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How to Pick the Best Washington DC Tours August 12, 2018

Washington, DC tours come in all shapes and sizes. There are no universal best Washington, DC tours but there are the best tours for you. We broke down different tour options to help you make the best and most informed choice for your visit.

Private vs. Public Washington, DC Tours

The first way to break down Washington, DC tours is to split them into private tours and public/group tours.

Private Tours

A private tour is typically your group and your tour guide. These tours are best for visitors who want a personalized experience and 100% of their guide’s attention. It’s also a great option for larger families or groups. In some circumstances it might be more cost-effective to book a private tour than to buy everyone in the group individual tickets.

Many of the Trip Hacks DC tours that we run are private tours. And even if it’s not specifically advertised as such, most tour companies are happy to turn any of their tours into a private tour. Contact them directly for details.

Public/Group Tours

A public tour (sometimes called a group tour) is one where you buy a ticket for everyone in your group and then you share the tour guide with other travelers. These tours are usually best for people who are looking for the most cost-effective option. It is also a great choice for folks who want to meet new people during their travels.

Our Monumental Trivia tour is a public tour. For a solo traveler or a couple, booking a public tour is more cost effective but it means that you won’t have your guide’s undivided attention.

Free Tours

A subset of public tours are free tours (sometimes called “pay what you wish” or “name your own price” tours). Despite having “free” in the name, the expectation is that everyone on the tour will pay or generously tip their guide. These tours are best if you want maximum flexibility as they often don’t require any advance signup. The big downside is that without advance signup there is no way to limit the number of people on the tour and group sizes get very large.

Types of Washington, DC Tours

Once you’ve sorted out whether you prefer a private or public tour, the next decision is how you want to get around to see the sights.

Walking Tours

Walking tours are simple. You show up and walk around with your guide to see the sights. They’re great for visitors of all ages. Many walking tours follow accessible routes so they can accommodate kids in strollers or visitors in wheelchairs.

The other beauty of walking tours is that because there is no vehicle to worry about your guide can focus on delivering a great tour and showing you all the details up close. On our monuments tours the guide goes inside all of the monuments with our visitors. This simply would not be possible if they had to stay behind witch a vehicle.

Bus Tours

Bus tours come in a few varieties. “Hop on hop off” bus tours (typically run during the day) take visitors from place to place and the guide stays on the bus to tell them about the sights during transit. These give you the opportunity to explore at your own pace. Fixed schedule bus tours (typically run during the evening) are on a schedule and the guide will often get off of the bus to show visitors the sights up close.

Boat Tours

Boat tours give you a chance to see the sights from the water. Until recently, duck boat tours took visitors on both land and water; however, their future is uncertain. Boat tours are nice because they offer a different perspective than you get on other types of tours. The disadvantage is that not all sights are visible from the water, or the view is not the best. For example, the Lincoln Memorial is visible from the Potomac River but only the back of the temple. To see Lincoln’s statue you have to visit on foot.

Bike Tours

Bikes are fun! Riding from sight to sight is an efficient way to get around. The big disadvantage to bike tours is that the guide is responsible for not just leading the tour, but keeping all of the riders and the bicycles safe. He or she will typically give you information about a sight from a distance, then send the group over on foot to see it up close. Bike tours are family friendly. Kids who are’t quite old enough for their own bike can usually tag along on the back of their parent’s bike.

Segway Tours

Segways were supposed to revolutionize how we get around. Instead they only seem to be used in airports and for tourism. Segway tours are ideal for people who want the novelty of riding a Segway. These tours are not family friendly as Washington, DC law requires all riders be at least 16 years or older. Segway tours also are not necessarily less physically demanding than other types of tours, as anyone who has ever purchased a “standing room only” ticket to a game or concert can appreciate.

Golf cart, scooter, skateboard and other tours

Every year new tours pop up to take advantage of a new or hip technology. Be careful with these tours as the often rely on the gimmick of the transportation device to lure customers in rather than the quality of the tour itself. Make sure to read reviews and research first.

