May 31, 2013
Every year, some 25 million visitors flock to the National Mall to take in the museums and monuments. And they bring with them all kinds of gear: matching T-shirts in all the colors of the neon rainbow, back packs and fanny packs stuffed with maps and sunscreen, Tevas not worn since that ill-fated camping trip of ’05. But one visitor reigns supreme: the Segway rider. Standing a solid foot taller than everyone else atop their super-advanced, two-wheeled machines, the Segway riders zip confidently by, turning heads as they do.
Some look on in amusement, others in jealousy. But with the wind in his helmeted hair, the Segway rider hardly notices. He’s too busy delighting in the pastoral pleasures of the Mall and learning all kinds of tidbits on his 1.5-hour long Smithsonian Tours By Segway excursion
After you pick up your Segway PT (personal transporter), watch an informational video with some hilariously tragic stick-man skits that make you feel better about your building nerves and practice riding around in the shadow of the American History Museum, you too can be on your way to an educational and futuristic experience that will inspire awe and envy in others.
As your tour guide will tell you, “There are many ways to move about our Capital, visiting the Smithsonian properties and the historical monuments, but there is simply no better way to see these sites than via Segway PT.”
Indeed. The two-wheeled wonder-thing was first unveiled in 2001, the product of maverick inventor Dean Kamen. Equipped with tilt and gyroscopic sensors, the vehicle can sense your every shift of weight. Want to head forward? Just push your hips forward ever so slightly and feel the wind pickup against your face as you speed off–though not faster than 12 miles per hour; the Segway PT has a built-in speed limit and will warn you as you approach it. Turning is as easy as pushing the handle bars side to side. After a few minutes on the Segway PT, you’ll wonder why we haven’t all converted to a life lived on two wheels.
As you loop up and down the Mall and around the majestic Capitol building, your tour guide will tell you lots of informative and fascinating things, like:
- During the Civil War, President Lincoln viewed the Union troop movements across the Potomac River from the tall north tower of the Castle.
- In the 1970s, the Castle was home to a pair of barn owls who lived in the west tower, named “Increase” and “Diffusion”.
- During the Civil War the War Department quartered troops in the Capitol for several months. A year later the Capitol served as a hospital for the wounded.
- While the Supreme Court is the highest court in the land, there is technically a higher court in the same building–the basketball court.
- Over 400 Indian tribes were consulted for their opinions on the design of the American Indian Museum, which succeeds in honoring the natural and built environment.
- The large West glass wall of the Air and Space Museum functions as a giant door for the installation of airplanes and spacecraft. Natural History and Air and Space are the most visited museums in the world.
The three-hour tour includes a tour of the monuments and White House as well. And since you’re not going to want to ever get off your electronic steed, you might as well sign up for the three-hour tour.
Even the hard-working staff of Smithsonian magazine learned a few things on a complimentary tour, including discovering a tranquil garden tucked alongside the Department of Health & Human Services, and we are now trying to determine how exactly we can expense a couple dozen Segway PTs for office use.
This could be you:
Tours are offered three times a day and prices range from $62.54 to $83.74, depending on the length.
March 27, 2013
Though you might not know it judging from the forecast most places, spring has indeed arrived. And despite the unpredictable D.C. weather, the snow, sleet, cold rain and wind hasn’t kept the tourists away. Crowds are gathering in the nation’s capital for the first glimpses of the cherry blossoms. For those of you interested in making the most of your visit, the editors over here have released two new spring-themed tours to help showcase the seasonal delights both inside and outside along the Mall.
The Gardens tour will take you to our many well-maintained plots around the Mall to see more than just a few pink blooms by the Tidal Basin, including heirloom plants, geometric splendors reminiscent of the grandest of European gardens and even a Victory Garden.Meanwhile, our Spring Fling tour will take you inside to show off the riches of the Smithsonian’s arts and sciences collection and celebrate the season with baseball legends, a tree you can wish on, bouquets in paint and even a spring from space.
Head here to download the visitor’s app and get your step-by-step directions, custom postcard feature and greatest hits from the museums.
