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Best Sightseeing: Tours de Force
We road-tested tours of the Mall and beyond, skipping the bus and trolley rides for unusual alternatives.
A good time can be had on the Segway tour offered year-round by Capital Segway (1350 I St., NW; 202-682-1980; capitalsegway.com). “It’s the most fun I’ve ever had,” one tour taker said as she cruised the Constitution Avenue sidewalk. That’s saying a lot considering it was raining.
Finding your balance and learning to accelerate and stop takes a little work, but you’ll reach top speed of 121⁄2 mph in no time. The $65 tour covers more than 25 buildings, monuments, and memorials, including the Newseum, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the National Archives.
The best tour if you’re on a budget is DC by Foot (571-431-7543; dcbyfoot.com), run by two recent college grads, Brody Davis and Ben Hindman, who lead free walking tours of the Mall. The two are natural performers who pack the conversation with more history than a college course plus offbeat stories. One day Davis started the 75-minute tour with a short musical limerick about the Revolutionary War. With a stuffed toy dog as a prop, he told a story about how George Washington—a dog lover—called a halt to battle to return a stray dog to its redcoat owner.
Each tour starts at the corner of 15th Street and Constitution Avenue, Northwest, at 2 and 6 pm daily through November 14. It’s free, but tips are appreciated.
Got kids? Check out DC Ducks (Union Station, 50 Massachusetts Ave., NE; 800-213-2474; dcducks.com). Its distinctive amphibious buses wheel passengers—each equipped with a yellow-beak whistle—around the Mall, into Virginia, and onto the Potomac. Kids get a kick out of the bus turned boat, and if you’re looking to cover a lot of ground, the 90-minute excursion is a good bet.
Tours run from 10 to 4 daily through October, leaving on the hour. Buy a ticket at the Ducks booth at Union Station ($32 for adults, $16 for ages 4 to 12, kids under age four free) or buy a ticket online ($28.80 and $14.40) and redeem it on a first-come, first-served basis. Warning: Tours fill quickly. We recommend calling ahead: On a recent sunny Thursday, no Duck tours ran because of river debris from earlier rain.