Guide to Washington DC Metro for Beginners July 15, 2018

If you’re traveling to Washington, DC and feeling a little unsure about using public transportation, don’t worry! The fact that you are here is a great first step. We pulled together some important tips to help explain DC Metro for beginners.

What is the DC Metro?

The DC Metro usually refers to the MetroRail system (to distinguish it from the MetroBus system). MetroRail is the third busiest system in the country, after the New York City Subway and Chicago El. Downtown, DC Metro is an underground subway. However, outside of downtown there are also above-ground sections.

How do you know where to get on and get off?

When a business provides Metro directions, they will ask you to ride to a certain station and then provide walking directions from there. For example, if you want to visit the White House, the DC Metro directions would ask you to ride the orange, blue or silver line to the McPherson Square station and then walk two blocks to the south.

When navigating the Metro, the system map is your best friend. Click here to view and then download a Metro map on your phone. That way, you will have access to the map no matter where you are or how strong your cell signal is.

A helpful app for navigating the city is CityMapper. With this app you can enter your destination and it will find where you are and give you step-by-step directions to get to your destination. It will tell you how to walk to the closest Metro station, which line to ride, whether to transfer, if necessary. And lastly, it will tell you how to walk from the destination Metro station to your final destination. 

How do you pay for the DC Metro?

When it comes to DC Metro for beginners, paying is often the most confusing part of the experience. There is only one way to pay for Metro rides: a SmarTrip card. Everyone in your group needs their own SmarTrip card. There is no sharing allowed.

You can buy a SmarTrip card at any DC Metro station. Look for one of the blue and orange fare machines. Go up to the machine and select either “purchase single card” if you’re traveling by yourself or “purchase multiple cards” if you’re in a group. The physical cards cost $2.00 and then you add value to the cards beyond that. For a typical visitor, you should push the “purchase value” button. This will add the default $8.00 value to start. You can pay with cash, credit or debit card.

The most confusing part of this process is when the machine asks if you want to buy a pass. For most visitors, passes aren’t worth it. It’s simpler and easier just to add value to your card and it deducts from your balance as you ride.

Time to ride!

Once you have your SmarTrip you are ready to go. Walk up to the fare gate and find the target on your right side. Tap your SmarTrip card against it. The gate will open and can go through. It is important to remember that you tap, not swipe. This is a mistake beginners tend to make. All you need to do is physically touch your card right on the target. When you get to your destination station you will do the same thing to exit.

Now that you’ve got the basics down check out our 10 Dos and Dont’s for riding on Metro.

Coming to Washington DC, and want us to show you around?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today! Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

Where to Eat Near Nationals Park June 24, 2018

If you’re attending a baseball game or other event at Nationals Park, get to the neighborhood early and check out some of the local restaurants. These are some of our favorite places to eat near Nationals Park.

Bluejacket

If you are a craft beer lover, then a trip to Bluejacket is virtually mandatory.  Bluejacket is a very cool urban brewery, where beers are brewed on-site and you can taste about 20 of them on tap at any given time. They always have a few cask ales as well. The beers rotate seasonally. So, if you come here at the beginning of the baseball season, you will be able to try different beers than when you come at the end of the season. There is also a really nice outdoor patio. On a game day. you can smell the sausages and burgers cooking on the grill from blocks away.

Bonchon

Bonchon is a Korean style fried chicken restaurant. With all of their chicken dishes you get to choose spicy, soy garlic, or half-and-half. In addition to wings they’ve got chicken strips, chicken drumsticks, and a full menu of Korean dishes that don’t even have much to do with chicken. On game days, the kitchen stays open late, which is usually plenty of time for a post-game snack.

The Brig

This is actually the farthest walk from the ballpark, but it’s worth it. The Brig calls itself DC’s “secret beer garden” because it is the neighborhood’s best-kept secret. It’s located a block north of the 8th Street gate of the Washington Navy Yard. They rotate about 20 beers on tap with a mix of German and American breweries, including some local options DC. If you have kids with you, it’s worth noting that they do advertise being family-friendly.

