George Washington's Virginia plantation highlights his career as a working farmer and slaveholder. "It is also his final resting place, much to the chagrin of the planners of the U.S. Capitol, who had set aside a tomb for the statesman and war hero," Sabato said. In 2006, Mount Vernon unveiled two major additions: the Ford Orientation Center and the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center, with state-of-the-art theaters and nearly 700 artifacts about the first president of the United States.
- This year's Independence Day celebrations will feature made-for-daytime fireworks over the Potomac River, a naturalization ceremony of 100 new citizens and the sale of 500 bottles of George Washington Rye Whiskey. The July 4 events also will include military reenactments, free birthday cake for all (while supplies last) and a visit from America's "first" first couple: "General and Mrs. Washington." For more information, call 703-780-2000.
- February also is Black History Month. Interpreters will focus at the slave quarters on the African Americans who labored and lived on the plantation. A daily wreath laying also will be held at the slave memorial throughout the month.
- Visitors can see the estate and burial site free of charge on Feb. 21, the national holiday of Washington's birth. And on Feb. 22, the actual birthday of the revolutionary hero, anyone who is named George or born on Feb. 22 is admitted free.
- A functioning reconstruction of Washington's own distillery, which Sabato said was "once the largest in all of North America," is closed, but it will reopen on April 1, 2011.
Julia M. Klein is a Philadelphia-based cultural reporter and critic.