Although Gail Cassidy has worked in various capacities at Mount Vernon for years, she gets almost as much enjoyment from Fall Harvest Family Days as the guests who attend.

Storytelling, horse-drawn wagon rides, a straw bale maze, early American games and even 18th-century dancing fill the two-day celebration. As much as Cassidy and other adults take away from the festival, though, youngsters are the ones who really seem to soak up the most fun.

"They enjoy being down on the farm, going through the mazes and watching horses and mules being shoed," Cassidy said. "Most children haven't gotten that close to an animal that is that big. To me, it's fascinating to just watch the kids."

The annual event, which this year marks its 15th anniversary, has become a must for many area families. Parents find the mix of hands-on activities, such as apple slice roasting and cornhusk doll creation, combined with demonstrations by blacksmiths, soap makers and cooks ideal for kids.

If you go
Mount Vernon Fall Harvest Family Days
Where: George Washington's Mount Vernon, 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Details: Free with admission: adults $15, seniors $14; children ages 6 to 11 $7; children under 5 free; 703-780-2000;

Vanessa Caceres, a D.C. native, said Fall Harvest Family Days and other Mount Vernon events are perfect for her young, high-energy son.

"I have found the number of fall festivals can be overwhelming," Caceres said. "What I like about Mount Vernon is that there were so many different things to do -- go through the corn maze, listen to music, watch demonstrations. It isn't your typical fall festival. Nowadays, with gas prices so high, you really want to chose [a festival] that gives you the most bang for the buck."

Melissa Wood, media relations director for Mount Vernon, said the Fall Harvest Family Days are important because they give visitors a glimpse into a different side of George Washington.

"Seeing George Washington's farm from the wagon ride is one of the best ways to experience it," she said. "Most people think of George Washington as the first president of the United States, but they don't realize he was so involved in farming."

This year, children's author Linda Burgess will read from her new book, "Mount Vernon's Magnificent Menagerie and the Very Mysterious Guest," at noon and 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. She will also sign copies of her book.

Perhaps best of all, though, costumed George and Martha Washington characters will be on site during the weekend events.

"Kids love that," said Wood, noting that when the president and first lady resided at Mount Vernon, Mrs. Washington would host weekly meetings with visitors. "It's another fun element that gets kids even more involved."