By Sophia Rutti
With Valentine’s Day being smack-dab in the middle of the weekend, it casts a huge heart-shaped shadow over all the other entertainment options. But Valentine’s isn’t the only thing happening this weekend: It is also President’s Day Weekend.
For most of us, that means a long weekend and time to relax, but we tend to forget the spirit behind President’s Day.
President’s Day was initially a celebration of George Washington’s birthday on Feb. 22 but was then moved to the third Monday in February in an effort to give American workers more three-day weekends. Thank you, Mr. Washington. This year the celebration falls on Feb.16.
As the father of our country, Washington’s birthday deserves to be celebrated. So get off the couch, stop rewatching Parks and Recreation, and go celebrate with the rest of our country.
Here are a few ways to celebrate in the area:
1. Fee Free Days in the National Parks
From Feb. 14-16 there is no charge to get into the National Parks. Head over to Great Falls Park and get outside. Enjoy the park in the winter and make sure to stop by to check out the frozen falls. The park opens at daylight and stays open until it gets dark.
The great thing about Great Falls Park is that you can do just about anything. If you’re a hiker, you can wake up early and take an all-day hike to the top of the mountain. If not, you can take the easy 10- to 15-minute walk to see the falls and then have a picnic. Your options are pretty much endless despite the winter cold.
1) Hike up to see the falls
2) Bring out your bike and go for a ride
3) Snatch a kayak and get out on the water (but don’t fall in)
4) Stop by the visitor center and learn some park history
5) Get some hot chocolate and bring along a picnic to enjoy the winter air
Take the day and make it your own. With no entrance fee you can bring everyone along for an exciting and affordable day. When you’re done at the park and want to warm up, swing by McLean or Falls Church and enjoy everything they have to offer.
For more information on the park and ideas about what to do there, click here.
2. George Washington’s Birthday Celebrations at Mount Vernon
There is no better place to celebrate George Washington’s Birthday than at the place he loved most: his home, Mount Vernon. Just 8 miles south of Alexandria on the banks of the Potomac, George Washington’s birthday will last all weekend.
Eat breakfast with General Washington in the morning, pay tribute to him with a wreath laying tribute, then mingle with costumed characters from his world.
In the afternoon there will be a “Dancing with the 18th Century Stars” event that is one of the largest ever 18th century dancing demonstrations. Once the dancing has ended, visitors can gather and share stories with the General himself all weekend long.
On Friday and Saturday there will only be an entrance charge of $17 for adults, $16 for seniors, $9 for youths (6-11) and free for children under the age of 5.
On Monday, however, there will be no charge for admission or special events. Free entrance courtesy of Mr. Washington himself.
For a more detailed schedule and directions, click here.
3. George Washington’s Birthday Celebration in Alexandria
General Washington’s birthday does not go unnoticed in Alexandria.
The festivities kick off with George Washington’s “Birth-night Banquet and Ball” at Gadsby’s Tavern on Feb. 14. Tickets are $125 and up.
If you’re looking for something more affordable, there are plenty of other options. On Sunday there will be a “Walking With Washington” parade from 2-3 p.m. with no entrance fee.
On Sunday, Feb. 15, from 3-4:30 p.m. there will also be an “Adulteration of Chocolate Tasting” event that gives visitors a taste of rum, brandy, whiskey and Madeira with American Heritage Chocolate. Not to mention the whole event happens at Gadsby’s Tavern, which the General himself once visited. $45 for admission.
On President’s Day, festivities will kick off at 8 a.m. with a 10K race and 2K fun run. If you’re a runner, this is the perfect way to celebrate the General’s birthday and to spend your day off. Admission is $40 for all runners and $10 for the 2K fun run.
If you’re not a runner, no worries; there will also be a “Revolutionary War Reenactment at Fort Ward Park” for you to celebrate. Starting at 10 a.m. and running through 3 p.m., there will be a full dose of history. Watch historical and tactical demonstrations throughout the day, and at 2 p.m.watch a Revolutionary War battle between the Redcoats and the Colonial Army. Admission to the event is free.
Throughout the day there will also be free tours and free admission to many of the historic Alexandria sites, a Tomb Ceremony and several restaurants participating in “President’s Day Brunch.”