Big Stick

Of all the places to eat near Nationals Park, Big Stick is the true baseball bar. When you walk in the door you’ll see their logo of Teddy Roosevelt swinging a sausage like a baseball bat. Their signature dish is, of course, sausage. There is plenty of Washington Nationals memorabilia on the walls. In the back corner is an F.P. Santangelo Montreal Expos jersey, which is relevant because he’s currently the color commentator for the Nationals. This can sometimes be seen at places like the Big Stick. So while it is pretty rare to see an actual player out in the neighborhood, it is not that uncommon to see coaches, announcers or other staff at a place. 

Due South Dockside and Nicoletta

These aren’t full service restaurants but rather boardwalk spots near the Anacostia River. They are located right under the Yards Park Bridge. Yards Park is a cool place to hang out, and these are great additions.

Note: the video refers to Piccolo which has since re-branded as Nicoletta.

Justin’s Cafe

Justin’s cafe is mentioned in the video but unfortunately it closed in October 2018.

Coming to Washington DC, and want to take a tour with us?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today! Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

Where to Eat Near the National Mall June 17, 2018

There are no shortage of great places to eat in Washington, DC. However, most of them are not located near the major sites on the National Mall.  Historically, the National Mall has been a bit of a restaurant desert. However, there are a few diamonds in the rough. These are five of our favorite places to eat near the National Mall.

1. Mitsitam Cafe at the National Museum of the American Indian

The National Museum of the American Indian is a cultural museum. This is an important distinction from many of the history museums that are located nearby. They want to immerse you in the culture of the various American Indian tribes which includes giving you a taste of their food. The Mitsitam Cafe is split up into four stations representing different cuisines from tribes all over North, Central, and South America. Mix and match your bison chili with some of the best salsas you’ve ever tried.

2. Sweet Home Cafe at the National Museum of African American History and Culture

The Sweet Home Cafe is in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Check the museum website to see if you need a free timed entry pass on the date you plan to visit. 

This is an amazing museum that is worth visiting both for the exhibits and the food. Sweet Home Cafe showcases the rich culinary history of African American people at four different tasting stations. Agricultural South has things such as Virginia ham, corn and peaches. Creole Coast has things like gulf shrimp and grits. At North States, you can get things such as a New York City oyster pan roast. At the Western Range, you can get things such as a stuffed rainbow trout.

3. The Cafeteria at the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Now, a cafeteria in a government office building is not exactly what most people may think of when they think good food. But, as far as places to eat near the National Mall, the USDA is one of the best gems.

However, the biggest downside is that since it is in an office building, it is not open on weekends or holidays. At this cafeteria, you will find hot and cold foods, a salad bar, whole fruit and some themed stations such as the Asian station and other rotating themes. Check out our blog post with detailed information about how to eat here.

4. Food Trucks

Food trucks on the National Mall usually line up on 14th Street near the Washington Monument and 7th Street near the museums. The best thing about eating a food trucks is that there’s usually a pretty good variety. So, everybody in your family or group can usually find something that makes them happy.

The quality of food trucks can be a bit hard to judge. As a general rule, the best food trucks in DC are not the ones where you eat near the National Mall. A tip is to simply look at the food that people are buying from the trucks and judge for yourself to decide if you would like it. You can also Google the name of a food truck or look them up on Yelp. The best food trucks have a solid social media following.

5. The Sculpture Garden Pavilion Cafe

You probably shouldn’t come here expecting anything fancy. On a nice summer day, you can sit outside and catch a nice breeze coming off of the big fountain. In the winter, you can sit and watch people ice-skating on the rink. On Friday nights during the summer, they have Jazz in the Garden, which is an extremely popular and fun thing to do, The other nice thing about the Pavilion Cafe is that it’s not inside of a museum so you don’t have to worry about standing in line or going through security.

Coming to Washington DC, and want us to take you on tour?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today! Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

How to Ride DC Circulator and Metrobus June 10, 2018

Most visitors to Washington DC will use Metro at least a few times to get around. However, not a lot of people will ever set foot on a bus. This is too bad! The bus is often a superior way of getting around. Learning how to ride DC Circulator will help visitors easily get to popular destinations like the National Mall and Georgetown. 

