Mount Vernon Day Trip Itinerary

Chicken and biscuits, kayaking with a golden retriever (ok golden not included), and walking the grounds of POTUS1 all in one day?  Yes, please!  A few things Virginia is not short of is good southern food, outdoor adventures, and historic experiences.  Add dog friendly to this and I'm game.  

Speaking of which, this post is dedicated to day trip suggestions (mostly dog friendly) including POTUS 1's home, Mount Vernon (MV).  While I've visited MV countless times (I grew up in Virginia!), I never visited with my dogs.  Did you know they have a dog specific walking tour in the fall and spring?  Big thank you to the kind people at MV for inviting us with our pups recently.

See below for day trip suggestions including a google map to visualize locations and help plan your next visit!

How to start your day

1. Eat breakfast/brunch in Old Town Alexandria: We ate on Jackson 20's dog friendly patio in Old Town Alexandria to start.  Our recommendation: chicken and biscuits or chicken and waffle and don't forget to add a hash brown. 

Aspen gawking at the chicken and biscuits

Koa being nervy at the table

2. Old Town Farmers' Market: While the market isn't dog friendly, you can tag team with a buddy between going into the market and staying with your pup(s).

3. Outdoor activities: Too many to list just one.  Here are my favorite options for the morning:

- Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve: Kayak the marsh or walk the 1.8 mile path. 

- Walk around Old Town: Start on any street and go!

- Walk, run, bike, etc. the Mount Vernon trail: The Mount Vernon Trail spans 18 miles from Theodore Roosevelt Island to Mount Vernon hugging the Potomac River along its path. Aspen and Koa especially like it for bird watching. 

Mount Vernon

Next stop: Mount Vernon!  Roughly 15 miles from DC and 8 from Old Town, Mount Vernon is perfect for families, dogs, and history buffs alike.  Get there by car or even by boat (through a third party, not dog friendly). The property offers various activities daily: touring the museum/education center, walking the gardens and farm, touring the Mansion, and perusing countless exhibits. If this is your first time, plan to spend 3-4 hours minimum. 

The best part is that dogs are allowed around the property except inside the historic buildings/Mansion (so plan to take turns with family/friends going inside). 

How to end your visit

After touring POTUS 1's property, I recommend a pitstop at The Dairy Godmother for frozen treats for both you and your pup(s) OR Nicecream for a different twist on traditional ice cream (a heavenly one - try Key Lime Pie and Nutella). If you're not up for ice cream, my husband always looks to see if the hot sign is turned on at the Krispy Kreme outside of Old Town Alexandria on route 1.

If you have more energy to burn, watch planes take off/land during sunset at Gravelly Point or walk the trails at Huntley Meadows Park (please note: the boardwalk is not dog friendly).

I hope you find these suggestions helpful! Do you have anything to add to the list?

    5 trails within 30 minutes of DC

    While I can think of more than 5 trails to add to your DC list, I'm making this post short and sweet with a few images I randomly grabbed off my hard drive.  Please leave other recommendations in the comments below (Manassas, Scott's Run, Leesylvania, etc.)!

    1. Dyke March Wildlife Preserve

    • Location // Alexandria, VA - 15 minutes to cross into downtown DC
    • Trail // Either take the WO&D trail or walk the Haul Road Trail (1.5 mi/rt)
    • Difficulty // Easy
    • Best for // Everyone
    • Activities // Hiking, walking, running, bird watching, and water sports (kayaking especially)
    • Pros // Kayaking opportunities, wildlife (birds), close to Old Town Alexandria
    • Cons // Can be busy, hard to park at times, can be muddy


    2. National Mall

    • Location // Washington DC
    • Trail // You decide!
    • Difficulty // Easy - flat surface
    • Best for // Everyone
    • Activities // Walking, running, roller blading, etc.
    • Pros // Historic, convenience, things to do
    • Cons // Crowded, little to no shade, can be hard to park

