There’s no better time to explore Washington DC outside in the sunshine! Whether you’re here for business or pleasure, here are the top five outdoor experiences you must try.
1. Arlington House: This house is eloquently perched atop of the rolling hills in Arlington National Cemetery. From this vantage point, you can grab a birds-eye view of the entire city. The scenes will leave you breathless and so will the history. Arlington House was built by George Washington’s grandson and eventually inhabited by General Robert E. Lee. The hill directly overlooks JFK’s eternal flame and grave. JFK was buried below the very spot he stood on the hill and exclaimed, “I could stay here forever.” After visiting Arlington House, a visit to the less frequented tomb of President Lincoln’s eldest son, Robert Todd Lincoln, is a must. His gravesite sits on a scenic knoll overlooking his father’s memorial across the Potomac River.
2. Lincoln Memorial: A trip to the National Mall is not complete without gazing across the reflecting pool toward the Washington Monument. As you climb the memorial stairs, keep an eye out for an engraved step marking the exact location where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Stand in the spot that changed America!
3. Theodore Roosevelt Island: President Roosevelt doesn’t just have a memorial, he has an entire island! This island features a boardwalk through the woods and a domineering statue of the 26th president. Escape the city and explore DC’s nature. It’s the Teddy way. After all, Teddy went on a Smithsonian expedition in Africa to relax after his presidency. Make sure to walk the 1 ½ mile Swamp trail, which includes a boardwalk over cattail marsh. On the north side this trail, we dare you to get a little risky and trek through the woods towards the river for a spectacular view of Georgetown waterfront and the Kennedy Center.
4. National Cathedral: After you are finished gawking over the stained glass and impeccable architecture, take a stroll through the rose garden or picnic on the lawn using the cathedral as your backdrop. If you’re interested in taking your picnic to the next level, sign up for the Tour and Tea experience, an in-depth Cathedral tour followed by traditional English tea with sandwiches, scones, and a scenic view of Washington. Before you leave, use your binoculars to try to find the Darth Vader gargoyle on the west tower.
5. Mount Vernon: Roughly 15 miles south of Washington, D.C. is Mount Vernon, President Washington’s estate. Skip the car or bus and schedule a boat trip for a laid back scenic route down the Potomac. When touring Mount Vernon, lookout for the Bastille key hanging on the stairwell wall. The keys were a gift to President Washington by Marquis de Lafayette after the storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution. After the tour, take a break on the back porch to soak in the Potomac river vista. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a bald eagle flying overhead! On your way back to the city, stop and grab a bite to eat amongst Alexandria’s cobblestone streets for a glimpse into D.C’s original old town.
Want to learn about the history behind the sights? Join Tours for Humanity on one of our walking tours around D.C., including the National Mall, the Lincoln Assassination, the Tidal Basin, and the Arlington Cemetery tour. We donate a portion of profits to charities fighting ignorance, poverty, and disease. Our walking tours won’t save the world, but they are a step in the right direction.
As usual, D.C.’s cherry blossoms are as unpredictable as ever. Indeed, there’s always a little mystery regarding these trees, and in more ways than you would think.
1. Two extraordinary women planted the first cherry blossoms. Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador to the United States, and First Lady Helen Taft each planted one tree by the Tidal Basin on March 27, 1912. This means that the trees are older than both the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials.
2. The aforementioned ceremony was peaceful, but there was a failed cherry blossom exchange in 1910. After the Japanese government sent the trees, the U.S. Department of Agriculture found the trees to be riddled with insects and diseases. “This nearly created a diplomatic crisis,” the Washingtonian said.
3. Whose idea was it to plant the trees? The credit goes to Eliza Scidmore. She was the Progressive-era version of a travel blogger — once she saw the beautiful sakura trees in Japan, she encouraged the First Lady to purchase the trees and plant them by the Potomac River. Eliza’s wish came true, and she was able to stand in the crowd at the first planting ceremony.
