A Washington, DC tour is possibly the greatest field trip you can plan for your students. No other destination is more rich in our country’s history, and no other city provides so many incredible tour options per square mile. Read on for our 10 must-see sites.
A visit to the hub of representative democracy in our country should be at the top of any school tour of Washington. It is a gorgeous monument, a working office building and the forum of all national legislation. For a personal tour with extra access (and less lines), contact one of your U.S. Senators or Member of Congress and request a staff-led tour.
2. White House
Sure, you can view the iconic home through the black iron gates. But you and your students can also walk right inside and tour the President’s office and residence (well, the public rooms.) When you you call that Senator or Congressman’s office for a Capitol tour, be sure to request a White House tour for your class. You can request a tour up to six months in advance.
3. Supreme Court
Visitors are welcome to tour the first two floors of the building that houses the highest federal court. Trained docents lead 30-minute programs that introduce the judicial functions of the Court, the history of the Building, and the architecture of the Courtroom. When the Court is in session, tours are available only after Court adjourns for the day, so be sure to check the Court calendar.
This Presidential monument is powerful in both scale and symbolism. It features the iconic large seated sculpture of President Lincoln, inscriptions of two of his speeches and a beautiful view of the reflecting pool, Washington Monument and the National Mall. It was also the site of Martin Luther King, Jr. ‘s “I Have a Dream Speech” and other moments in history.
5. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
The world’s largest and most significant collection of aviation and space artifacts, this museum will provide students with a comprehensive history of human flight. For a bit of fun amidst the history, spring for an IMAX planetarium show!
6. Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Ceremony
Arlington National Cemetery is a moving tribute to the brave veterans and home to several historic memorials and tours. The Tomb of the Unknowns is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in any weather by Tomb Guard sentinels. In an elaborate military ritual, the guard is changed every hour on the hour October – March, and every half hour April – September.
7. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
This museum strives to serve as a living memorial to the Holocaust, and inspire “citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity.” Due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter, the Permanent Exhibition is recommended for age 11 and up. School groups should use the Museum’s online group reservation system.
Located just south of the District near Alexandria, Virginia, George Washington’s home offers a glimpse into 18th century plantation life and the beginning of our democratic nation. The Slave Life Tour is an important addition to the tour of the mansion.
9. Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
When Douglass bought the nine-acre estate of Cedar Hill he became the first African American to buy a home in the Old Anacostia neighborhood. The 21-room Victorian mansion tour and programs teach visitors about Douglass’ efforts to abolish slavery. Set high in the hills, the house and its grounds also open up onto one of the most breathtaking views of Washington.
10. Washington National Cathedral
The Cathedral is a spiritual resource for all faiths of the people of America. Tours, led by a Cathedral docent, provide an overview of the Cathedral’s art, architecture, history and mission. Group reservations are required.