Find your DC Ciculator or Metrobus stop

Use an app on your phone such as Google Maps or Citymapper. It will help you figure out exactly which DC Circulator or Metrobus route to use, where the closest stop is located, and how to navigate to that stop.

Look for the signs! Circulator bus stops have a big red Circulator logo on them. Metrobus stops are a little more subtle. They will show you the name of the bus route on the sign.

Pay your fare

When your bus arrives at the stop, enter through the front door. Make sure you’ve waited until anyone exiting the bus had already gotten off. The best way to pay for both DC Ciculator and Metrobus is using a SmarTrip card. You might already have one if you’ve ridden Metro. But if you don’t have a SmarTrip, don’t worry, buses also accept cash. However, make sure you have the exact fare because bus drivers don’t make change.

Enjoy your ride

Sit back and enjoy your ride. Both DC Circulator and Metrobus have air conditioning which helps cool you down on a hot day. Some Circulator buses even have USB charging ports in case your smartphone needs a charge!

When you are ready to get off the bus, press one of the yellow strips or pull the cord to let the driver know you have reached your stop. You do not need to tap out with your SmarTrip at the end of a bus ride. All you have to do is wait for the door to open and exit.

Coming to Washington DC, and want us to show you around?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today! Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

USDA Cafeteria: Great Lunch Spot Near the National Mall June 3, 2018

The National Mall is not known for gourmet dining. But there are some great options if you know where to look! The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Cafeteria is one of those spots. Plus unlike many federal government cafeterias, this one is open to the public.

USDA Cafeteria Location

The USDA has two buildings at their headquarters in Washington, DC. One building is on the north side of Independence Avenue. One is on the south side of Independence Avenue. For lunch, you will need to go into the south building.

For visitors, there is only one entrance on Independence Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets SW. Look for a sign that says “Visitors and USDA employees without ID entrance only”. If you do not see that sign, you are not in the right place. Once you open the door, there is a security check and a metal detector right inside. So, do not plan on bringing anything into this building that you would not bring into any other Federal building.

USDA Cafeteria Hours

The USDA cafeteria is open Monday-Friday from 6:30 am -3:30 pm. However, lunch ends at 3:00 pm. It is closed on weekends and holidays. So, you can come either for breakfast, if you’re an early bird and want to get a jump on the day. Or during lunch, while you’re out exploring the sites.

A bonus trip hack is to take advantage of the USDA happy hour from 2:30 pm -3:00 pm. During this half hour most items are 30%. It is a great way to save money, if you do not mind a late lunch. Just be aware that during the busy spring and summer season some stations can be pretty picked over.

What Foods to Expect

You will find food stations including hot foods, cold foods, salad bar, a deli, a sushi station, and many more.  The food at the center station is sold by the pound. The prices are reasonable. Not cheap but less expensive than similar per pound options like Whole Foods. There is also a sushi station with a sushi chef, and a few other stations where you can get food made to order.

Coming to Washington DC, and interested in a tour after lunch?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today! Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

9 Important Things to Know When Traveling to DC May 20, 2018

Washington, DC is a great vacation destination. In anticipation for your trip, we compiled nine important things you should know before traveling to DC.

1. Walk left, stand right

When riding the Metro, you should always walk on the left and stand on the right side of any escalator. Never stand on the left side of a Metro escalator. Nothing infuriates makes locals more than tourists who come to town and do not know about this rule. If you’re a Metro rookie, check out our Metro beginners guide to start learning.

2. Stay downtown when traveling to DC

With over a hundred hotels in Washington DC and hundreds more in the suburbs, there is an almost overwhelming number of accommodations choices. The question “where is the best place to stay” is an important one. The answer for general sightseeing is downtown. Most visitors will find the area around the White House the ideal location. That area puts you in walking distance of the National Mall, the museums and Metro for getting around. That said, we have a hotel guide with eleven perfectly nice areas for visitors to stay.

3. Pack correctly

Washington DC has four seasons so depending on when you come you want to make sure that you’re prepared. Regardless of the time of year, the number one essential thing that needs to be in your suitcase is a comfortable pair of walking shoes. Whether you are walking around outside around the city or inside around the museums you’re going to be doing a lot of walking. Check out our blog post for more details about what to pack.

