WASHINGTON DC - HISTORY & DISCOVERY
Become Players in the Dramatic Unfolding of History
Discover firsthand the history of our nation in Washington, D.C. Become players in the dramatic unfolding of history while exploring Capitol Hill, the Supreme Court, the Smithsonian Museums, and the White House. Experience the true meaning of conflict and sacrifice at the Presidential and War Memorials and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Trips include visits to Arlington National Cemetery, George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, and Thomas Jefferson’s plantation, Monticello. Jewish heritage includes visits to the U.S. Holocaust Museum, Israeli Embassy, Jewish War Veteran’s Museum and AIPAC office.
Sample 3-Day Itinerary
10:30 AM: Arrive DC
11:30 AM: Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument
1:00 PM: Lunch on the mall
2:00 PM: Arlington Cemetery, wreath laying at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier & Ceremony
5:00 PM: Dinner in DC
6:30 PM: Evening monuments
9:00 PM: Hotel Check-in
7:30 AM: Daven & Breakfast
9:00 AM: Capitol Hill tour, Supreme Court, Library of Congress, National Archives
11:00 AM: Holocaust Museum
1:30 PM: Lunch
2:30 PM: Smithsonian Visit
5:30 PM: More memorials on return to hotel - Iwo Jima Marine Corps Memorial, etc
6:30 PM: Return for dinner
7:00 PM: AIPAC meeting during dinner
8:00 PM: Free evening (evening entertainment available for an additional cost)
8:00 AM: Daven & Breakfast
9:30 AM: Meet with representative on Capitol Steps
10:15 AM: Group Photo – Capitol Steps
10:30 AM: Smithsonian Museums
12:30 PM: Lunch
1:30 PM: Newseum
3:30 PM: Depart for Airport *Box dinners will be supplied
*Optional Smithsonian Museum of Flight at Dulles if departing from Dulles Airport
WASHINGTON, DC: HIGHLIGHTED SITES
Below are highlights of what could potentially be an endless list. For the sake of simplicity, we’ve listed sights in groupings of how they are typically visited and how much time groups typically spend at each. It will help to think of your tour day in blocks: 3 hour mornings, 4 hour afternoons, and 2-3 hour evenings.
Capitol Hill (one full morning or afternoon)
Includes: Capitol Building, Capitol Visitors Center, Library of Congress, Supreme Court
The Capitol is the legislative branch of the U.S. government with the Senate and the House of Representatives chambers flanking the grand dome. Public tours are processed through the new visitors’ center and typically include the Rotunda, Statuary Hall, and the Crypt. To also visit the public galleries of the House or Senate, the group must obtain free passes from either their Representative or Senator’s offices that flank the Capitol.
The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library by the number of its holdings contained in several different buildings. The Thomas Jefferson building is the one to see as its architecture, sculpture, frescoes, mosaics, and exhibits are all designed to be a celebration of human discovery and creativity.
Also on Capitol Hill, the Supreme Court is home to our Judicial Branch. The outside is an impressive ancient-styled temple to showcase the legacy and supremacy of the Law. Timing may also permit entering the building to hear a curator lecture in the actual Supreme Court Chamber.
The Presidential and Military Memorials (2-3 full evenings)
As these memorials are typically visited based on proximity to each other and while they can be visited at any time, we typically go in the evening while most of the other buildings and museums are closed.
Washington Monument is a 555-foot marble obelisk in the middle of the National Mall that honors the nation's first president. Timed tickets provide an elevator ride to the 500-foot viewing platform. For those without tickets, the best views of the monument itself are from the other memorials.
Jefferson Memorial is located across the Tidal Basin and is surrounded by the famous Japanese cherry trees. The Romanesque structure provides an elegant view over the water particularly at night.
The Lincoln Memorial bookends the 2-mile stretch of the National Mall along with the Capitol on the other end. Overlooking the reflecting pool on one side, and Virginia on the other, it appropriately honors the President who preserved the Union during our nation’s toughest trial, the Civil War. While it honors the man himself, the unity of the nation and emancipation, it is only fitting that it has also become a gathering place for subsequent generations to raise the voice of justice and equality.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial is one to be experienced rather than merely viewed. Its chambers and plazas located on the Tidal Basin, use touchable inscriptions, statues, and fountains to chronicle how the man and the nation persevered through the trials of the Great Depression and World War II.
