Washington D.C. offers an unusual number of options to tour the city, from faux trolley cars to buses to boat tours, and even mobility scooters, Segways, and amphibious vehicles. These tours offer an easy way for you to get oriented in the city. Be aware, though, that many of these tours are closed during the winter months and depend on the weather or health of the tour guide, so always call ahead to confirm availability.Walking Tours
Walking tours aren't just walking tours anymore. On some you don't even walk! Washington D.C. has a wide variety of walking tours that you can take, some of which last an entire day and others that are just a few hours long. There is a lot to choose from here, from the offbeat (such as Talking Streets or Scandal Tours) to more traditional historic tours.
This young touring company has some terrific off-the-beatentrack routes, including the “White House Un-Tour” every Tuesday through Saturday and a tour of Haunted Washington every Wednesday. Recommended family walks are “Good Night, Mr. Lincoln,” “In Fala's Footsteps,” and the White House Un-Tour. Tickets are $10 per person. Walks last approximately two hours (the three recommended family tours above are only one hour long); groups meet outside a Metro station.
Of course, many rich and famous people live in Washington D.C. or at least have residences here; for instance, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Elizabeth Taylor both owned homes in Georgetown. If you enjoy seeing how celebrities live, you can join Jan Pottker, author of
The embassies and mansions of Embassy Row house some incredible art and culture from the various countries represented, but you can't just go up to a door and go in to view it. There used to be organized Embassy Row guided tours, but the events of September 11 put an end to the tradition. Many embassies offer tours with prior notification.
Costumed members of the Washington comedy group Gross National Product impersonate political figures and offer a humorfilled tour of the city's most notorious history, from the Watergate to the Tidal Basin to Gary Hart's townhouse and the White House itself. Tours start at 15th & F Streets, NW (Metro Center station Red Line) Saturday at 1
Those people you see walking along with their cell phones to their ears might just be taking a tour! Talking Street delivers a walking tour of the Mall's most famous sites via your own cell phone. You can choose your own schedule at your own pace, even over several days. Larry King narrates, with music, interviews, and dramatic readings to round out the experience. Cost is $5.95 for fifteen sites, about three minutes a site. You can charge your cell phone account, use a credit card, or prepay. A map is downloadable from the Web site, where you can listen to a sample. The service runs 24/7.
Georgetown Walking Tour
Mary Kay Ricks offers a variety of tours of Georgetown, as well as a tour of Oak Hill Cemetery and a ride on the Underground Railroad with a look at Georgetown during the Civil War. She was booking only private walks at the time of this publication but may return to public touring. Call for details.
Site Seeing Tours, Inc.
These African-American-tour specialists offer a variety of tour choices at different times. There are two walk-in tours given on different Saturdays, no appointment necessary: the Black History Tour and “Walk in the Footsteps of Martin Luther King, Jr.” Other tours include Duck Ellington's Jazz, U Street, and Arlington County. Call for schedules and information. Tours usually start at 10
Washington Photo Safari
A unique experience. Tour and learn travel photography at the same time. Safaris cover a number of themes, but start with the halfday Monuments and Memorials ($69) as an introduction. Other safaris start at $49.
You can lose the kids for a couple of hours with Washington Photo Safari's “Just for Kids” tour. Drop them off at 2:30
City Segway Tours
Technology marches on, or rather rolls on the Segway. This is the first of three new companies making use of the far-out motorized vehicles you've read so much about. After a forty-minute orientation and practice session, the company takes you on a four-hour tour of the top tourist attractions, offering both day tours and an evening tour. Tours leave at 9:30
Segs in the City
This is another company that has you moving along comfortably on a Segway while the world trudges by with hot feet and hurting shoes. They have shorter tours: two hours for $70, one hour for $35, and a twohour C&E Safari (Cathedral and Embassy Row) for $70. Fee includes training, a license, and a bottle of water. Tour times and schedules are on the Web site. You must be at least sixteen and weigh less than 260 pounds. Segs in the City also rents Segways and runs tours in Maryland and Pennsylvania (where the age minimum is fourteen).