4. Plan ahead, but don’t overdo it

When you are traveling to DC there are some things that require advance planning. If you want to visit the White House, you need to put in a request to your member of Congress as soon as possible. During peak season in the spring and summer, it is also a good idea to make a reservation for a Capitol tour in advance.

Things that require tickets, such as a concert at the Kennedy Center or a sports game are good to think about in advance. On the other hand, it is not advisable to plan your trip down to the minute. Some activities will take longer than you expect and sometimes you get here and discover something new that you want to be able to spend some time doing. If your itinerary is planned down to the minute it doesn’t give you any flexibility.

5. Choose your dates wisely

When it comes to saving money on a hotel, the dates that you are traveling to DC matters most. The reason is that big conferences and conventions drive hotel rates up. Believe it or not, weekends and dates around holidays are actually some of the cheapest times to visit. Conference organizers try to avoid scheduling on those dates.

6. See the monuments at night

There is no bad time to see the monuments and memorials. Trip Hacks DC runs tours at all times of day.

However, seeing the monuments in the evening does have benefits. During the hottest days of summer, seeing the monuments and memorials in the evening means that it’s a little cooler and you don’t have to battle the hot sun. Some of the monuments, such as the Lincoln Memorial and World War II Memorial are absolutely great to see at dusk or after dark.  

7. See museums that interest you

People who are traveling to DC always ask “what is the best museum”. There is no single answer to that question. However, the most popular museums are the Air and Space, Natural History and American History museums. But, you should not just go to a museum because it’s popular. You should pick museums because it interests you. Check out our museum tips blog post for more info.

8. Don’t over rely on Metro

There are a lot of ways of getting around these days. Metro is one of the most popular. Most tourists appreciate how it is relatively inexpensive and efficient Metro is for seeing the major sights. However, in a lot of cases, Metro is not the best option.

On the National Mall, the Metro does not get close to the sites, but the Circulator bus does. For short distance trips, Capital Bikeshare is a great way of getting around too. To make sure that you are not overly relying on Metro, use Google Maps or Citymapper. These apps will tell you all of your options from getting from point A to point B. In a lot of cases, it will show the Metro isn’t the best one.

9. Don’t stress about where to eat

For a lot of people, trying new restaurants is the best part about traveling. There are hundreds of great restaurants in DC and most visitors will only get to try a handful. For our best tips about where to eat check out our podcast episode on this topic.

Did you know we can show you around once you’re here?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today!Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

Washington DC Myths and Misconceptions May 13, 2018

If you’re planning a trip to the nation’s capital, you’ve probably come across a few of these Washington DC myths already! Read about five of the most common so that you can help avoid spreading misinformation!

1. There are no tall buildings because of the Washington Monument

This one is the king of Washington, DC myths. The Washington Monument is 555 feet tall. The tallest residential and office buildings are only about 200 feet tall. A building as tall as the Washington Monument would be about 50 stories. The reason that we don’t have any tall buildings in Washington DC is because of the Height of Buildings Act of 1910

This law came into existence because of The Cairo. The Cairo opened as a one hundred sixty four foot tall hotel in the 1890s. It was hugely controversial when it opened. The neighbors who lived nearby thought it was outrageous that this new “skyscraper” opened up near their houses. They went to Congress and demanded they pass a bill preventing any future tall buildings.

The law says most buildings in Washington DC cannot be taller than the width of the street that they are on plus 20 feet. So, if a building were to tip over, it couldn’t cross the street by more than 20 feet. Even though this law does prevent any building from being taller than the Washington Monument, the purpose of the bill had nothing to do with monuments at all.

2. Georgetown is named after King George II

Perhaps the most famous George in U.S. history is George Washington. But the area of DC known as Georgetown was founded in 1751 in the province of Maryland. This was more than 20 years before the American Revolution and almost forty years before George Washington selected the area to be the capital of our new country.

Since King George II was ruler of the British Empire at the time, including the American colonies, you will occasionally hear that the area is named for him. However, according to Dex Nilsson, author of The Names of Washington DC, Georgetown was actually named for neither of these Georges.

