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Plan a School Trip to DC

Book a Guided Walking Tour

Planning a school trip to Washington, DC can be difficult, especially if you haven't been before - that's where we come in. Our guides spend almost as much time in the year leading school trips in DC as they do leading our popular "name-your-own-price" walking tours.

 

Let us help you plan your school trip to DC.


Contact us to book a school tour!


WASHINGTON DC SCHOOL PLANNING TIPS:

  • Hire tour guides for the important parts - National Mall, Arlington Cemetery, Capitol Hill.

There are some places that are just better with a local guide. Some of our most popular tours for school groups include:

Memorials & Monuments on the National Mall - Any combination, either on foot or stepping on your bus to give narration.  We can even help you arrange a coach/minibus/van. Let us know what you want to focus on, and we can work out the details with you.

Arlington National Cemetery - This tour covers history of the cemetery, the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns, and the final resting place of the Kennedy brothers, including, of course, President Kennedy. This tour and can be customized to your group.

Capitol Hill - We can guide you around the outside of the Capitol Hill complex, including a tour inside the Library of Congress and outside of the Supreme Court. We can also help you figure out the logistics to tour inside the Capitol, either through the Capitol Visitors' Center or through your own Congressional offices.  

 

 

Lincoln Assassination - A thrilling story-telling experience that starts at the White House and ends outside Ford's Theatre. We offer this tour at any time of day, but it is a very popular evening activity.

Ghosts of Georgetown - Our most popular evening tour for school groups looking for something fun but still educational! This tour is more about the scary and spooky history of DC's oldest and most charming neighborhood, deeply intertwined with this history of our nation.

  • Don't schedule too many things in a day.

We've been doing this for a long time now and can tell you: you will not see everything DC has to offer in a single trip, so don't even try! Instead, focus on the sites that are most important to both you and your students.  Your excitement for these places will be infectious for your students, so spend time at the places you enjoy and that make sense in terms of your students' knowledge base and interests. But know that you will inevitably run late. There will be security lines and traffic can be a nightmare at certain times of the day.  Build in downtime and some travel-time padding and don't feel bad about not seeing everything. Things take longer than you expect in DC, especially with large groups of students!

  • Book tickets (even free ones) as soon as possible!

Some museums and attractions require tickets and they get booked out early and fast.

If you aren't able to get tickets, or just don't want to bother trying, here are some alternatives:

      • Our Lincoln Assassination tour is a great alternative or compliment to going inside Ford's Theatre
      • While we cannot get you in the Capitol building without tickets, our Capitol Hill tour offers an informative and fun exploration of the American political system and sometimes, though no guarantees, we are able to get you on a Capitol tour if time allows.
      • There are no alternatives to the one of kind Holocaust Memorial Museum or National Museum of African American History and Culture, but we do have specialty theme tours to explore Black history of Washington DC, or women's history, or even a Civil Rights themed tour.
  • Try to come in the off-season.

March through early June are the most popular times for school groups, especially the end of May and first week of June. October is becoming another popular option in the last few years, largely because late spring can be so crowded. Granted, these times are popular because that is the best time in the school year to come, but if you can come at other times of the year, you'll be rewarded with a lot less crowding.

If you can't avoid coming at the same time as everyone else, here a few things to keep in mind:

      • Arlington Cemetery opens at 8am and will be very crowded until 1030am - but we're pros at guiding groups through the crowds.
      • George Washington's Mount Vernon opens early just for school groups.
      • Lincoln Memorial is very crowded after dinner - but our guides know how to plan a memorials tour to deal with this!

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SAMPLE ITINERARIES

We have led more than 10,000 students on school tours through DC over the past decade. Each group is different and each day is different in DC, so there are a lot of things to take into consideration when planning a school trip to our nation's capital city.

Here are some ideas of activities to pick and choose to plan your day:

 

Early Morning DC Activities for School Groups:

Most museums don't open until 10am, so if you want to get a head start on the day here are things that are open earlier.

 

Other Popular Attractions:

Here are a list of popular things to do on a DC field trip, with notes on what requires advanced reservations & tickets.