Parents with younger kids may have a problem if they want to Segway, but Capital Segway has solved the problem. They offer the “SegShaw,” which totes behind the Segway. Rental is $35. Capital Segway is at 1350 I St., 202-682-1980,
Washington author and tour guide Anthony S. Pitch offers privategroup, anecdotal history tours of Washington D.C. on any topic or area you choose, or leave it up to him. His three-hour tours cover the most important highlights of the city; his five-hour tours tell you just about everything you want to know about the town. There is no minimum or maximum number of people required, and his tours are very family-friendly. The fee is $100 an hour, with a three-hour minimum. Transportation is extra depending on the mode you choose, from sedan to luxury bus. Occasional public tours are listed on his Web site.
Old Town Trolley
This is a narrated two-hour tour on an orange-and-green openair trolley. Its nineteen stops include most of the downtown sites, as well as Arlington National Cemetery, Georgetown, Embassy Row, and the National Cathedral. You can get off and on throughout the day by showing the bus driver your ticket stub or a sticker they give you to wear (trolleys come around every thirty minutes). They also have printed flyers of walking tours of Georgetown and the Mall. There's a map of tour stops, which features a number of discounts on food and shopping if you show the establishment your ticket.
Tours start at 9
Old Town Trolley also offers a Monuments by Moonlight afterhours tour. This two-and-a-half-hour narrated night tour features stories and views of the city's monuments. Tours start at 6:30
The blue-and-white Tourmobile travels to many of the same locations as the Old Town Trolley, but it does not go to Georgetown or the National Cathedral. It is, however, the only vehicle allowed to tour inside Arlington National Cemetery (authorized to do so by the National Park Service). Instead of trudging up the green hills on foot, you can sit as the trolley takes you by the Kennedy graves, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington House, and the Women in Service Memorial on the cemetery grounds. This is a definite consideration if you have young children or visitors who have a hard time walking long distances. You can buy Tourmobile tickets to tour just the cemetery, which cost $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $3 for children three to eleven and can be purchased at the cemetery's visitors' center.
You can board the Tourmobile at any of its nineteen stops and pay the driver when you get on. As with Old Town Trolley, you can get on and off the Tourmobile at any stop and reboard later (with ticket). Tourmobiles come around every twenty minutes. On-demand service is available to those who are mobility impaired. Call 703-979-0690 between 8
The cost of the Tourmobile is $20 for adults and $10 for children. The Tourmobile operates from 9:30
Tourmobile also offers a Washington by Night tour, which is a three-and-a-half-hour narrated tour of the Jefferson, Roosevelt, Lincoln, Korean, Vietnam, and World War II Memorials (where you can disembark for visits). It departs from Union Station and is $20 for adults and $10 for children three to eleven. Reservations are suggested for Washington by Night tours.
There are combination two-day packages for various tours such as Arlington Cemetery, Washington D.C., Mount Vernon, and/or Cedar Hill. Call or visit the Tourmobile Web site for prices and more information; these tours are not always available.
You can also purchase tickets at TicketMaster by calling 1-800 551-SEAT, but there is a small fee for this service.
If you want to treat yourself and your family to a taste of the good life, you can hire a luxury limo and do a tour. Several companies will be glad to accommodate: American Eagle (703-550-7200, 800-730-7878,
Gold Line/Gray Line
This tour company offers a wide variety of narrated tours of the city, both on land and sea. The motorcoach will leave from Union Station or pick you up and drop you off at your hotel. You can pay for tours by credit card. The After Dark Tour leaves Union Station at 7:45
On Location Tours
Movie and television buffs will love this bus tour of thirty locations used in TV shows and movies that were shot in Washington, DC. Shop in the mall where
The three-hour guided tour takes place on luxury coach buses and is led by actors and actresses who share inside industry information. Clips from the movies shot at the locations enhance the overall experience.
Tours run Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2