Today, all over Alexandria, Virginia, are parades, parties, and celebrations in honor of George Washington’s 280th birthday. And, if you visit Washington’s beloved Mount Vernon today, you won’t have to pay to get in.

Way back when I used to live in Old Town Alexandria, about a dozen years ago, I would sometimes ride my bike or take a drive along the G.W. Parkway, from my apartment building down to Mount Vernon. The scenery and the views of the Potomac along the way are lovely, but I was rarely tempted to stop at Mount Vernon itself because it was always so packed with tourists. I do remember touring the house a few times in the decade I lived in the area, for special occasions or when they had free admission (and no crowds) on  Christmas day.

But next time I’m in Alexandria, I plan to make a point of visiting some of these interesting-looking areas of George Washington’s estate. These have either been renovated / opened in the fifteen years since I was last there, or I just never paid enough attention to what was available. There’s Washington’s whiskey distillery and gristmill, a sixteen-sided barn, beautiful gardens and a hiking trail through a centuries-old forest, heritage-breed farm animals, and more … all in addition to the house itself. Definitely worth a visit, I think.