4. If you’ve ever been to the Tidal Basin during blooming season, you’ll remember the serene feeling that enveloped you while observing the trees. That wasn’t the case in 1936 during the Cherry Tree Rebellion. Women become outraged at the Roosevelt Administration’s decision to build the Thomas Jefferson Memorial on a cherry blossom site. The administration responded that less than 100 trees would be destroyed. The women persisted and chained themselves to the trees around the construction area. Michael Strauss, Assistant Secretary of the Interior, served them lunch — and many, many ounces of coffee. The need to relieve themselves eventually overcame the women’s need to stand up for the trees, and the rebellion ended.
5. Of the twelve types of trees originally planted along the Basin, you’ll find most of the ones in D.C. to be Yoshino hybrids. Many are pink, but you’ll find quite a few white ones as well.
6. There are close to 4,000 cherry blossom trees in D.C., but it still isn’t the Cherry Blossom Capital of the World. Neither is Japan. Figured it out yet? The Cherry Blossom Capital of the World is Macon, Georgia with around 300,000 trees.
7. The Cherry Blossom Festival is a longstanding D.C. tradition, but it was put on hold for four years. From 1942 to 1946, the festival was cancelled due to World War II.
Want to see the cherry blossoms up close and personal? Join Tours for Humanity on one of our walking tours around D.C., including the National Mall, the Lincoln Assassination, the Tidal Basin, and our three-hour Drinking History tour. We donate a portion of profits to charities fighting ignorance, poverty, and disease. Our walking tours won’t save the world, but they are a step in the right direction.
We all try to do good. But sometimes, we fall a bit short when it comes to giving our time. Luckily, there are companies that have made it their mission to not only provide great products and services, but to also use the proceeds from their wares to make the world a better place. Tours for Humanity is one of such companies, but here are six more that will make you feel good about spending your hard earned dollar.
As you can probably assume, Feed’s mission is simple: To feed the hungry. Founder Lauren Bush Lauren started Feed in 2007 with the idea that delivering useful products will enlist people to fight hunger in a substantial way. Each of Feed’s products has a number stamped on it to represent the amount of micronutrient packets and meals provided upon purchase. Some of the products you can shop for are assorted bags, clutches, jewelry, t-shirts, and scarves. Feed is also partnered with Tours For Humanity, and by attending one of our tours, you can help fight hunger.
Founded by two students of The University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, Love Your Melon’s mission has been to improve the lives of children battling cancer since 2012 by selling beanies. For every beanie they sell they donate 50% of the profit to their nonprofit partners such as St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, The Make A Wish Foundation, and the Ronald McDonald House Charities. In addition to selling beanies they also sell headbands, t-shirts, tank tops, sweatshirts, gloves, scarves, necklaces, soda koozies, and other accessories. Looking for new winter swag for this late winter? They’re the perfect place to find winter swag.
Established in 2010 in Arlington, Virginia working with the motto, “If you are going to do something, make it matter.” Sydney Hale Co. develops high quality elegant and unique products such as candles, spray air fresheners, matchboxes, dog collar charms, custom leashes, dog shampoo, doggie ear wipes, and natural bug spray for pups, here in the United States. Their products are packaged and shipped in sustainable materials to reduce stress on landfills.. SHCO not only offers support to local rescue organizations in the Washington DC metro area, but they also donate to animal rescue entities across the United States. On their website, you can check out photos of dogs they have sponsored through a local DMV rescue organization, The Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation.
“Freeset is in the business of Freedom. The mission is simple: to help stop sex trafficking and prostitution in West Bengal, India.” Freeset USA is comprised of two social enterprise nonprofits, Freeset Bags & Apparel (FBA) and Freeset Fabrics. Their sustainable business works by creating and selling t-shirts, bags, scarves, and other accessories in pursuit of a new approach to opposing sex trafficking and prostitution. Located in the areas most affected by prostitution and sex trafficking, