Washington DC Capital Tour

Jul 10th, 2007, 05:15 PM
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Washington DC Capital Tour

We just received confirmation through our congressman's office that we have a 9:30 am tour on a Monday in August (I know it will be warm!)and a 4:15 tour for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. I thought I would order tickets for the Spy Museum for the time in between, but wanted to see if anyone knew how long a typical Capital tours takes. Thanks for the assistance!
PAMom1 is offline  
Jul 10th, 2007, 05:59 PM
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Probably an hour to an hour 1/2. You can take as long as you want in the Capital once the tour is over, including going into the House or Senate chambers.
MikeT is offline  
Jul 10th, 2007, 07:23 PM
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Plan on 2 to 3 hours depending upon how talkative your congressman's aide is, and how long you may want to explore on your own once the tour is officially over.
furledleader is offline  
Jul 10th, 2007, 10:21 PM
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I believe the tours of the Capitol building last 30-40 minutes. As neither the House nor Senate will be in session in August (well IMO it is extremely unlikely that either will be), you may not want to spend a lot of time looking down at the empty chambers, but certainly can do so. However, there is a lot in the neighborhood as well to consider seeing. First off, the Supreme Court is across the street, They also have tours. Take a look at supremecourtus.gov/visiting/visiting.html.

The old main Library of Congress building is also across the street from the Capitol. They have several rare books on display, including a Gutenberg Bible. The huge main reading room with its vaulted ceiling is beautiful and worth a quick look.

The Folger Shakespeare Library is located next door to the Supreme Court building, and is overlooked by most visitors, which is a shame, as it is a pretty little building. You can get a tour of the building or the gardens, or view the exhibits. Take a look at folger.edu. There are also live plays performed in the theatre at the library at various times of the year.

The Capitol Hill area, esp the streets like East Capitol or Pennsylvania Ave toward Eastern Market (at 7th and Pennsylvania Ave) is a lovely area of tree-lined streets and town houses. Eastern Market is a fruit/veg and meat market and has the wonderful and extremely casual Market Lunch counter with its famous crab cake sandwiches (they do great breakfasts too if you want to go before the tour). Along Pennsylvania Ave toward Eastern Market are a number a restaurants any of which would be good for lunch, including the Tune Inn, a good very casual choice, and it's a Washington institution (also good for breakfast). It is as Pennsylvania Ave and 4th St, SE.

If it is not too hot a day, a nice walk would be down from the hill on which the Capitol is located and along the Mall towards the Washington Monument, the WW II Memorial and your appointment at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The East Wing and West Wings of the National Gallery are just at the bottom of the hill on the right on Constitution Ave, and the National Archives is a bit further along Constitution, and is not too far from the Spy Museum. On the left side, i,.e. Independence Ave, is first of all a small but nice glassed-in botanical garden at the foot of Capitol Hill, then the Museum of the American Indian, the Air and Space Museum and the Hirshorn Museum. Any of these alone or combined would be a great place to spend time well between a Capitol tour and your 4:15 at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which is further down Independence. Most of the museums have restaurants and cafes. There is a very nice cafe at the National Sculpture Garden on Constitution Ave next to the West Wing of the National Gallery of Art and not too far from the National Archives.

There is no metro stop right at the Capitol, the two closest stops are Union Station (for the Senate side), and Capitol South or Eastern Market (for the House side). If you are going to a Representative’s office to collect your tickets, then IMO you should go to Capitol South, as this would entail the shortest walk to whichever of the three House office buildings his/her office is located in.

Cicerone is offline  
Jul 11th, 2007, 04:59 AM
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Excellent recommendations from Cicerone particularly the cafe at the sculpture garden. FYI, though, the food market part of Eastern Market burned down in the last couple of months. Some of the shops have relocated; perhaps someone who lives on the Hill can tell you where.
Ruff is offline  
Jul 11th, 2007, 03:26 PM
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Such wonderful people on this board - thank you so much, esp. Cicerone. ! I haven't been to DC since I was a kid. We will do the Smithsonian on Sunday. Saturday we look to do the zoo before checking into our hotel (driving from NE PA).
PAMom1 is offline  
Jul 11th, 2007, 03:35 PM
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We just took the House of representative tour. A big waste of time. All you do is sit in the gallery for a few minutes and listen to a five minute lecture. I would pass.
mrt is offline  
Jul 11th, 2007, 05:34 PM
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If you get a tour from your member of Congress, the tour is much longer and thorough.
MikeT is offline  
Jul 11th, 2007, 06:23 PM
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I had not heard about Eastern Market, what a shame! I last had crab cakes there around Christmas, I would be crushed to learn if they will not reopen!!!!