Military and War Memorials:
World War II Memorial, though a more recent arrival to the National Mall, is located prominently in the middle to show how the nation’s obligation and sacrifice to human liberty extend beyond our oceans. Divided into Pacific and Atlantic theaters, it is united by a memorial wall symbolizing the over 400,000 American lives lost.
Korean War Memorial is near Lincoln Memorial and features statues of 19 soldiers making their way through unknown terrain in front a wall of reflected faces of service personnel. It is particularly striking at night.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial: The stark silent wall of over 58,000 names originally met with much controversy, but now is one of the most popular memorials as it effectively conveys the costs and emotions of a confusing war that brought trauma to both the frontlines and the homefront.
Marine Corps Memorial: The iconic image of six soldiers raising a flag atop Iwo Jima serves as a memorial to the Marines in all wars. Located across the Potomac in Virginia, it also provides great views over DC.
Air Force Memorial overlooks the Pentagon and DC with its flared prongs flying into the sky, portraying honor on the ground for the sacrifices in the sky.
Navy Memorial often gets overlooked surrounded by more prominent sites on Pennsylvania Ave, but its worth a stop to admire its water encircled map of the world.
Pentagon September 11th Memorial is built at the site where the Pentagon was attacked on 9/11. Strategically organized benches for each 184 innocent lives lost are even more poignant at night. Note, there is no bus drop-off at the Memorial, so long walks are required to visit it.
Arlington National Cemetery (one full morning or most of an afternoon)
This is the final resting place of honor for over 300,000 military personnel who dutifully served our country. It is a place of honor for Two US presidents—John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft are buried here. The crew of the Challenger space shuttle, civil rights leader Medgar Evers and film star Audie Murphy are among the many honored here. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, containing remains of unidentified soldiers from World Wars I, II, and the Korean Conflict, is guarded 24 hours a day. The changing of the guard ceremony is a moving tribute to them. Arlington house, the home of Robert E. Lee until the outbreak of the Civil War, is located on the cemetery grounds.
Mount Vernon (one full morning or afternoon)
George Washington’s preserved home and plantation is an ideal tribute to the practical man who spent many years away from his beloved home in service to the country as commanding General and first President. Managing his estate was what he excelled at and preferred over the entanglements of power and politics. A tour of the house, grounds, historical interpreters and education center provide an intimate and hands-on look into Washington and his world of the late 1700’s. Nearby, the recreated Gristmill and Distillery can also be added to a Mount Vernon visit.
The Smithsonian Institution:
There are 20 museums and 9 research centers that make up the Smithsonian, but most groups find their interest and energy exhausted just by sticking to the big ones on the National Mall. A half day is barely adequate to see The Museum of American History, The Natural History Museum, and The Air and Space Museum, but if one is so inclined, they could also poke their head into the Museum of the American Indian, the Hirshhorn Museum of Modern Art, The Arts and Industries Building for temporary exhibits, The Smithsonian Castle, African Art Museum, International Gallery, and Sackler and Freer Galleries of Asian Art. If more time is allowed on the schedule, there are more museums located off the beaten path (not on the National Mall): American Art Museum / Portrait Gallery in Chinatown, the National Zoo in Rock Creek Park, the Renwick Gallery by the White House, or the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space museum located about one hour outside DC at Dulles Airport.
The White House (one hour)
A walk around the perimeter of the secure grounds of the most famous home in the world will afford up close views of the North Front and Lafayette Park on one side, and the South Portico, South Lawn and Ellipse on the other. To get inside is another story; that must be arranged by limited availability with your Representative or Senator. About a quarter of our groups get it. So good luck
Ford’s Theatre (one hour)
The site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination is both memorial to the man and working theater with rotating shows. Timed tickets permit entrance into the museum and into the theatre to see the balcony as it was decorated in 1865. Across the street, the same ticket permits entry into the Peterson House where Abraham Lincoln died.
National Archives (one hour):
Our nation’s safe house for preservation of important documents and records has on permanent display The Declaration of Independence, The US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Magna Carta. Long lines and security make this a hard one to time.
Holocaust Memorial Museum (1-2 hours)
Depending whether the group visits one of the smaller exhibits like Daniel’s Story or visits the Permanent Exhibit which requires reservations or tickets, this could a short or long visit, and it could be a tamed or graphic visit. Either way, it is an essential example of how knowing history helps us know how to make a better future.
