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Art & Design

Discover the historic legacy of the US capital, Washington DC. Home to all three branches of the federal government and some of the most recognisable US landmarks - the giant domed Capitol building on 'the Hill', home to the Senate and the House of Representatives, the vast Library of Congress and the Supreme Court, and of course The White House itself, the residence of very U.S. president since John Adams in 1800.

Nearby the National Mall stretches over two miles and is America’s most visited national park, where the past, present and future come together. The monuments and memorials in this park honour American forefathers and heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country. From the “I Have a Dream” speech to the AIDS Quilt, the Mall is the national stage where movements and celebrations take place, where people gather to have their voices heard. As your students wander along the wide, pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined boulevards they can take in the history and scenery of this stretch of land nicknamed America’s front yard, which includes the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Gallery of Art and the National Archives. Across the Potomac River lie the Arlington National Cemetery and The Pentagon.

01 Tour Highlights

Architecture – Georgetown or National Mall Walking Tour

Choose from either a tour focussing on the architecture of Georgetown or along the National Mall, or both.

Georgetown’s shady lanes and cobblestone streets reflect another side of the Capital. It is Washington’s genteel, southern side where Presidents lived when they were just Congressmen and where the Founding Fathers laid out the plans for the city on a tavern bar top. This historic tour focuses on the houses and sites of a town that still invokes the image of refinement and class after 300 years. Over 250 years of growth and development means that your group will see Victorian to modern home’s, industrial centres turn to condos, and what it takes to retain modern amenities in a historic district.

Experience an insider’s look at the design of the District on and off the National Mall. Explore some of the District’s most prominent architectural marvels and best kept secrets, while hearing about the conflicts, controversies, and personalities involved in the design and construction of these iconic buildings. From Neoclassical to Brutalist, learn the stories behind the bricks and mortar.

Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution Museums Collectively called the Smithsonian Institution, the world-renowned museum and research complex consists of 19 museums and galleries in Washington, DC, (and its bigger sister facility, the Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia) as well as the National Zoo, all of which are dedicated to public education, research, national service, and scholarship in art, design, science, technology, history, and culture. From the origins of man at the Natural History Museum to the future of space travel at the Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian museums are a guide to the most fascinating aspects of our world. The museums contain nearly 140 million objects, works of art and specimens altogether. You and your students can take advantage of the fact that general admission is free at every location. Those of particular interest to students studying Art & Design include:-

    • African Art Museum
    • American Art Museum
    • National Portrait Gallery
    • Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden
    • Renwick Gallery
    • Freer Gallery
    • Sackler Gallery
    • Ripley Center International Gallery

Buildings and Memorials of particular interest for Art & Design Students:-

Capitol Building

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.

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the highest tribunal in the nation for all cases and controversies arising under the Constitution or the laws of the United States. The Court stands as the final arbiter of the law and guardian of constitutional liberties. Its charge, emblazoned over the doors of this building, is to ensure "Equal Justice Under Law."

The building, majestic in size and rich in ornamentation, serves as a home to the Court, and the manifest symbol of its importance as a coequal, independent branch of government. Architect Cass Gilbert designed the building in a classical Corinthian architectural style to create harmony with nearby congressional buildings. Its design details depict both American and legal themes and during a visit you can discover many of the building's sculptural elements. Highlights include the John Marshall Statue, portraits and busts of Justices, and two self-supporting marble spiral staircases.

The Supreme Court does not offer guided walking tours, instead visitors are encouraged to tour the building on their own which can include a short film, and court-related exhibitions. In addition to the Courtroom, portions of the First and Ground Floors are open to the public.

The Thomas Jeffereson Memorial

Frequently ranked by visitors as their favourite piece of architecture on the National Mall, the Jefferson Memorial serves as the site of many annual events and ceremonies including memorial exercises, an Easter sunrise service and the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The memorial, which stands as a symbol of liberty, was designed as a smaller version of the Roman Pantheon with marble steps and monumental ionic columns; its interior holds a bronze statue of Jefferson and the walls are inlaid with excerpts from his letters, speeches and the Declaration of Independence. As philosopher and statesman, Thomas Jefferson served in many capacities during his life: lawyer, politician, scientist, linguist, meteorologist, book collector, architect, farmer and diplomat. His two most famous posts were as the third U.S. President and the writer of the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. The memorial is meant to reflect his diverse and plentiful accomplishments.

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 Pentagon

The Pentagon is the home to the Department of Defence and is located in Arlington County, Virginia. There are approximately 23,000 military and civilian employees along with about 3,000 non-defence support personnel. This building is distinctive in its design; five sided, five stories above ground and two stories below building containing a large central courtyard and five concentric rings of offices. Uniquely it also has no lifts, and 284 bathrooms, as when it was being built the United States was still segregated by race; therefore, planners designed the building to have separate bathrooms for black and white employees.

The Pentagon can only be visited with a British Embassy-sponsored pre-booked tour. A tour is 60 minutes and covers approximately 1.5 miles inside the Pentagon. All tours will be exposed to the history and facts pertaining to the four branches of the military (Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force). Depending on the status of the building when you visit, you may have an opportunity to visit the indoor memorial placed near the September 11th crash-site, along with the September 11th Memorial Chapel. Also, the names of all the recipients of the Medal of Honor may be seen in the Hall of Heroes, as well as an up-close look at an actual Medal of Honor medallion. These are just a few of the many exhibits that may be seen on a tour.

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."

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.

02 Accommodation

Comfort Inn
We work with a range of Comfort Inn’s all located in Midtown Manhattan. Comfort Inn is a well known hotel chain with modern furnishings and a good standard of accommodation.

Capitol Skyline
Located in Downtown Washington, this is a very good standard of accommodation with great facilities.

Hotel Harrington
This is a large, traditional hotel with a basic level of facilities. Its superb location, close to Pennsylvania Avenue means its practically neighbours with the White House.

03 Further Informartion

Your Meals

As there are numerous places in Washington to choose from to grab breakfast, a snack for lunch, or a meal for dinner, it is easy to make your own arrangements. If however, you prefer, your Study Experiences Tours Specialist can pre-book evening meals for your group to enjoy at selected restaurants that offer good service and decent portions of quality food to suit students on a budget. Breakfast is available to pre-book at some of the hotels we use.

Your Group Size

Our prices are based on a minimum group size of 20 students.

Your Choice of Travel Dates

As our Washington trips are available throughout the year, during term time and also during half terms and holidays, you are able to select travel dates that suit you and your students.

Our most popular travel periods for student groups are during the February and October half terms and the Easter holidays. Therefore should you be planning on travelling during these periods, we recommend that you contact us to plan your tour as early as possible to ensure we still have availability for your preferred travel dates.

Your Educational Visits & Attractions

To ensure that you make the most of your trip to Washington your Tours Specialist is able to arrange a wide choice of educational visits, activities and dining options. Full details of everything you might wish to see and do are available in our Washington ‘Educational Visits and Attractions Guide’.

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