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Entries in walking tours (13)


Too Good To Be True? - a historical pub crawl

Have you ever said to myself, man, I just can't decide. On one hand, I would really like to learn more about this great city I'm visiting (or live in), expand my mind a bit, and engage in a bit of childlike curiosity about how we got to be the people we are today. On the other, I need a beer. What? You haven't had that internal tussle? Could I possibly be the only one?

Well, in the off chance that I'm not, the U.S. Capitol Historical Society has nicely solved our problems. Next month, on August 5th, Steve Livengood of the Historical Society will lead a pub crawl through the House Side of Capitol Hill.

From the Capitol Historical Society:

Join fellow history buffs for a tour of Capitol Hill Watering Holes for beverages spiced with history.

The United States Capitol Historical Society will take you on a guided tour exploring several watering holes and relaying great local stories about the pubs, the neighborhood and the folks who have lived here. Your historical guide will be the Society’s famous Chief Guide, Steve Livengood, who has been crawling through Hill pubs and giving tours of the Capitol since 1964. Hear about a mysterious murder, the riots of 1968, where the pig farm was, who Jenkins was, and why Jenkins’ Hill is a misnomer.

Ages 21 and up only. Drink purchases are not included in the tour price. Drink specials and pub snacks will be made available at participating locations.

Date: Wednesday, August 5
Time: 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Fee: $15 by August 4th.
First 5 registrants only $12 each!

For more information or to place your reservations call (202) 543-8919 x20. Space is limited

So, if you plan to be in town, or live around here, I hope you show up for this one. In fact, I kind of need you to, as I'll be out of town and I need it to be a success so that they'll do it again.


Sample Cherry Blossom Routes

Now that you've decided to come see the cherry blossoms, perhaps it would be just a bit responsible to come up with some sort of plan to actually see some blossoms.

As Connie from Pennsylvania wrote and asked:

"Would you please "guesstimate" how much time I should budget for wandering and looking at the blossoms along the tidal basin and mall? I am trying to plan out our sightseeing schedule."

Good question, Connie. For those of us that live here, we don't put much thought into it. One day, when we have a chance, we hop down to the Tidal Basin, see the blossoms, and go on about our lives. Having to budget time for the blossoms is somewhat foreign to us and worthy of a bit of consideration.

So, the answer comes down to how much you want to see and how to do it. I've laid out some options for bikes and Segways in a previous post, so I'll skip that and lay out two walking tours:

View Larger Map

For both, they involve taking advantage of the secret passageway between the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Auditors Building, the big red brick building with a steeple on Independence and 14th (don't worry, it's not important). Neither walk's distance includes the walk to the Metro (.3 milies). If you're driving, the walks don't include the 2 mile walk to the nearest parking. Don't be fooled by the parking spaces on the map; the Park Service closes it during the Cherry Blossom Festival. 

The long walk is two miles and will take you past the Park Service's Tulip Library, the future sight of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the FDR Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP), and finishes by the Holocaust Memorial Museum. There are some great views here. I'm particularly fond of the view of the Jefferson from FDR and the view of the Tidal Basin from the BEP. You will also go within short walking distances of the World War II, DC WWI, and George Mason Memorials if you are interested in any of those. I would plan on an hour and a half to two hours for this one and some tired legs.

If that doesn't appeal to you, obviously you can take any portion of it. I've mapped out a small sample loop that is about .7 miles. This should just take about 45 minutes. It starts and ends by the Holocaust Museum and will take in the Tulip Library, the Boat Dock, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. If you really want to burn out your legs, feel free to rent a paddle boat (or peddle boat, as they insist on calling it). A more inefficient form of tranisit could not be imagined. 


Getting your bearings, an intro

Coming to Washington, DC, or any other city for that matter, can be quite daunting. You know all of these famous landmarks from TV, movies, books, the back of your money, etc. You've heard about 1600 Pennsylvania Ave and Capitol Hill from grade school on. You know you "should" see the White House, the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, the Smithsonian, and so on, and so on. Where do you start?

As Jean W. asks:

"what are your recommendations for an introductory type of tour just to get our bearings when we first arrive? I hate bus tours, so I hope there is some kind of alternative. We won't have a car, and although we will do lots of walking, I'm looking for a way that we can cover more territory in a few hours and just see where everything is."