Bureau of Engraving and Printing (1 hour)
An internal tour of the BEP allows visitors to see the process by which our paper currency is printed. The bullet proof glass enclosed platforms let you see and smell the money, but the only money you get to touch is that which is in your own pocket when you get to their gift shop (which sells you money for more than it’s worth). By reservation only for groups.
Newseum (2-3 hours)
This museum of news and media uses film footage, photography, and historic printed materials to show the importance of free press and free speech. But more than just a review of how great events are reported, the Newseum is very interactive. Visitors can experience the 4-D film, act the news anchor in front of green screens, and play computer challenges.
Pentagon (2 hours)
Tours of the headquarters of the Department of Defense and the world’s largest office building are by reservation only.
Law Enforcement Memorial (30 minutes)
This memorial is encircled by marble walls containing the names of officers who have died in the line of duty. Each mid-May is Law Enforcement week when the new names of the fallen are added.
National Gallery of Art: (1 hour)
For the more “sophisticated” travelers, the traditional West Building, modern East Building, and outdoor Sculpture Garden contain works by all the big names of European and American art. Located on the National Mall, it can be done in conjunction with the Smithsonians.
Museum of Crime and Punishment (1 hour)
Several interactive floors review the history of crime, detective work, and penalty. America’s Most Wanted is filmed in the basement.
The International Spy Museum (1 hour)
This museum covers the role and history of espionage, from the Revolution to the Cold War, and from Hollywood to DC.
There are many more memorials, museums, and statues to visit in DC, most of which probably won’t be specifically included in an itinerary, but as time and traffic permits, can be added as they are relatively brief stops that typically do not require reservations:
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Albert Einstein Memorial, Union Station, Japanese American Memorial, Canadian Embassy, US Botanical Gardens, National Building Museum, Old Post Office Pavilion, Freedom Plaza, Washington Navy Yard, George Mason Memorial, African-American Civil War Memorial, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Theodore Roosevelt Island and Memorial, Old Town Alexandria, George Washington Memorial Masonic Temple, Georgetown University, Constitution Gardens, Folger Shakespeare Library, DC’s World War I Memorial, National Harbor Maryland, National Geographic Society.
Jewish Interest Sites: There are a few site of Jewish interest we would recommend:
US National Holocaust Memorial: (Tickets required) The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) is the United States' official memorial to the Holocaust. Adjacent to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the USHMM provides for the documentation, study, and interpretation of Holocaust history. It is dedicated to helping leaders and citizens of the world confront hatred, prevent genocide, promote human dignity, and strengthen democracy. Using more than 900 artifacts, 70 video monitors, and four theaters showing historic film footage and eyewitness testimonies, the USHMM’s Permanent Exhibition is the most visited exhibit at the Museum. Upon entering large industrial elevators on the first floor, visitors are given identification cards, each of which tells the story of a random victim or survivor of the Holocaust. Upon exiting these elevators on the fourth floor, visitors walk through a chronological history of the Holocaust, starting with the Nazi rise to power, 1933-1939. Topics dealt with include Aryan ideology, Kristallnacht, Antisemitism, and the American response to Nazi Germany. Visitors continue walking to the third floor, where they learn about ghettos and the Final Solution. The PE ends on the second floor with the liberation of concentration camps by Allied forces and a continuously looped film of Holocaust survivor testimony. First-time visitors spend an average of two to three hours in this self-guided exhibition.
The National Museum of American Jewish Military History: The National Museum of American Jewish Military History, under the auspices of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA, documents and preserves the contributions of Jewish Americans to the peace and freedom of the United States, educates the public concerning the courage, heroism and sacrifices made by Jewish Americans who served in the armed forces, and works to combat anti-Semitism. (1 hour)
Israeli Embassy: By appointment only. Those interested in meeting with Israeli diplomatic personnel for a quick lecture about the Israeli diplomatic core and its mission and importance around the word may be arranged. (1 hour)
American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC): AIPAC is a 100,000-member grassroots movement of activists committed to ensuring Israel’s security and protecting American interests in the Middle East and around the world. AIPAC’s priority is to ensure that both America and Israel remain strong and that they collaborate closely together. We recommended having a representative join up for dinner for a quick lecture about AIPAC and its mission.