A few more suggestions for PA Mom, there is a hop-on-hop-off tour mobile which goes to most major sights including over to Arlington National Cemetery. It is a great way to get around and see the city and also be able to get to all the sights without having to drive and park (a real hassle) or walk from the subway. (Take a look at www.tourmobile.com and www.tourmobile.com/tour/heritage.html.)Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for kids and are good all day.

There is also the “DC Ducks” tour mobile which is a semi-tour, really just a drive by, along Constitution Ave in an open converted amphibious military craft and then down into the Potomac River and down the rive to Regan Airport where you sit under the lfight path of a few planes (pretty thirlling actually). It is quite fun ride on a hot day, and kids will be given a chance to drive the boat in the river, which they all enjoy. Take a look at http://www.dcducks.com/. You can get it at Union Station, right near the Capitol, so it might be a good intermediate trip between the Capitol tour, lunch, the Spy Museum and the B of P. The DC Ducks tour is a lot of fun, but it is not really a way to see any monuments, you merely drive by them on the way to the river. I used to live in DC and know the city and all the monuments well, so I was not disappointed with the DC Ducks tour which I thought was a lot of fun. However, I would not use the Ducks tour as your only way to see the monuments. You won't get a good view of the Washington, Lincoln or Jefferson Memorials, you won't get near the White House, you won't get near Arlington Cemetery. The hop on and off tour mobile is a great way to get to all the sights, as they are quite far apart, and you can also get off and go into and/or up the monuments you are interested in.

Finally, some outdoor activities that don’t involve a history lesson, but that are fun, would be to rent a canoe or kayak on the river in Georgetown and paddle up or down river from there. You can also take kayak tours. Take a look at

Thompson Boat Center
2900 Virgina Ave NW
(at Rock Creek Parkway)
(202) 333-9543

For guided kayak tours, go to http://www.atlantickayak.com/

Also, you can rent bikes and ride along the canal towpath in Georgetown, or go up to Rock Creek Park which has bike paths. Go to http://www.nps.gov/choh/Recreation/HikingBiking.html. You can rent from the Thompson Boat Center or the following:

Bicycle Pro Shop
3403 M Street, NW
Phone: 202-337-0311

Big Wheel Bikes
1034 33rd Street, NW
Phone: 202-337-0254

Revolution Cycles
3411 M Street, NW
Phone: 202-965-3601

FYI, I would not expect that you could “do” the “Smithsonian” in one day, as there are several museums involved. If you mean the Air and Space, you may be able to do that, but there are also the Natural History and American History museums which are also very good, and the American India is the newest and has the bells and whistles so to speak, on the exhibits. Also there are three art museums. Any would be good IMO for a few hours on the Monday and probably would be less crowded than a Sunday when you are going to get local people out as well. The Air and Space is always the most popular. I have not even mentioned the wonderful Philips Collection or the Corcoran, both supberb art musuems. The Philips is mostly impressionists and modern art and is small, can be “done” in 2 hours or so. The Corcoran is near the White House. The Philips is in the Dupont Circle area. Websites are http://www.phillipscollection.org and http://www.corcoran.org.

If you are driving in and will be in the Virginia area either on your way in or out, there is a new “wing” of the Air and Space museum a mile or two from Dulles Airport which is very interesting and not usually nearly as crowded. Take a look at http://www.nasm.si.edu/udvarhazy/.

Cicerone is offline  
Jul 12th, 2007, 02:57 PM
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Thanks again! Yes, I know the Smithsonian is multiple museums; American History is closed until next summer - I meant to say the Air and Space (my husband is interested and so is my 16 year old son). Neither one is very interested in any art museums. I think we will have more than enough to keep us busy!!!!!
PAMom1 is offline  
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