Georgetown was settled by Scots who fled to the American colonies to avoid wars in Scotland. Maryland allowed Scots to buy or condemn about 60 acres of land that were currently owned by two other men. These men were named George Gordon and George Beale. When they refused to sell their land, the community made a bargain with them. If they gave up their land then the area would get named after them.

3. No one is actually from DC

Washington DC has a bit of a reputation for being a transient city. A place where people come, work for a few years, and then leave and go back to where they came from. There are actually two different things to unpack with this Washington, DC myth.

Is it true that Washington DC is a city where people are always coming and going? It is certainly true that many people have moved to Washington DC from other places. Some people will stay temporarily and permanently. But that’s true of any big city. There are a few different ways of measuring this. However, studies have found that Washington DC has about the same rate of migration as other big American cities.

The second part of the myth is that no one in DC is actually from DC. This is just false. The reason that this is one of the more believable Washington, DC myths is because many people associate Washington DC with politicians. However, the reality is that the number of politicians and their staff is so small. This is a rounding error on the general population.

4. Rich people kept Metro out of Georgetown

This myth is that rich people in Georgetown prevented a Metro station from being built because they wanted to keep crime and riff raff out of the neighborhood. So when you come to DC and go to visit Georgetown, it’s a pain to get there. In the 1960s and 1970s when Metro was being planned and built, Georgetown was one of the highest-end neighborhoods in the city. Many of the area’s wealthiest residents chose to live here including John and Jackie Kennedy.

It is probably true that at the time that some Georgetown residents protested on these grounds and that’s why this became one of the most prominent Washington, DC myths. However, the reality is quite a bit different. In Zachary Schrag’s book the Great Society Subway, he writes that the reason there is no Georgetown metro station is because of geography and engineering. The center of Georgetown at Wisconsin and M Streets NW is the obvious spot for a Georgetown Metro station. But this spot is really close to the Potomac River.

A station in Georgetown would have either required an extremely deep station or a really steep tunnel to get down under the river. Now whether Georgetown residents could have actually stopped a metro station from being built is certainly debatable, but the reality is that it was never a serious consideration. 

5. The city changes when there is a new president

This one is similar to the myths of DC that no one is from DC. The reality is that a very tiny percentage of the total population works for a presidential administration. The idea is that when one president leaves office and when the next president starts his term, there is a huge influx of new people. This is a bit overblown. Even in the federal government almost all employees are civil servants. This means that they serve no matter who is in office. Things might feel quite a bit different on a national level but the local vibe is actually quite steady.

Coming to Washington DC, and want us to show you around?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today! Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

Interesting Facts about Five Embassies in DC May 6, 2018

There are around 175 embassies in Washington, DC. 50 of them are concentrated on Massachusetts Avenue NW, which is nicknamed “Embassy Row”. This street is historic because it’s where wealthy DC elite previously built big elaborate mansions. Before they were embassies in DC these were mostly private homes.

Unfortunately, the habit of building these big beautiful mansions came to an end in 1929. The great depression caused the owners of many homes to sell. The buyers that were there to scoop up these properties were mostly other countries.

Embassy of the United Kingdom

This is both the oldest and the largest of the embassies in DC. There are over 400 staff members who work in the British Embassy. The embassy is located just south of the Naval Observatory (the Vice President’s home) along Massachusetts Avenue NW.

The British Embassy is visible from the outside. Look for the statue of Winston Churchill doing his V for Victory symbol. He looks like he is about take a step across the street because he has one foot on British soil and one foot on American soil. Churchill was actually half British and half American.

Embassy of Canada

Canada has one of the only embassies in DC on Pennsylvania Avenue. In 1989, it was built on the site of an old car dealership. However, some countries were upset that Canada got prime real estate so close to the Capitol building. However, the justification was that they are our neighbors to the north.

As you’re walking down Pennsylvania Avenue, you’ll notice a ring of columns on the outside of the building. If you go up the stairs, stand in the very center of the ring and make a noise and you’ll hear a perfect echo of your voice. They also have an excellent Christmas tree around the holidays.