Alexandria Ghost Tour: Creep through the darkest night following the lantern light of your 18th century guide hearing stories of ghosts, spirits & legends of Alexandria. And you'll be abandoned in a graveyard!
Theatrical Performances: Enjoy a performance at Ford’s Theatre where Lincoln was assassinated, or in the Kennedy Center. Maybe catch a show in the round at the Arena Stage.
Sports Events in season: Catch a professional baseball game with the Washington Nationals or Baltimore Orioles.
Food & Kashrut
We pride ourselves on using meals of high caliber in food quality, kashrut and setting. Breakfasts and dinners are typically hot buffet-style at the hotel before departure and upon return. Lunches are usually more flexible and as they are boxed, allowing the guide and group leaders to choose the timing and location of lunches as the itinerary unfolds.
For more information regarding packing lists, preparations, academic goals, fundraising, hometown connections, teacher tips, and other logistics of group travel, please contact us.
Custom group dates are available year-round. Please contact us for more information and to request a quote.
Custom group dates are available year-round.
When to Go?
Crowded sites, long lines and sweltering humidity often prompt our groups to ask us, “When is the best time to go to DC?” While there is no set-in-stone “best” or “worst” time to go, there are trade-offs with every season.
The best balance of less crowds and agreeable weather would be the Fall (October – mid November with late October typically being the peak of fall foliage) but there’s a reason less groups come then. It’s early in the school year and it’s hard to work around sports schedules. If you’re able to do it, we highly recommend the fall.
Conversely, Spring is a more convenient time for school groups to come, and come they do. You can expect heavy school crowds from mid-March to mid-June. Early April is particularly crowded with Spring breakers and Cherry-Blossom gazers. Weather is particularly unpredictable in the spring; but you should expect at least one day of rain on your trip. The trees start blooming in late March, and the heat and humidity set in around late May. In May and June the various military bands do free concerts and demonstrations around the city. Consider coming Memorial Day weekend; while the city is crowded, it’s more from families and veterans than from school groups, so the city takes on a more ceremonial and reverent air, particularly at Arlington, but also in the parades and concerts.
Some groups try to beat the crowds in January and February when day temperatures linger between 30 and 50 degrees. Weather usually is not a big deterrent and most kids are excited if it does snow, and it’s nice to be able to waltz into many of the buildings without lines or reservations. The biggest drawback is the outdoor scenery: Many of the fountains in the memorials are not turned on until mid-March. The landscape is grayer with leaf-less trees and the daylight shorter (but conversely, some of our June groups are disappointed that they didn’t get to visit the memorials at night when it doesn’t get dark till 9:30).
So, weigh your own schedule with the pros and cons, pick your dates, but even then take nothing for granted. Prepare yourselves for the wonderful mystery of weather and the fluctuations of a living, security-conscious government that can both thrill and frustrate our best-laid plans.
Activities range from walking tours, museum visits, lectures, amusement parks, historical interprative centers and bus tours.
Our guides maintain a 24 hour presence with the group from the time you arrive till the time you leave, so in addition to being your educational expert, they will also be navigating you through the logistics of transportation, meals, and hotels. While each guide has their own style and strengths, they strive to be flexible to the group’s needs and maintain the difficult balances between reverence and fun, promptness and leisure, information and action, being decisive and being accommodating. Some sites only allow their resident guides or rangers to lead/talk to groups, but other than that our guides are available to instruct as much or as little as you desire.
There will be a guide for each motor coach, should the group size require more than one coach. We use only experienced drivers in newer model coaches that come with AC, DVD/TV, reclining seats, and restrooms. While the motor coaches will greatly cut down on the time and walking one would have to do using Metro or driving and parking their own vehicle, there are many restrictions on where coaches can drop, pick-up and park, and as many buildings and monuments are near each other, walking will still be a necessity and usually a pleasure.
Please contact us for more information and to request a quote. Pricing depends on final number of participants, itinerary, level of lodging and time of year of travel.
Lodging ranges from hotels to retreat. All depends on your budget of course. As much as possible, we use centrally located lodging to avoid lost time waiting in suburban traffic in the mornings. Privately hired night security is available upon request to monitor the floor or floors where the group is sleeping so the group leaders can sleep with more peace of mind that no one is disturbing the group, nor are they disturbing each other or leaving their rooms.