue holiday patterns. Paired with singing costumed Christmas carolers and inspirational patriotic quotes, the lights add an extra layer of holiday magic.
Take an intimate, nighttime tour of the Palladian-style mansion that the Washingtons called home. See family portraits, George Washington’s private study, and the key to the bastille, given to George Washington by the Marquis de Lafayette. A mansion tour ticket is required for this experience.
Throughout the evening, explore the grounds and experience the festivities. At the Winter Encampment, period performers will transport you back to the 18th century. Speak to Revolutionary War soldiers to learn about the experiences of those who fought in the American Revolution.
Of course, you can’t have a holiday celebration at Mount Vernon without Aladdin, the Christmas Camel. Visitors can meet this loveable camel throughout the evening.
No trip to Christmas Illuminations is complete without a visit to the Winter Market. This lantern-lit outdoor marketplace features Colonial artisans selling handcrafted 18th-century goods, such as woven baskets, woodcarvings, weavings and more.
The evening culminates in a spectacular Holiday Fireworks Show set to holiday tunes. The show begins with greetings from General Washington before fireworks light up the sky over the glistening Potomac River.
Mount Vernon by Candlelight (Nov. 25-26, Dec.2-3, 9-10, 18)
On select evenings in November and December, the estate throws open its doors for Mount Vernon by Candlelight, an inspirational and immersive holiday experience.
Themed Christmas trees in the Ford Orientation Center immediately set the mood, and you’ll kick off the night with a 45-minute Guided Tour of the Estate by Candlelight.
The tour will visit the lantern-lit historic area, outbuildings such as the blacksmith shop, and the slave quarters. Inside the mansion, guests will meet a diverse cast of 18th-century characters telling stories of the holiday traditions at Mount Vernon, from Washington’s family members to the enslaved people who lived and worked on the estate. As these notable figures share their experiences, you’ll hear about how young Washington and his family celebrated Christmas in 1772 – a year of unrest before the American Revolution.
After the tour, you’re free to explore the estate grounds. Visitors can hang out with Aladdin, the Christmas Camel, or check out the anticipated return of 18th-century dancing in the greenhouse. Watch as costumed dancers showcase period-specific dances to holiday music, then step out onto the dance floor and try them yourself! Don’t worry if you have two left feet. These dances are easy to learn and part of the holiday fun!
Finally, it wouldn’t be the holidays at Mount Vernon without carolers. In the Donald W. Reynolds Museum & Education Center lobby, you’ll find carolers dressed in Colonial costumes singing classic holiday tunes. Sip on complimentary hot cider and gingerbread cookies while the songs transport you to a Christmas of a bygone era – a perfect way to end the evening.
*The offer expires on 1/31/23. Does not apply to nighttime events and programming, including Christmas Illuminations and Mount Vernon by Candlelight.