 

Evening Things To Do with School Groups in DC:

Evenings can be tough for school groups, as most museums close at 5pm, as do the federal buildings. Things to do at night with school groups can be tours or a fun night out. Popular suggestions are:

  • Nighttime tours
  • Memorials
  • National Portrait Gallery is always open until 7pm, but during summer months some other Smithsonian museums will have extended hours
  • International Spy Museum
  • Bowling (Pinstripes in Georgetown is a popular choice!)
  • Sporting Event (The 2019 World Champion Washington Nationals Baseball team is always a popular choice, but DC also has hockey, basketball, and soccer to check out)
  • Dinner/sightseeing Cruises on the Potomac

DAY 1

Morning: Arlington National Cemetery

Afternoon: Smithsonian Museums (lunch in museum cafes or food trucks)

Evening: Baseball Game (dinner at the stadium)

DAY 2

Morning: Capitol (tickets required), Supreme Court & Library of Congress (lunch at Capitol Visitor Center)

Afternoon: Holocaust Memorial Museum (tickets required March-October)

Evening: Memorials by Moonlight (dinner before at Vapiano Italian Restaurant)

DAY 3

Morning: Daytime Memorials

Afternoon: Lincoln Assassination Walking Tour & Ford's Theatre (lunch at EAT! @ National Place)

Evening: Ghost Tour (dinner at Pinstripes in Georgetown)

DAY 4

Morning: Old Town Alexandria Walking Tour (Lunch at Fish Market)

Afternoon: George Washington's Mount Vernon


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FAQS

Q. What is the minimum / maximum group size you tour with?

Minimum is 1. Maximum depends on the tour, but most tours can be arranged with one guide per coach (Ghosts of Georgetown tours are limited to smaller groups due to the narrow streets and residential nature of the neighborhood). We can run tours with multiple guides at the same time if you have a large group to break up. Though we recommend staggering or letting each bus do a different itinerary to avoid overcrowding.

Q. Can you get on our bus?

Yes! As long as you have a seat for the guide (this is mandated by law), we can hop on your bus to use it for the tour. Our guides know how to get around the city, where coaches can load and unload, and the best way to route stops to help avoid traffic.

Q. Can you arrange tickets for us?

Depends. We DO NOT arrange tickets to any attractions in the Spring (March- early June). At other times of the year, we can assist with Capitol building tickets if you're booking our Capitol Hill tour and Ford's Theatre tickets if you're booking our Lincoln Assassination tour. We DO NOT arrange tickets to any other attractions and we DO NOT arrange tickets if you aren't booking the corresponding tour.

Q. Can you arrange meals for us?

We do not arrange meals, but you can read our Popular Restaurants section below

Q. Can you arrange accommodation for us?

We cannot.

Q. Can you arrange transportation for us?

We can assist with booking a coach for touring purposes only. We cannot arrange transportation for times you are not booking a tour, but if you do book a tour with us, we can always offer advice for other times.

Q: How do I book a school tour in DC?

Send us an email! Let us know when you're visiting, how many people, and what tours you're interested and what times work best for you and we'll offer you availability and rates. Rates vary based on group size (large or small, we do not charge per person), and what tour(s) you're interested in.


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POPULAR RESTAURANTS FOR SCHOOL GROUPS

DC School Trip at Ben's Chili Bowl

Food Courts:

  • EAT! At National Place
  • Pentagon City Mall
  • Ballston Commons
  • Union Station (this is technically an option, but we do not recommend it due to location, bus parking issues, and facility conditions)
  • Reagan International Trade Center Food Court (must pass through security to access)

Restaurants for groups:

  • Ben's Chili Bowl on U St NW (*The* DC eating spot, famous for celebrity sightings and their "half-smoke" hot dogs)
  • Harriet's at Hotel Harrington (American, near Ford's Theatre)
  • Hard Rock Cafe (next to Ford's Theater)
  • Good Stuff Eatery (burgers) and We the Pizza (multiple locations)
  • Bertucci's (Pizza, multiple locations)
  • Buca di Beppo (family-style Italian, Dupont Circle)
  • Carmine's (family-style Italian, Chinatown)
  • Vapiano (great pasta/pizza buffet, multiple locations)
  • Pinstripes (American in Georgetown, can be paired with bowling)
  • On good weather days, foods trucks are a unique options - weekdays they can be found on Maryland Ave SW by Air and Space Museum and Farragut Square. You an also often find them on the National Mall.

Museums/Attractions with Restaurants:

  • American History
  • Natural History
  • African American History & Culture
  • National Gallery of Art
  • Capitol Visitor Center

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EAST COAST TRIPS: PHILLY, NYC, OR BOSTON?

Did you know that our company has the same high caliber guides in Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston? (many other cities as well but these three options are popular for school trips).

Contact our city managers in these cities to inquire about tours for school groups.

About The Author

Canden Arciniega

Canden is a historian and tour guide in Washington DC with 4 published books about the city. She has written for HuffPost Travel and has been featured in the Washington Post, WTOP, and numerous other DC papers. She's also been interviewed by the BBC, NPR, Travel Channel and Discovery Family Channel. Canden is the producer of our podcast, Tour Guide Tell All With a M.A. in History from University College London and a B.A. in History from Elon University, she is an authority on D.C. history, and has led tours in the city for over 10 years. She currently resides in DC, but has also lived in London and South Korea, and has travelled to 28 countries. Her two children (both under the age of 4) have their passports and own frequent flier accounts.
Updated: February 20th, 2020
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