DC Travel Guide

Tour Guide: DC by Foot

We loved our walking tour/comedy show through West Potomac Park. The best part? It was free.

Brody, our tour guide, talking to the group about the World War II Memorial.

What: DC by Foot, a walking tour of some of DC’s best-known monuments and memorials mixed with bite-size history lessons and a dash of comedy.

Where: Meet the tour guide at the northeast corner of the intersection of 15th Street and Constitution Avenue, Northwest. You’ll walk a block south to the Washington Monument, then head west and end at the Lincoln Memorial.

When: Daily—rain or shine—at 2 and 6 PM.

Ticket price: Free, though the guides gladly accept tips at the end of the tour.

Length: The Web site says the tour lasts about an hour and 15 minutes—a good estimate, almost down to the minute.

Tour size: The guides will lead tours for however many people show up, whether 1 or 200. There were 17 in our group, a Wednesday afternoon on a chilly spring day. Our guide said the average group size is 35, though the Saturday before our tour he led a group of 187.

Our tour date: April 30, 2008

The lowdown: To be honest, we weren’t sure what to expect from this tour. After all, it’s free, and the old adage says, “You get what you pay for.” Lucky for us, we got way more than the price tag warranted.

DC by Foot started out on the right foot (pardon the pun) with our guide Brody offering a 30-second lesson on the Revolutionary War—in rhyme. “That’s the last limerick you’ll hear from me,” he said. And it was—but it was hardly the last time he gave us a good laugh.

At the base of the Washington Monument, after glossing over the founding of America, the writing of the Constitution, the separation of powers, and the system of checks and balances, he told a story about a cat named Steve Brodie who survived a 160-foot jump from the partially-constructed monument in the 1880s.

“The cat must have been on his eighth life,” he said, “because right after he jumped, he crossed that street”—Brody pointed to busy Constitution Avenue behind us—“and he was eaten by a dog.” These are the kinds of tidbits you’ll take away from this tour.

From there we headed to the south side of the monument, where we paused to look at the Jefferson Memorial and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing from a distance. Then it was off to the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and finally the Lincoln Memorial—with Brody cracking jokes the entire time.

All humor aside, the guide did show some serious chops when it came to history. He’d clearly done his research and was extremely knowledgeable about the history, lore, and controversy surrounding each site. When we tried to stump him with a question about the World War II Memorial, he fired off an answer—the correct one—even before we had finished asking.

Needless to say, the lighthearted yet history-packed tour is a great one for kids. You don’t walk far, it’s relatively short, and it’s interesting. We also recommend it for visitors who are short on time—or patience, or desire to be outside for long stretches in the hot summer months—yet want to see the sites without compromising half a day.

Grade: A 

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

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