Political – Capitol Hill & Library of Congress Walking Tour
This tour brings your group to the top of “the Hill.” Visiting the seat of America’s legislative and judicial branches it allows your students to not only explore these beautiful buildings, but the meaning behind them, gaining an understanding of the American political system and how it came to be. Your guide will take you inside what many consider the most beautiful building in the city for a Library of Congress tour and provide your group with tickets to further explore the Capitol building after your tour.
Lincoln Assassination Walking Tour
It was a night that changed the history of a nation forever. Journey back in time with your guide to learn about the three-pronged attack designed to decapitate the U.S. Government. Shrouded in mystery, intrigue and conspiracy, the assassination of the 16th U.S. president has fascinated Americans and foreigners for nearly 150 years. On this tour you’ll understand the characters, walk the streets, and see the buildings where this great drama played out in the Lincoln Assassination. From The White House, home to the president, your students will follow in his footsteps past the site of the attack on Secretary of State William Seward, the National Theatre where Tad Lincoln learned of his father’s death, the home of Vice President Andrew Johnson, ending outside of Ford's Theatre and Peterson's Boarding House. Entries to buildings are not included in this tour but can be arranged separately, subject to availability.
The United States Capitol is a monument, a working office building, and one of the most recognisable symbols of representative democracy in the world. The world-famous domed building is home to the House and Senate and it’s where America’s congressmen and congresswomen conduct business, debate laws and pass bills on behalf of the American people. The Capitol also houses an important collection of American art, and it is an architectural achievement in its own right. Construction of the U.S. Capitol began in 1793. In November 1800, the U.S. Congress met in the first completed portion, the north wing. In the 1850’s, major extensions to the North and South ends of the Capitol were authorised because of the great westward expansion of our nation and the resultant growth of Congress. Since that time, the U.S. Capitol and its stately dome have become international symbols of our representative democracy. The U.S. Capitol Visitor Centre is the newest addition to this historic complex. At nearly 580,000 square feet, the Visitor Centre is the largest project in the Capitol's more than two hundred year history and is approximately three quarters the size of the Capitol itself. The entire facility is located underground on the east side of the Capitol so as not to detract from the appearance of the Capitol and the grounds were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1874. To tour the historical areas of the Capitol beyond the Capitol Visitor Centre, you must participate in a guided tour. A tour starts at one of the orientation theatre with a 13-minute film, "Out of Many, One," which will take you on a journey through our country's struggle to establish the world's first truly representative democracy and introduce you to the magnificent building that houses our Congress. Once inside the historic Capitol, you will see the Crypt, the Rotunda, and National Statuary Hall before returning to the visitors centre.
Lincoln Memorial & Reflecting Pool
Towering over the Reflecting Pool this majestic memorial is a shrine to Abraham Lincoln - 190 feet long and 119 feet wide it reaches a height of just under 100 feet. Its design inspired by ancient Greek temples consists of 36 marble columns, each representing one state in the U.S. at the date of President Lincoln’s death. As you climb the steps into the interior you will see a memorable quote above the 19-foot tall, 175-ton statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln overlooking the Mall of the country that he fought so hard to preserve and unite. The quote reads "In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever." To the left of the statue is Lincoln’s great speech, the Gettysburg Address, perhaps the most famous in U.S. history. Every single word of the Address is etched into the wall to inspire Americans just as it did so in 1863. To the right is the entire Second Inaugural Address, given in March of 1865 and mere months before Lincoln’s death. With a clear sky the view from the steps at sunset is impressive, in particular with the Washington Monument in the distance. As you descend you’ll reach the Reflecting Pool, a permanent part of the backdrop for inaugurations, demonstrations, rallies, and marches, including the 1963 March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at which he delivered his famed 'I Have a Dream' speech. The Reflecting Pool also appears in the film Forrest Gump during his speech before an anti-war demonstration.
Other Visits and Attractions in Washington
The National Museum of African American History and Culture
Established in 2003 by an Act of Congress, The National Museum of African American History and Culture became the 19th Smithsonian Institution museum. It is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, art, history, and culture. The building has five floors above ground and three floors below with an exterior inspired by crowns used in West African art. It houses 11 exhibitions covering a variety of topics from history and culture to community, music and the arts. The exhibitions include:-
- Slavery & Freedom - as the centrepiece of the museum, this exhibition explores the complex story of slavery and freedom.
- Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: Era of Segregation 1876-1968 - this exhibition takes visitors from the end of Reconstruction through the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
- A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond - the impact of African Americans on life in the United States—social, economic, political, and cultural—from the death of Martin Luther King Jr. to the second election of President Barack Obama.
- Making a Way Out of No Way - learn about the ways in which African Americans created possibilities in a world that denied them opportunities.
- Sports: Levelling the Playing Field - learn how African Americans have contributed to sports in America and how sports have helped people respond to injustice.
Not only the world’s largest museum complex, the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, galleries and the National Zoo are dedicated to public education, research, national service, and scholarship in art, design, science, technology, history, and culture. It’s National Air and Space Museum is one of the most popular in the world, and the new National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) opened in September 2016.
The National Archives
The National Archives in downtown Washington is home to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, plus one of four copies of the Magna Carta. These and other historical documents help tell the stories of America's history as a nation and as a people.
White House Visitors Centre
Since John Adams first took residence in 1800, every president since has called The White House and its surrounding grounds his place of work, rest, and solitude. Recognisable around the world, the White House stands as a symbol of democracy. Its park grounds serve not only as the seat of the executive branch of government of the United States of America, but also as an iconic place for civil discourse.
A tour of The White House is normally arranged via the British Embassy in Washington however, until further notice access for foreign nationals to White House tours as part of an Embassy-sponsored public tour group is on hold. Even when tours do become possible, availability is limited, and tours can be subject to last minute cancellation. Instead we recommend you visit the White House Visitor Centre which offers a window into the president's iconic home. Your students can explore an interactive touchscreen tour of the White House, view over 90 artefacts from the White House collection and view the 14 minute film, "White House: Reflections From Within."
Ford's Theatre is a historic theatre in Washington, D.C., used for various stage performances beginning in the 1860s. It also claims one of the great crime stories of all time. On April 14, 1865, in full view of a theatre audience packed to the walls and celebrating the impending end of a brutal war, the President of the United States was assassinated. The murderer was not only seen by all, he was instantly recognizable to most - and he got away. There are a variety of visit options available but we recommend the Historic Site Visit.
International Spy Museum
Enter the shadow-world of spying where all is not what it seems, and your students will discover a new way of thinking about the world in which they live. The International Spy Museum is committed to educating students and educators about espionage in an engaging way and to providing a context that fosters understanding of its important role in and impact on current and historic events. The Museum provides unique resources for educators and students that are both inter- and multi-disciplinary.