Go With a Purpose.
A blog about connecting through places that matter.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Segway Tour of Washington Offers Unique Perspective

My family and I recently took in the monuments and sites around Washington, D.C. Now comes the special part: we made our way around all the usual sites in just about two hours, by riding on Segways!

Capital Segway offers terrific tours of D.C. using this unique personal transportation device. It’s easy to get the hang of riding the Segway. The friendly staff at Capital Segway showed us a safety video and then demonstrated riding techniques before we each gave it a try. Basically, if you can ride a bike (and probably even if you can’t), you can ride a Segway.

After all 15 members of our tour group donned helmets and got assigned to Segways, we spent about 20 minutes zooming around on the sidewalk in front and then in the park across the street. All went well. In fact, it wasn’t long before we were all ready to head out for our tour.

We went a few blocks south and west and found ourselves directly in front of the first stop on our tour: the White House. On Segways, you can go just about anywhere pedestrians can go; so we were able to Segway ourselves on Pennsylvania Avenue, directly in front of the White House where, sadly, cars are no longer able to drive.

From there, our next stop was the Washington Monument. We learned that the monument’s construction happened in two phases, as construction was halted midway due to the Civil War.

We continued along the National Mall and passed by the Smithsonian museums, including the National Air & Space Museum, where the tourist traffic was so heavy we had to weave in and out of the people on the sidewalk. (It was fun seeing the looks on faces as they saw 15 of us whiz along so effortlessly.) We stopped in front of the Smithsonian’s headquarters, known as the Castle. We were not permitted inside the gates because the exterior garden – on ground level – is, in fact, a rooftop garden that sits on top of museum space underground.

From the Castle, we navigated past the Federal Aviation Administration buildings to the U.S. Botanical Garden. Now, I’m from New York City originally and, I must confess, I think the real botanical gardens of the U.S. are in the Bronx and Brooklyn. (I’m also aware of The Arnold Arboretum in Boston.) This was my first visit to the U.S. Botanical Garden, which is quite a bit smaller. But it is well worth a visit!

Next came the Capitol building. After a failed attempt to attend President Obama’s inauguration (I had one of those notorious blue tickets – it’s a long story...), it was nice to easily enter the grounds and stand in the very spot from which our new president first addressed the nation following his swearing-in.

As we wended our way back, we passed the Newseum, and noted the modest tribute to Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) across the street (not to be confused with the larger FDR Memorial along the tidal basin).

The Segway tour of D.C.’s monuments and sites was fantastic, and I recommend it highly to anyone seeking a novel way to take in more sights than is usually possible on foot; at least in such a brief period of time. Not only did the Segway tour gave me a unique perspective on the city, the experience also gave me an alternative way to experience a place. In fact, a few days after my D.C. Segway tour, I was in Chicago and discovered similar Segway tours there, too. Although I didn’t have time this trip; I definitely plan to take one of their architectural tours the next time I’m back in Chicago.

John I. Williams, Jr., is President and CEO of Heritage Travel, Inc., a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Have you ever been on a Segway tour, or taken another another unique sightseeing tour? Post a comment about your experience!

photo credit: Segway


  1. John, looks like fun and a great way to beat the pumps!

    Maybe, "Segway" can be one of your sponsors? I can envision "booking Segways, thru Heritage Travel, for historic tours.

    You guys, at Heritage Travel and The National Trust, are doing an awesome job!



  2. Thanks, Vincent! Great suggestions... and thanks for your feedback and encouragement!



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