    3. Great Falls National Park

    • Location // Great Falls, VA - 20 minute drive to Washington DC
    • Trail // Many but I recommend hiking to Cow Hoof Lookout
    • Difficulty // Easy-Moderate - depends on the route you take which can be very rocky
    • Best for // Everyone but not all hikes are ideal for everyone - research ahead of time or talk to a Park Ranger
    • Activities // Hiking, trail running, and kayaking (VERY experienced only as per the NPS website rapids "vary from Class II (novice) to Class V+ (extreme)."
    • Pros // Number of trails, unique overlooks, shaded, picnic areas for family
    • Cons // Crowded, requires car to get to, costs money 


    4. Mason Neck State Park

    • Location // Lorton, VA - 30 minute drive to DC without traffic
    • Trail // Several trails but I recommend Bay View Trail and Marsh View Trail
    • Difficulty // Easy - flat surface
    • Best for // Everyone
    • Activities // Hiking, water sports
    • Pros // Not crowded, variety of trails, water accessibility
    • Cons // Can be muddy, location (may require driving on 95), costs money 

    5. Billy Goat Trail - Chesapeake & Ohio Canal

    • Location // Potomac, MD - 20 minutes from DC
    • Trail // There are 3 sections - A (no dogs allowed), B and C
    • Difficulty // Easy to moderate
    • Best for // Parts of certain trails are not easy for all (rocky)
    • Activities // Hiking, rock climbing
    • Pros // Number of trails, unique overlooks, free national park
    • Cons // No actual billy goats on trail, parking can be difficult, crowded

    Gift Ideas for the Dog Lover

    There's nothing better than my dogs stuffing their noses in their stockings on Christmas morning to "tear open presents" (aka I help them).  If you're anything like me, then you're currently ordering last minute gifts on Amazon prime.  Here's a little gift guide if you're shopping for your fur babies or a dog lover!

    For the Adventurer:

    1. National Parks Pass  - Good for the year and grants access to any National Park* (some parks might have different rules during busy season).

    2. Camping with Dogs bandana - Keep your dog stylish on those outdoor adventures!

    3. Easy Walk Harness - A lot of people ask which harness I use; this harness discourages pulling which can be useful anytime but especially when hiking for miles.

    4. Ruffwear Collapsible Bivy Bowl - I like the collapsible bowl best because it slides into the back of my pack where my water bladder is.

    5. Custom Dog Name Tag with Mountains - I randomly stumbled upon this Easy shop and I love that there's a dog tag for every style; this is for the adventurer.

    6. Garmin Fenix 5S - I'm obviously biased but a Garmin activity tracker is a must for the adventurer.  I used to use the Garmin Forerunner but once I became a Garmin ambassador, I became glued to my Fenix 5S (even at work!).  I track every activity I do with my dogs on here; that way I know how far I've hiked and where (along with a slew of data analytics through the app).

    7 & 8. Oru Kayak - I first purchased the Bay Kayak from REI in 2015; Aspen and I fit in it snuggly (Koa can't fit).  When I was an Oru ambassador, I was gifted the Beach Kayak which has a LOT more room, fitting either Koa or Aspen.  If you're going to splurge on a new kayak, this is the one I'd recommend.

    For the City Wanderer:

    1. Orvis Buffalo Check Dog Jacket - I got this for Aspen right after her surgery and may or may not have bought a matching jacket for myself.

    2. Personalized Leather Dog Leash - I don't have this but I love anything personalized and monogrammed (I am from the south after all).  This is on my wish list for the spring!

    3. Southern Pup Bowtie - What I love most about these bowties is that they're detachable.  You can pair any collar with any bow or bowtie on the site.

    4.  Mark & Graham Quilted and Personalized Dog Jacket - This is on my wish list for Aspen; a perfect preppy jacket for colder days around the city.

