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Tourists Urged to Look Past The District

And in Fairfax County, the $95 million expansion of the Mount Vernon estate and gardens will be completed in late 2006 -- a project with an education center and museum that will display many treasures associated with George Washington, including his dentures.

For too long, Washington has been known mainly as that "elder statesman icon" pictured on the dollar bill, said Stephanie Brown, marketing director of the Mount Vernon estate and gardens.

The new center and museum, Brown said, will "reintroduce" the first U.S. president as "a heroic and charismatic leader," using an interactive theater and "the world's most comprehensive collection of Washington-related items."

The nonprofit Northern Virginia Visitors Consortium has some projects in the works as well, including two pilot kiosks -- one to be placed at the Winchester visitors center, the other at an undetermined location in Loudoun -- where tourists can tap into the NVVC Web site: visitnorthernvirginia.com.

"Located next door to Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia is the perfect location to launch an adventure that includes sophisticated city dining, shopping, historic sites and cultural events," the Web site says. "Enjoy the quiet beauty of our countryside as well as thrilling outdoor sports and activities. From the banks of the Potomac River to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Northern Virginia offers a wide variety of activities for every member of the family."

NVVC has also developed a Northern Virginia Heritage Trail, with 35 cultural and historic sites; a Northern Virginia Golf Trail, featuring 22 golf courses; and a Northern Virginia Shopping Trail, which shows the locations of 18 large shopping areas from Tysons Corner and Potomac Mills to historic downtown Leesburg.

In the coming months, the group also hopes to run a tourism video on some international flights arriving at Dulles International Airport, said Jo Anne Mitchell, NVVC president and chief executive of the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association.

NVVC is made up of tourism organizations from of Loudoun, Fairfax and Prince William counties and the cities of Fairfax and Alexandria. The group has been largely supported by federal funding and contributions from its member organizations.

At Monday's conference, Mitchell reminded tourism officials that Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) has called their industry "an engine of growth" in Virginia's economy.

She ended her remarks by saying, "If tourism is the engine, then let's give it some gas!"

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