December 31, 2012
Tuesday, January 1: Triple Feature From the Arctic
Now that you’ve rung in another new year, you may be in the mood to broaden your horizons. But no need to take the 13-hour flight to your bucket list destination just yet. Just stop by the American Indian Museum for a screening of three films from Arctic cultures. Two films by Tara Young Handmade Portraits: Mabel Pike and Handmade Portraits: The Bone Carver provide snapshot portraits of community members keeping traditions alive, from foraging to beading to carving. The third, a film by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril (Iqaluit), looks deeply at a dying tradition. Tunniit: Retracing the Lines of Inuit Tattoos chronicles the history of face tattoos and their now-forbidden place within Inuit culture. Free. 3:30 p.m. American Indian Museum.
Wednesday, January 2: Hirshhorn Spotlight Tours
Maybe one of your resolutions for the new year was to get a little more artsy but you don’t exactly look smashing in a beret. Try a docent-led tour of the Hirshhorn highlights instead. The contemporary art museum, currently showing a blockbuster exhibition of Ai Weiwei’s work, has pieces from greats like Andy Warhol and Henri Matisse. Monday through Friday, the docents are on hand for four hours at the information desk for casual questions or a 30-minute tour through the museum. Free. 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Hirshhorn Museum.
Thursday, January 3: Sit ‘n’ Stitch
Or maybe one of your goals was to start a successful online business from your crafty inclinations. Well then, join local Etsy sellers Julia Longueville and Brian Leenig for a little stitching and a little conversation about the Etsy life. Beginners and pros alike are welcome to gather at the Renwick Gallery, whose exhibit “40 under 40: Craft Futures” is on view, featuring the best of crafted works from young artists. Who knows, maybe you’ll make the next 40 under 40 list. Free. 12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. Renwick Gallery.
And if you happen to have a herd of family members curious to explore all the Smithsonian has to offer, just download our specially created Visitors Guide App. Get the most out of your trip to Washington, D.C. and the National Mall with this selection of custom-built tours, based on your available time and passions. From the editors of Smithsonian magazine, the app is also packed with handy navigational tools, maps, museum floor plans and museum information including ‘Greatest Hits’ for each Smithsonian museum.
For a complete listing of Smithsonian events and exhibitions visit the goSmithsonian Visitors Guide. Additional reporting by Michelle Strange.
November 19, 2012
Tuesday, November 20: Our Nation’s River: A System on the Edge
The Potomac River gets the Cousteau treatment, Alexandra Cousteau that is. The famed explorer and filmmaker’s granddaughter turns her eye on the capital city’s waterway, discussing the work being done here after a screening of the documentary Our Nation’s River: A System on the Edge. Her family’s interest in water management and sustainable practices has led the way for generations. Cousteau wrote on her website, “The Potomac is the lifeblood of this region and a constant reminder of the challenges we will face in the future,” adding, “Its waters touch everyone in its watershed, from rural farmers and suburban dwellers, to office workers, tourists, Metro riders, and even the marble memorials which line the National Mall.” Free. 7:00 p.m. Anacostia Community Museum.
Wednesday, November 21: Public Observatory Project
Finally, a safe way to stare at the sun! Bring your budding astronomers down to the Air and Space Museum for an afternoon of telescope fun. Guided by museum experts, children are welcome to step up to the 16-inch telescope for a glimpse at the surfaces of the sun and moon, complete with sun spots and lunar craters. Who knows, maybe your amateur astronomers will turn into astronauts. Or maybe they’ll just ask for a telescope for the holidays this year. Free. 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Weather permitting. Air and Space Museum, SE terrace near Independence Ave. & 4th St.; entrance only available from outside.
Thursday, November 22: Thanksgiving
While we know most of you will be participating in the preparation or consumption of a grand feast, some of you might need to get out of the house for a bit. If so, the Smithsonian will have its doors wide open with plenty of tours and highlights, including flight simulation rides at the Air and Space Museum at 10:00 a.m., or the enchanting butterfly pavilion walks starting at 10:15 a.m., or docent-led tour of the contemporary art at the Hirshhorn Museum. Visitors can even take a different approach to the day with a visit to the American Indian Museum’s award-winning Mitsitam Cafe for a taste of North America’s indigenous foods.
September 21, 2012
During the height of summer, crossing the Mall can sometimes feel like crossing the Serengeti as a hunted animal, searching for any shaded place of refuge. But fall means more than a reprieve from humid heat at the Smithsonian; it means beautiful autumnal blooms bursting with color in the gardens. Stroll through the lush landscapes on your own or take advantage of a guided tour to learn more about the floral finds of fall.
Tours are offered throughout the week until the end of September. Check the schedule here.