Since it’s increasingly hard to step inside the White House for a tour, we offer up two presidential homes just outside Washington, D.C. that have festive holiday tours every year.
Visit Monticello, Thomas Jefferson‘s home in Charlottesville, Virginia, just two hours south of the District. The guided Holiday Signature Tour will take guests through the main house (designed and built by Jefferson himself) and includes a peek at the third-floor Dome Room, which is excluded from regular house tours. Construction on the mansion began in 1769 and was completed in 1809. Tours begin at 5:30 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. on select Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays throughout December ($40 per person).
George Washingon‘s Virginia home (16 miles south of D.C.) can also be toured during the holiday season. Tickets for evening “candlelight” tours (hosted by “Martha Washington”) of the Mount Vernon mansion sell out quickly, but visitors can still enjoy a tour of the house and grounds during the day. Enjoy hot cider and cookies, listen to stories about how the Washingtons celebrated Christmas, and take the stairs up to the usually closed third floor. Be sure to bring home the first First Lady’s Great Cake recipe, which calls for 40 eggs, four pounds of butter, and four pounds of sugar.
(The recipe has been adjusted for “modern” tastes, but still includes ten eggs, one pound of butter, and one pound of sugar.)
Holiday tours of Mount Vernon run everyday through January 6 (adult/child $13/$6; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.). When you need a bit or warming up (the 18th-century mansion does not have central heat, after all), check out the estate’s new $24-million Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center, which has 23 gallery and theatre exhibits, and also serves as Washington’s presidential library.
Photos: Dining room at Mount Vernon (above) and Martha Washington’s Great Cake (right); Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association
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