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Seeing the Memorials and sparing your legs

Taking a tour of the monumental core of Washington, DC forces visitors to confront an interesting dilemma. These monuments are grand in size and set in splendid isolation, which results in stunning sightlines. The first time my tour bus crosses the Mall and my visitors see the Capitol can be so moving even an eight grader might stop texting. For a moment. But that same scale that makes such an iconic picture can be quite frustrating if you're actually attempting to visit the Memorials. It's a good hike to get the Jefferson, Vietnam, Korean, Lincoln, and FDR memorials in on one walk. And not a bad one, if it's a nice day. But, so often in DC, the oppressive heat of summer; the crowds of Cherry Blossom time; or the dreaded "wintery mix"; make a pleasant three mile stroll into a dreaded slog. I've even heard the phrase "Bataan Death March" bandied about, but I'll just write that off to overly dramatic whining.

All this is coupled with a lack of mass transit to the Memorials. The nearest Metro stations are almost a mile away, the bus system regards the Mall area as the Sahara, and the visitor friendly DC Circulator system stops just short of where you need it to be. And while I've recommended a few bike and Segway options, folks with small kids, disabilities, etc. may not be able to take advantage of them. Finally, to be frank, if you're going to do one walking tour of DC, the monuments wouldn't be where I'd send you.

The good news is that their are several tour bus options out there. The bad news, I haven't really tried any of them in a decade. After all, paying someone else to guide me around town didn't make a whole lot of fiscal sense. I've been planning on riding them all this summer, after I'm done with my school groups, but Kristina from Missouri caught me with my pants down, metaphorically speaking, when she asked:

"One question I have is which tour bus company (Old Trolley or Tourmobile) would you suggest using? And when is the best time to go on a tour bus (weekend or weekday)?"

I'm afraid it will be too late for Kristina, but if anyone has taken any or all of these, please leave your impressions in the comments or send them to me. I plan to compile everything I hear, as well as take a few tours myself, and post again in a few months with some recommendations. You know, when things calm down. Like in 2015, or so.

Reader Comments (1)

We live in DC and took some of the less mobile family on the Old Town Trolley Tour because it had better reviews online than most of the others. I have yet to try any other tour buses, but the family thought it was worth the ticket price of $35 (adult) and $18 (child 4-12). There wasn't much history given about any of the monuments or buildings, but if you are looking to get a glimpse and snap a picture of the larger monuments without having to walk long distances, then I would recommend the tour. You can get off or on the trolleys at any of the stops and change loops if you want to get somewhere like Georgetown or the National Zoo. If you are wanting to take more than one loop, you may as well buy the two day trolley pass (double the price of the single day tickets), because there is no way you could see everything in one day even with a trolley ticket.

April 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMama

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