Drive through History: George Washington Memorial Parkway

A true history buff's road trip around Washington D.C.

  • 10
  • 01:08
  • 34 mi
  • $4

Created by Valvoline Instant Oil - June 1st 2016

The George Washington Memorial Parkway, AKA the "G.W. Parkway", takes you on a scenic drive down the south bank of the Potomac River from Mount Vernon, Virginia up to Langley. This drive is maintained by the National Park Service and is designated an "All-American Road". Here are some of the best stops along the route.

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You can literally drive through history along the G.W. Parkway, and your first stop is at the former home of America's founding father, George Washington. Mount Vernon is just 15 miles south of D.C., right on the banks of the Potomac River. In addition to the restored home itself, an onsite museum and gift shop, the grounds also include a working distillery.

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Fort Hunt Park

Next up, head to Fort Hunt Park to see the abandoned ruins of the military fort that defended the Potomac during the Spanish American War. Today you can wander around the ramparts and batteries at this historic Fort. During the Great Depression, it served as a Civilian Conservation Corps Camp, and during WWII, it served as a training area where soldiers learned how to interrogate prisoners and escape from enemy prison camps, and where intelligence officers tried to decipher German documents during the war.

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Alexandria, VA

Then, it's on to the Mount Vernon Trail, an 18-mile route that connects Mount Vernon with Theodore Roosevelt Island. Here you can hike or bike while enjoying amazing views of the Potomac River and the D.C. skyline.

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Arlington National Cemetery

Pay your respects to the fallen at Arlington National Cemetery. This 624-acre memorial is the final resting place for many of America's members of the military and their relatives. The military cemetery is also home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. If you can manage it, try to plan your trip here so you can watch the changing of the guard. It's an incredibly moving experience.

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Netherlands Carillon

Next is the Netherlands Carillon, which is a massive steel tower with 50 bells representing the Dutch’s gratitude to America for the country’s aid during WWII. The carillon is set in a scenic park featuring flower beds throughout, as well as sculpted lions. It’s a great place for a picnic, and provides amazing views of D.C.

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Arlington, VA

From the Netherlands Carillon, head to the United States Marine Corps War Memorial. One of the most recognizable military memorials in the world, it represents America's gratitude to Marines who have given their lives in the defense of the country since 1775. The casting process to make the statue took almost three years. The statue weights 20 tons and is a powerful reminder of the heroics of war.

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Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial

From there, head to Arlington House, also known as the Lee-Custis Mansion. This decadent mansion, and former slave labor plantation, it’s most well-known for what happened when he left it in 1861. The Arlington House became a Union army facility after the Lee family left at the start of the Civil War. Then in 1863, the property became Freedman’s Village, where a community of freed slaves made their home.

The George Washington Memorial Parkway Scenic Overlook provides the best views in late spring, summer, and early to mid-fall (when the leaves are changing color). It’s a great place to pull over, stretch your legs, and take pictures of this All-American Road.

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Claude Moore Colonial Farm

So far, you’ve been driving through history, and walking through memorials and historic homes, so how about actually living history? Try your hand as an eighteenth-century farmer. The Claude Moore Colonial Farm at Turkey Run is a living history museum, depicting what life was like for low-income farm families just before the Revolutionary War. Get ready to become completely absorbed in authentic details of the time.

Turkey Run Park

Finish up your George Washington Memorial Parkway road trip at Turkey Run Park. This park is the perfect spot to get out of the car and walk through the Potomac Gorge's crazy ecosystem, which is made up of meadows, riverbanks, and upland forest. Check out the hiking trails—you’ll be so thoroughly surrounded by nature that you’ll forget how close you are to the big city of D.C.!

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The George Washington Memorial Parkway is an amazing way to experience D.C. From virtually every stop around the beltway you'll be able to get incredible views of the nation's capital, while staying far enough away from the throngs of tourists. From preserving significant moments in U.S. history to preserving local wildlife habitats, the parkway lets you honor significant moments in U.S. history while enjoying a glorious portion of our nation’s landscape.

Valvoline Instant Oil

You’re ready for your road trip. Make sure your car is, too. Stop by your neighborhood Valvoline Instant Oil Change for a drive-thru oil change in about 15 minutes. You can stay in your car while we do the work. Plus, you’ll get a free 18-point vehicle inspection to help you get ready for the road.

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