    5. Nulo Grain-Free Trainer Treats - It's no secret that I'm a Nulo ambassador; we loved their food so much that we switched after our free trial.  The dogs lost 20 pounds collectively as a result.  Nulo sent these to Aspen as a "get well" treat and we couldn't be happier; I use these treats to train both pups.

    6. Bully Sticks - I'm not married to a brand or company but I've recently buying the large packages from Costco.  I'll give these to the dogs at restaurants and while kayaking to keep the dogs entertained.

    For the Human & Home:

    1. J.Crew Labrador flannel pajama pant - I can't find the Golden Retriever pajama pants I found at J.Crew earlier this year but these are a close second. 

    2. Personalized Orvis Dog Bed - I really can't choose just one but I'm especially smitten with the plaid style.

    3. Pottery Barn Dog Toy Basket - If I regularly threw out old/torn dog toys, then this would be the ideal toy basket.  It's on sale now too!

    4. Gamme2 Vittles Vault Plus for Pet Food Storage - I bought several of these from Home Goods and they're perfect for the family always on the go.  I keep one at my parents, one at my house.

    5. Wayfair Sofa Slipcover - I desperately need to protect my couch from dog fur (EXCESSIVE golden retriever hair) so I'm currently eyeing this.  And no, "no dogs on the couch" is not an option for me anymore.  We like to snuggle to Netflix after all!

    6. Squirrels in a Log Dog Toy - My friend bought this for my dogs and it's probably their favorite toy to date. I just bought the bees in a hive version as part of Aspen's holiday present.

    7. Dog Seat Cover for Cars - Don't let the awful image put you off.  My parents bought this for my birthday and it's the best thing in my car to protect again slobber and hair proving you don't need to spend $100 for an effective cover.

    What's on your list?  Happy Holidays!

    Note: None of the images are my own unless they're of my dogs. I haven't been paid for this post or required to post any product for a company by which I'm sponsored.  I've received free products or sponsorships from the following companies which are included in the list above: Garmin, Nulo, Oru Kayak, Ruffwear and the Southern Pup.

    Local Preview: Aldie, Virginia & Delaplane, Virginia

    As part of our year long goal to visit every Virginia state park, we headed west to Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane and stopped in Aldie along the way.  

    Sky Meadows State Park: I've been to Sky Meadows multiple times and must say it's one of our favorite spots in Northern Virginia.  It's surprising how few people visit this park, located just 60 miles from DC and closer than Shenandoah National Park with miles of trails, cows, chickens (new!), campsites, ponds for fishing, and more.  If you haven't been, and especially if you have kids, put it on your to do list for the summer but be sure to dress accordingly; Aspen and Koa came back with more ticks than I've ever seen.  I think we're going to see a bad tick season if this weekend is any preview (ugh! tips for combatting them welcomed).

    Aldie Mill: I took the long way via route 50 and finally stopped at Aldie's historic Mill.  So glad we did as it was pet friendly!  The two tour guides couldn't have been more generous; they saw me snapping pictures of Koa and Aspen near the mill and told us to come in for the next tour.  It's a quick tour but perfect for kids because you see how the mill works and you even get to touch the grain produced by their short demo.

    Here's a preview of our weekend but more to come -

    Koa and Aspen sit inside one of the fireplaces at historic Aldie Mill.

    Koa enjoys the cow from a distance.



    Alexandria Family Session: Feat. Tanner the Golden Puppy

    She emailed me about taking pictures of their newest addition: a 10 week old golden retriever puppy named Tanner.  Yes, please?  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't completely jealous of this couple. From their outfits to adorable Tanner, I wanted it all.  And can we just look at that fluff ball?  I just wanted to squeeze him (who doesn't feel like this when seeing a cute puppy?). 

    We played around Belle Haven Marina before heading to historic Old Town Alexandria where Tanner didn't fall asleep once.  I mean check out that epic running/Baywatch picture of Tanner; I died.  Thank you both for asking me to document this special time - before you know it, Tanner will be a big beast like Koa yet act as if his size hasn't changed!