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National Archives - guided tour vs self-guided?

National Archives - guided tour vs self-guided?

Jun 4th, 2009, 07:17 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 301
National Archives - guided tour vs self-guided?

Hi again,

We are looking into visiting the National Archives on our upcoming September trip. Has anyone been on the guided tour? They only have one a day - at 9:45 - and we will be coming that day into the city on the metro from VA (Fort Belvoir). I am wondering if it is worth the hassle of rush-hour on the metro, etc, to make that tour, or if you all think it is fine to just do a self-tour at a later time. We are family of four with two kids ages 10 & 12. This would be on a Monday in late September. Also, if we get tickets for a self-guided tour later in the day, we will get in at that specific time, or still have to stand in a long line?

amamax2 is offline  
Jun 4th, 2009, 07:38 AM
Join Date: Aug 2004
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"if we get tickets for a self-guided tour later in the day, we will get in at that specific time, or still have to stand in a long line?"

If there is no line, which will probably be the case, you can just walk in. If you get there late, just walk up to the reservation side of getting and see what happens.

If you want to do the tour, do it. It's not like you will die from being on a crowded Metro train. Just stay to the right on the escalators if you are not walking.
vjpblovesitaly is offline  
Jun 4th, 2009, 08:23 AM
Join Date: Nov 2006
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Groups with reservations for guided tours (self-guided or the daily tour) enter through the special events entrance that is separate from the regular entrance, but as vjp says, there's not likely to be a line at the regular entrance on a Monday in late September.
fourfortravel is offline  
Jun 4th, 2009, 10:40 AM
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If you have reservations to go through the special admissions entrance, you will be allowed to enter right away and go to the front of the security line to enter the building. However, there is another line to enter the Rotunda to see the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, etc. You do not get to go to the head of this line. (Late last August when we visited, there was no line at the Rotunda when we arrived, but as we left the Rotunda, the line was quite long.)
Amamax, this probably won't be a problem for you in September, but I provide this info for those that may be visiting during busy tourist times.
Also, should you decide not to do the guided tour, I believe you can have an excellent visit on your own as we did.
longhorn55 is offline  
Jun 4th, 2009, 11:02 AM
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Thank you all for the replies, especially longhorn55 - those kind of details are very helpful.

vjpblovesitaly - I know we won't die from riding the Metro in rush hour. I was more wondering if the guided tour was really great, so worth getting up early (we will be coming from CA, so on a whole different time zone), taking the one-hour ride at a busy time, paying the extra money for the "regular" metro fare, etc etc. Sometimes a guided tour can be very boring, dry, rushed, mechanical, and you wish you were just wandering on your own. Other times it can be a much better experience, so worth extra effort to do. BTW, we love Italy too! Went two years ago and can't wait to go back.

Thanks again everyone!
amamax2 is offline  
Jun 4th, 2009, 11:36 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
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Don't know how long you will be there, but look into buying the multi-day pass for the Metro if you are there that long.

An agent helped us use those complex to choices automated station units for tickets etc. and the $22 is way, way worth it. (It may be more $ now, but was good for all 5 days we were there.) That differential for rush hour etc. is miniscule and sometimes does not exist with the $22 or multi-day choice. I thought it would too. We never paid extra once, and went rush hour and also past Arlington too. We used Metro about 3 to 8 times a day. Still only $22 for the entire time for each of us.
JJ5 is offline  
Jun 4th, 2009, 11:56 AM
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For myself only, I'd save those early mornings for the most crowded museums (Smithsonian, Wash. Monument, etc.)
TDudette is offline  
Jun 4th, 2009, 12:20 PM
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I don't think you need a guide through the Archives. Mostly people want to be able to look at the Rotunda documents and read each word with the attention they deserve. Somebody mentioned the Washington Monument. If you decide to visit, you can get free timed tickets through phone or online with just a modest service fee:
If you wish to reserve tickets in advance, you may do so by visiting the National Park Service ticket website at http://www.recreation.gov, or by calling 1.877.444.6777 for individual tickets or 1.877.559.6777 for group reservations. There is a $1.50 fee per ticket to reserve tickets ahead of time. These tickets may be picked up at the “will call” window of the Washington Monument Lodge on the day of your tour.
The line for the MOnument sometimes takes forever because so few people can enter the elevator and they limit the people at the top. This along with National Printing and Engraving are the two sites I think that require reservations. Have good time!
gladtotravel is offline  
Jun 4th, 2009, 01:29 PM
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We were there at the end of Feb. and never had a reservation and walked right into everything. Archives was nearly the emptiest. And I also think you do not need a guided tour there at all.

The Washington Momument will call window man told us that the very first hour of the day is usually the booked one, off season or not. In high season, most of the day is pre-booked. If it was I, that would be the one I would make reservations at THERE and walk around to see some of the others in the meantime. (In Sept. I think you can chance that.) We had 11am tickets and they took us at 10am because it was not summer and high time. It was not necessary to make any arrangements ahead at all when we went. September has kids in school but it still may be quite tourist heavy.
JJ5 is offline  
Jun 4th, 2009, 05:34 PM
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Thank you all for the advice!

We will be staying in the city for a few days before we head to our friends' house in VA, so plan on hitting some of the Musuems and monuments then. It won't be so hard to get up early when we are close to things! Our friends moved there just a year ago, and haven't seen nearly all there is to see, so we will come into the city twice from Fort Belvoir with them.

It is good to hear they we *hopefully* won't have problems getting in places, and I will definitely look into the metro passes. Sounds like the Washington Monument may be the one I should book instead!

Is the elevator ride claustrophobic? I know my husband and kids would love the experience, but me not so much, lol.

Thanks again everyone.
amamax2 is offline  
Jun 5th, 2009, 03:23 AM
Join Date: Feb 2008
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Don't know how bad you feel in elevators, but the elevator will probably be full, but you do pass as you go up and down the exposed walls with info about the Monument which might distract you. I'm not sure how long the ride is -- been awhile -- but I would guess a minute to 90 seconds. The top floor from where you look out windows is somewhat limited for space and anytime I've been up was busy with people moving from one window to another to get various views of the city.

A couple of blocks away is the Hotel Washington which has an outside restaurant overlooking the top of the White House and various views of the city. You can watch the snipers (truly) patrolling the White House roof. Might be an alternative if you really don't like enclosed spaces.
gladtotravel is offline  
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