Truth be told, some of those bus tours might not be a bad way to get your bearings, but they're not my cup of tea either. Their chief advantage is that they cover a lot of ground fast. Maybe in a another post, I'll go over the pros and cons of each of them, but for now, let's leave the realm of motorized transport behind and look at some more human scale approaches.

There's lots of ways to prepare before you arrive. You're reading my blog, so you're smarter than the average bear. Obviously, a guide book is a good start, but a guide book no more gives you the flavor of a city than a telephone book tells you what your new neighborhood will be like. I like to watch movies and TV shows set in DC to at least recognize some of the street scenes. I'll go into this topic more at a later date, but for right now, I like The West Wing if you are a politics nerd (hey, we're people too) and "National Treasure" (eitherof them) if you are not. The web is also an obvious place to find more info, but that would clearly be the subject of another post, or book. And, perhaps most importantly, I find it impossible to "get" a place if I haven't looked at least a half dozen maps. Google Maps is the biggest single innovation in travel for me in the last decade.

But lets say you, unlike our good friend Jean W. from above, haven't done your homework and you are stepping out from your hotel with your bright new copy in Fodors in one hand and a song in your heart. Where to start? Some suggestions:

1. Head to the Old Post Office at 11th and Pennsylvania, NW (Federal Triangle Metro stop). Take a map, your guide book, and a list of everything you'd like to do. The OPO should be your headquarters for exploring downtown and the Mall. It's centrally located to most of the high density sights, has food and bathrooms, and, like all good bases, controls the high ground. The tower, with an observation deck at 270 feet, is a great place to chart out a path, calibrate your eyes for distance between buildings, and generally get the lay of the land. Sure it's not as tall as the Washington Monument, but there's (almost always) no line, no tiny windows to peer from, and the Park Rangers, freed from the crush of tourists, can be great sources in information.

2. If the Tower is closed for weather, and it sometimes is, or you just don't like heights, the OPO has some other ways to check out the city without burning out your legs. Just outside, is Segs in the City, one of the various Segway tour operators that everyone mocks as they zip by. Then they sit and rub their legs because they've walked too far. I don't particularly have any bias for Segs in the City over their competitors, except for the location. And, of course, the clever name. They all seem to compete on price and I have yet to hear that one is much better (or worse) than the others.

3. Hey, I said I was going to leave motorized transport out of this, didn't I? Fair enough, bike tours are also an excellent way to see DC. Bike the Sights has the advantage of being at the Old Post Office as well and I see them throughout the city. Additionally, the National Park Service offers free tours every Saturday and Sunday at 1pm starting at the Jefferson Memorial (check for dates). You need to provide your own bike and helmet, but you can rent them at the Old Post Office.

4. And finally, there really is no better way to feel the texture of a city than walking. Options for these are, of course, quite varied but lets at least touch on a few.

a. Hire a guide: If you wish, you can always hire a tour guide for you or your family. This is, obviously, the most personalized option and any half way decent guide can develop a tour for whatever you are interested in. And a big added value to a personal guide is that they can recommend things to do, best ways to see things, restaurants, etc. You know, the stuff I'm trying to do here. There's usually a four hour minimum and rates start at around $35 an hour and go up from there. Getting hold of us is tricky though; most of my private jobs come from word of mouth. But here's a couple of guides I recommend; they often manage not to drool on themselves.

b. Pre-scheduled walking tours. Many organizations, both public and private, offer walking tours of Washington, DC. There are far too many to list here, but Cultural Tourism DC puts out a weekly listing that can be useful. And I strongly recommend Washington Walks, a company that, as the name implies, puts together walking tours of DC. I've taken several, and they're quite good.

c. Do it yourself. If you wish to do it at your own pace, this is a good option. The aforementioned Cultural Tourism DC has put together several walking tours of DC neighborhoods that are well marked with informative sign posts. Several neighborhoods are covered, to include Capitol Hill, Downtown, U Street and others. And for planning your own walking tour, I recommend the City Walks: Washington,, as well as the kids version. They're useful and easy to carry without screaming TOURIST.

So thanks again to Jean W. for the question and good luck on your trip to DC. There is obviously more to talk about in planning a trip here but our time is limited today.

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