Tour Guide: Capital Segway

Who wouldn’t want to ride a Segway? Pair a ride on this hot, two-wheeled technology with a tour of DC and you’ve got yourself one of the most entertaining tours in town. Warning: Watch the weather forecast carefully. Riding a Segway is significantly less

By: Lynne Shallcross

What: Capital Segway tour. See the sights aboard a Segway i2 on the only “Segway authorized” tour of the capital. You cover a lot of ground because you can motor from place to place quickly.

Where: Meet your group at the Capital Segway store (1350 I St., NW), and set off to see more than 25 sights including the White House, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the US Capitol. The tour circles around the National Mall area and ends back at the Capital Segway store.

When: Four time slots daily—rain or shine—at 9:30, 12:30, 3:30, and 6:30.

Ticket price: $65; members of the military get 10 percent off.

Length: The Web site gives a two-hour estimate—ours wrapped up about 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

Tour size: Up to 15 people plus one or two guides. Our tour on a rainy Monday was an intimate group of six.

Our tour date:
April 21, 2008, at 3:30 PM

The lowdown: On the morning of the tour, the forecast wasn’t looking too good—weather reports called for torrential downpours all day. We were excited to ride a Segway, but would it be fun in the rain? Would it even be safe? We were skeptical and more than a little concerned.

A call to Capital Segway confirmed that, yes, the tours run rain or shine. Flood-watch-style rain or shine? Yep. Because forgoing the $65 ticket we’d purchased online wasn’t a viable option, we put on our ponchos and headed out for the tour.

After arriving at the store, we signed waivers and watched a short safety video on a 50-inch television. Ironically, the video cautioned numerous times against using the Segway on slippery surfaces. But that didn’t appear to dampen anyone’s spirits.

With helmets on, we tried out the Segways inside the store, learning to accelerate, stop, and turn using our body weight. Lean into your toes and the Segway gradually makes its way up to a maximum of 12½ miles an hour. Put your weight toward your heels and the machine slows to a stop.

We followed our young, energetic guide, Josh, out the front door, into the pouring rain, and across the street to Franklin Park to try out some more maneuvering. After a quick loop, we braved the pedestrian-laced sidewalks and made our way down 14th Street toward the White House. From there, we hit the Washington Monument, the Smithsonian Castle, the Capitol, and the Newseum, to name a few.

Despite the rain dripping from his helmet, Josh enthusiastically let us in on the history and little-known facts behind the buildings and monuments we passed. Why was the White House’s West Wing built? President Theodore Roosevelt’s family was too big to fit in the White House along with the staff. What’s significant about the Willard InterContinental hotel? Well, for one thing, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his “I Have a Dream” speech there. And then there were more current tidbits: Best place to grab a bite on the Mall? The cafeteria at the National Museum of the American Indian.

We were the talk of the town cruising along the wet sidewalks. Josh told us that much of the company’s business comes from people who pass the tours on the street. That was easy to see as people smiled, pointed, and asked how we found the tour—Josh had fliers on hand.

Bottom line: All in all, we had a fabulous time. Whether you have visitors in town or you’re a local just wanting to see the sights in a different way, riding a Segway makes anything more fun.

Two notes of caution. First, this tour won’t be your best bet for young visitors—it has an age minimum of 16. And second, remember that they’re not kidding when they say rain or shine. While our guide did a great job of energetically leading us around in the rain, we’re willing to bet it would have been even more fun (and probably a bit safer) on a sunnier day.

Still, one tourgoer exclaimed that the Segway tour was the “most fun” she’d ever had. Considering her completely rain-soaked state, we think that was saying something.

Grade: B+

Want the lowdown on more area tours? Check out our Guided Tours section.

This article is part of Washingtonian.com’s Visitors’ Guide. For more articles like it, click here.