Its red roof shining from the banks of the Potomac River, historic Mount Vernon bears the torch of gentleman planter and inaugural commander in chief George Washington via the home where he lived for 40 years. It takes about three hours to explore the estate, a visit which begins with a walk through the grounds and a short film before proceeding to a guided tour of the mansion. There, time-travelers visit 1799—the year Washington died—as recreated by preserved original furnishings and detailed reproductions. The home's windows look out on 50 acres of plantation, with 12 original structures, gardens, and a forest trail hemmed with holly and laurel. The museum and education center weaves a rich audio-visual tapestry of the general's life, filled with 23 theaters and galleries and 700 original artifacts that include his famous dentures.
The Metropolitan School of the Arts - formerly the Metropolitan Fine Arts Center - was founded more than 14 years ago. This multidisciplinary performing-arts organization takes a holistic approach to teaching and encouraging performance-arts skills, creating performance opportunities in dance, music, and theater for a diverse population of students of all ages and abilities. Its students have gone to perform on Broadway, at The Juilliard School, and in highly esteemed companies, such as the Mark Morris Dance Company, The Washington Ballet, and Ford's Theater and Signature Theater. Youth programs include year-round programs in dance, theater, music, music-theater, and acting, as well as a performing-arts program in the summer, all for children as young as 2. Adult classes range from basic to advanced, including ballet, jazz, and tap lessons, plus yoga and ballet-barre fitness workouts.
It?s 1:29 p.m. and the wave pool at Great Waves Waterpark has been calm for nine minutes. The mood on the surface, however, is anything but. An anticipatory energy has been transmitted through the water as sunbathers migrate from the sun deck, giddy youngsters from the various kids? areas, and thrill seekers from one of the park?s waterslides. The anticipation ends at 1:30 p.m. when three 80-horsepower motors begin to churn the large fans that whip the pool?s 475,000 gallons of water into waves as high as four feet for 10 minutes. This increment of waves?10 minutes on, 10 minutes off?runs like clockwork at the 20-acre facility, which also features dry attractions such as miniature golf, batting cages, and grassy areas for practicing the backstroke.
In addition to offering sun-soaked thrills of simulated waves, the park's Paradise Play boasts 30-foot slides, pogo sticks, rock walls, and a non-aqueous playground area. A faux beach with sand invites revelers to unwind while snacking on a funnel cake purchased from Riptide Caf?, while a nearby play pool with pint-sized slides lets little riders get into the summertime mix. After a full day of sliding and swimming, guests may purchase souvenirs from the Shark Shack gift shop.
Since it was first settled in 1669, and officially established in 1749, the city of Alexandria has played a crucial role in American history. It has existed as a tobacco trading post, a busy port, home to a large free-black community, and a Civil War supply center for Union troops. Famous figures such as George Washington, Robert E. Lee, and Mama Cass once claimed it as their hometown. Now, more than 260 years since the town’s first historic buildings were constructed, visitors can tour them year-round—with the aid of interpreters dressed in American colonial and Victorian garb.
The Alexandria Archaeology Museum displays artifacts unearthed from the city’s streets; the Alexandria Black History Museum welcomes visitors into African American heritage exhibits; and the Fort Ward Museum, a preserved Union fort, hosts regular Civil War reenactments and slumber parties. Along the town’s winding streets, visitors can also step over historic thresholds at Lee-Fendall House and the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum; Carlyle House Historic Park, a Union hospital during the Civil War; and Gadsby's Tavern Museum, a favored haunt of founding fathers, journalists, and military officers. Historians and staff also bring history into the present through weekly activities such as fencing classes at the tavern, farmers’ markets at Market Square, restoration workshops, 18th century fashion shows, and film screenings.
Movable walls, luminous rocks, mirrors, ramps, and unexpected dead ends. These are just a few of the obstacles players face at Ultrazone Laser Tag, a multi-level arena that, much like a spring-break DJ’s apartment, is always flooded with black light and fog. Before separating more than 66 players into mulitple teams and setting them loose in the arena, a game master delivers rules and moves teammates to the vesting room, where they grab laser guns and flashing vests. As the beat of pulsing music hammers the arena, players stream into the field, launching beams at opponents and attempting to seize their strongholds. When players are hit they aren't eliminated from the action; a computer keeps a running tally of points throughout the mission and awards champion status to the team with the highest count after the game. The facility also includes an arcade and a snack area.
As the Potomac River flows in the distance, George Mason’s historical Georgian mansion overlooks sprawling fields, hiking trails, and a 250-year-old boxwood allée. A senior statesman, Mason laid the foundation for this site in 1755, building his new family home just yards away from the site of his grandfather’s house. Though the original 18th-century carriage roads, tree banks, and wide vistas have since disappeared, experts have reconstructed much of the property’s original splendor through archaeological digs; the written memoirs of George’s son, John; and the testimonials of kidnapped time travelers.
Today, trained guides lead guests on tours of the mansion, which features more than 50 pieces of art and furnishings detailing the life of the politician, his wife Ann, and their family. As guests learn about Mason’s role as the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights and as an advocate of freedom of the press and religious tolerance, they walk through opulent halls and rooms designed in French modern, neoclassical, and Chinese styles. In addition to tours, the house and grounds host seasonal events such as an old-fashioned candlelit Christmas celebration, a spring kite festival, and an autumn séance to summon the Great Pumpkin.