Magnificent Manors of the Potomac

Visit the charming and historic homes in Alexandria and Prince William, VA


Steeped in historical significance, catch a glimpse into the past as you explore the grand homes from the 18th and 19th centuries. These homes lined the Potomac River in Alexandria and Prince William, Virginia, and were a vital part of the area’s economy and history.

outdoor view of Madigan's waterfront dining

Day 1:

Once you arrive in Alexandria, VA, your first stop will be the Carlyle House. Built is 1753, the house was built by a British merchant for his lovely bride. Take a tour of this pre-revolutionary Palladian-style stone house then look out for PBS’s newest drama Mercy Street which takes place at the Carlyle House! (Suggested time: 45 – 60 minutes).

Your journey continues with a delectable lunch at Gadsby’s Tavern, where George Washington would hold important meetings with the founding fathers and his Masonic Lodge brothers. After lunch, head over to the Gadsby’s Museum where the tavern was the setting for dancing assemblies, theatrical and musical performances, meetings of local organizations, and frequented by George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and the Marquis de Lafayette. (Suggested Time: Lunch plus 30 minutes)

After lunch, hit the road to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate to learn about Mount Vernon’s rich history and how acquiring the land and keeping it together sparked the creation of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association. Then discover why George Washington himself opened his estate to guests year-round just as is done today.  (Suggested time: 2.5 – 3.5 hours)

Continue to see Woodlawn, a plantation that was once part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon but gifted to George Washington’s nephew and Martha’s Granddaughter before they wed. The estate was designed by the architect of the U.S. Capitol. (Suggested time: 1 – 1.5 hours)

Make Occoquan, VA your dinner stop, less than one mile from Interstate 95. Today, you can see and feel the charm of this quaint 18th-century town which sits along its namesake river, Occoquan. All the restaurants and shops in town are independently owned and operated so you’ll get a true taste of the town! (Suggested time: 1 – 1.5 hours)

After dinner, meet the Mayor of Occoquan, Earnie Porta, for a guided tour through the historic district. A noted author, historian, and entrepreneur, Mr. Porta will share stories and facts of the town’s rich history as a bustling port and mill town as it developed throughout the 1800s. Be sure to ask him why the building in the middle of town is called the Artists Undertaking Gallery. (Suggested time: 45 – 60 minutes)

Day 2:

Start your day with an award-winning doughnut from Elizabeth’s Counter and hit the road to see Woodlawn, a home that was once part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon and designed by the architect of the US Capitol. While you are there, take a tour of Arcadia Farm which is housed on the Woodlawn grounds. They are dedicated to creating a more equitable and sustainable local food system in the Washington, DC area.

Head back into Old Town for a waterfront lunch at Chart House then walk up boutique-filled King Street to the Carlyle House. Built in 1753, the house was built by a British merchant for his lovely bride. Take a tour of this pre-revolutionary Palladian-style stone house then look out for PBS’s newest drama Mercy Street which takes place at the Carlyle House!

Head back down to the waterfront to enjoy a refreshing take on American fare at Virtue Feed & Grain, a restored Feed warehouse situated at the foot of King Street. Make sure to stop in the Torpedo Factory, the largest collection of publicly accessible working artist studios in the United States. With 82 studios and six galleries, you can meet resident artists and watch them work. Finish your evening on a moonlit boat tour of DC’s historic monuments with City Cruises by Hornblower.


Day 3:

Begin your morning by visiting Rippon Lodge, an 18th-century property known for growing tobacco, wheat, and other commodities. Built in 1740’s and one of the oldest known homes in Prince William County, the property overlooks the Potomac River and is close to the former bustling port town of Dumfries. The owners used their proximity to the waterways to export their goods to England. (Suggested time: 1 hour)

Travel on to Manassas, VA for a tour of Manassas National Battlefield Park, the site of the first major battle of the United States Civil War. Here you’ll be able to stand right where the Union soldiers surrendered to the Confederates. It’ll be a trip you’ll never forget, especially if you snapped a picture with Stonewall Jackson! (Suggested time: 1.5 – 2 hours)

Following your tour, spend a leisurely afternoon enjoying lunch at one of the numerous nearby restaurants. Group-friendly staples such as Golden Corral, Uno’s Chicago Grill, and Golden Corral are available, as well as independently operated eateries such as Great American Buffet and Uptown Alley (Suggested time: 1 – 1.5 hours)

The last stop on today’s tour is Ben Lomond Historic Site, a home turned field hospital during the Battle of First Manassas/Bull Run. The property was owned by a descendant of the very powerful Carter family and was leased to the Pringle family during the Civil War. Both families helped produce corn and wheat, as well as care for the almost 500 Merino sheep. A tour of the home will illuminate what it was like for the Pringle family during the Civil War. You will also see the recently preserved graffiti left behind by the soldiers! (Suggested time: 1 hour)

Download the Magnificent Manors of the Potomac Itinerary PDF file


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