MOUNT VERNON, Va.- George Washington never had air conditioning, but he knew how to keep cool: a mansion with lots of windows elevated on the banks of a wide, rolling river and lots of ice cream, maybe with a little brandy.

It was a little like the old days without electricity Wednesday, as the nation’s capital region celebrated Independence Day the better part of a week into a widespread blackout that left millions of residents sweltering in 90-plus degree heat without air conditioning. Utilities have slowly been restoring service knocked out by a freak storm Friday from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic, and at least 26 people have died.

At George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, one of the most popular Fourth of July attractions was a demonstration of 18th-century ice cream making, one of Washington’s favorite desserts. Historical interpreters Gail Cassidy and Anette Ahrens showed the crowds how cocoa beans were roasted and ground into a paste for chocolate ice cream, made using ice hauled up in massive blocks from the Potomac River and stored underground to last as long into the summer as possible.

As for beverages, Washington was no stranger to alcohol, having imported Madeira wine from Portugal, distilling his own whiskey and enjoying a fruity brandy cocktail called Cherry Bounce.

Visitors on Wednesday gathered on the mansion’s back porch, a piazza overlooking the Potomac where breezes rolled through.

“It feels good out here. It’s the same thing we do in Texas,” said Chris Moore of Austin, Texas, sitting with his wife, Dina. The two had come to Virginia to see their son graduate from officer training at The Basic School at Quantico Marine Corps Base.

Moore said he opted for the smaller crowds at Mount Vernon as opposed to the massive Fourth of July Celebration on the National Mall because it afforded a better place to relax and contemplate the founding of the nation, especially since Mount Vernon on Wednesday hosted a naturalization ceremony for 100 new citizens from 47 different countries.

Up the river in Washington, President Obama also attended a naturalization ceremony at the White House, this one for active service members from 17 countries. Military families were invited for a barbecue and fireworks on the South Lawn.

Obama said the varied backgrounds of those taking the oath typified America’s long tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world to its shores.

“Unless you are one of the first Americans, a native American, we are all descended from folks who came from somewhere else,” he said. “The story of immigrants in America isn’t a story of them. It’s a story of us.”

Presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has spent most of the week off the campaign trail with his family in Wolfeboro, N.H., but took time Wednesday to march in the town’s Fourth of July parade.

In New York, about a dozen disabled soldiers — most triple or quadruple amputees — visited ground zero. The visit was intended to salute service members who survived the post-9/11 wars to become miracles of modern medicine, and to promote two charities raising money for homes custom-built to ease their burdens.

The city’s celebration was expected to capped with the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks show off Manhattan later in the night, with 40,000 aerial shells being launched from five barges.

Many Americans abandoned their holiday plans after going without power from the storms.

Sarah Lenkay and her roommates, who lost power in Columbus, Ohio, Friday evening, didn’t have power back until around midnight Wednesday. “I’m just enjoying the comfort of my home right now, and cleaning and getting things in order,” she said. “So I’m not really doing much. It feels great.”