5 Free Ways to See Washington, D.C. on an Educational Tour
I hope you all had an enjoyable long weekend.
Last week marked the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in our nation’s capital. With it being such a momentous occasion, today’s post will highlight a few options that are free to the public. In a city full of museums, memorials, and monuments, the biggest obstacle on your educational student tour might be figuring out what to see.
Seeing as there are probably more free things to observe and do in Washington, D.C. than practically any other major city in the world, read on to see my top picks of what to see in Washington.
Whether you’re visiting the U.S. capital for the 1st time or a local looking for something to do on a lazy afternoon, may I suggest stopping at the famed Smithsonian. No visit to this great city is complete without a visit to some of the finest museums in the nation. Home to 19 museums and the national zoo, the Smithsonian is the perfect place for educators and their students to begin their capital tour. Mostly lining the National Mall, one can see the Apollo 11 capsule that carried the first men to land on the moon, President Abraham Lincoln’s top hat, those legendary “ruby slippers” of Dorothy’s from “The Wizard of OZ, as well as the Hope Diamond. Founded in 1846, by British scientist James Smithson, the Smithsonian was established for the increase and diffusion of knowledge. The Smithsonian is a good place for student tours to visit and get oriented with our nation’s capital as it offers a vast array of information.
Stretching from the Capitol building to the Potomac River, this 2 mile open-air park is in the heart of downtown. Receiving approximately 24 million visitors each year, the National Mall features memorials honoring 5 presidents, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln, as well as the MLK Jr. Memorial that was opened in 2011. In addition, there are numerous battle monuments honoring America’s veterans, various statues, and walking paths for your enjoyment. Take in the sites in the evening when the monuments are lit and the crowds have dispersed. The National Mall becomes extremely picturesque when people flock to the city each spring to witness the beauty of its famous cherry blossom trees. Some of the oldest trees line the Tidal Basin and were a gift from Japan in 1912 to celebrate the two nations then-growing friendship.
Behind the Scenes Tours
Washington is one of those cities where everyone wants to know what goes on behind the scenes. People would love to have special access to the seats of power, and that’s possible if you plan ahead. Visitors can tour the Capitol dome, the Library of Congress, and White House tours are usually available however they have been halted temporarily due to budget cuts. The Capitol Visitor Center is a great place to start as they also offer special tours of the Capitol’s history and artwork.
Washington is not only home to our nation’s government but also numerous presidential sites. A walk through downtown offers visitors a chance to connect with history. One of the most famous and visited attractions is Ford’s Theatre, the place where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. A mere 5 minute walk from the theatre, visitors will come across the National Portrait Gallery. Housed inside is one of the most popular collections of presidential portraits, including some of the most famous images of George Washington and Honest Abe himself.
Waterfront and Kennedy Center
Another area of Washington that is quickly gaining in popularity is its waterfronts. These once neglected areas are rapidly becoming the hottest spots to visit. In Georgetown, there are gardens, walking paths, and a new park that is the perfect spot to relax and have a picnic. After exploring the area, students can head toward the Kennedy Center. This living memorial to President John F. Kennedy offers free tours and is a fantastic spot to take in the arts. An added bonus is the spectacular views from the Kennedy Center’s rooftop that can’t be beat!
From picturesque memorials to breathtaking views of the U.S. Capitol and an abundance of museums, Washington D.C. is a city that has plenty to offer for both educators and their students. You can find more information about EA Tours’ educational tours to Washington here.
That’s it for this post. I’ll see you on Thursday!