Embassy of Indonesia

This was the most expensive building when it was constructed over a hundred years ago. The Indonesian Embassy was originally built by an Irish immigrant named Thomas Walsh. The mansion is famous because of his daughter, Evelyn Walsh McLean. She was a rich DC socialite and was the last private owner of the Hope Diamond, the largest blue diamond in the world. You can see it today in the Museum of Natural History.

Embassy of Cuba

The Embassy of Cuba is on 16th Street NW. This is both one of the newest and one of the oldest embassies in DC. It was built in 1917. However, it closed in 1961 during the Cold War. The building was maintained by Switzerland from 1961 to 2015. In 2015, the U.S. reopened diplomatic relations with Cuba and the embassy opened once again.

The Embassy of Cuba was the subject of violence in 1979. A terrorist group attempted to bomb the Embassy of Cuba. Unfortunately, they read their maps wrong and instead damaged the Embassy of Lithuania. In addition to Lithuania, the embassies of Spain and Poland are nearby neighbors.

Turkish Ambassador’s Residence

The Turkish Ambassador’s Residence was built in 1915. Businessman Edward Everett built this beautiful Beaux-Arts style mansion to house he and his growing family. After he passed away, his five daughters decided to sell the house and split the profits.

Turkey purchased the building in 1936. The first ambassador to move in was Munir Ertegun. He had two sons who became enamored with jazz music. They would sneak out of the house late at night to go hear of Duke Ellington, Lena Horne and Louis Armstrong. They actually held the very first integrated concerts in the U.S. right inside the Turkish Embassy. Most impressively, these two sons went on to be the founders of Atlantic Records, one of the biggest record labels in the entire world.

Coming to Washington DC, and want us to show you around?

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Washington Nationals Baseball Tips & Hacks April 15, 2018

Planning on attending a Washington Nationals game? Here are some tips and hacks to help you get the most out of your Nationals Park experience.

1. Don’t drive

At a lot of Major League parks the transportation works the same: you drive, pay, park your car, and walk straight into the game. For Washington Nationals games there is parking nearby, but it’s limited. This means that prices are pretty high. For the closest lots $30 – $40 per car is pretty standard.

The way that most fans arrive at games is by Metro. The Navy Yard-Ballpark station is only one block north from the center field gate, so it’s very convenient. You can also bike. There is a huge Capital Bikeshare station nearby, and a bicycle valet if you have your own. If none of these options work you can always take a taxi, or an Uber or a Lyft. However, if you’re trying to cross downtown during rush hour, the traffic can be brutal. Make sure to factor that in so you don’t arrive late.

2. Bring your own food

One of the biggest complaints about attending Major League ball games is that the food is expensive. A lot of people do not know is that many MLB parks actually let you bring outside food. It is perfectly withing the rules, just usually not very well advertised. Nationals Park is one of them.

Check out the fast casual restaurants lining First Street SE. RASA is a local Indian restaurant; Roti has excellent Mediterranean dishes; and Chopt is great for those looking for a healthier option.

If you do pick a food that requires a fork, do no forget to grab the silverware! It is hard to find a plastic fork inside the ballpark. Also, while you are allowed to bring in your own food, you are not allowed to bring in drinks. The one exception is a plain, unopened bottle of water. If you try to bring any other type of drink, or a refillable water bottle, they are going to make you dump it before you come in.

3. Check out the Washington Nationals official happy hour

If you are the kind of person who likes to get to the park early for batting practice, then you can take advantage of the inside the park happy hour. This is offered only in one spot, the bar under the scoreboard in right field. In 2018 you can get a 16 ounce can of Bud or Bud Light for $5. The most important thing to know is that happy hour ends 35 minutes before the scheduled first pitch, so if it is a 7:05 start, you have to have your beer in hand by 6:30.

4. Sit in the shade

Washington, DC summers are brutally hot and humid. Generally speaking for a Washington Nationals day game, you want to sit in the shade, unless you are a fan of the heat. Don’t worry, we have a guide for Nationals Park to help you find the shaded seats.

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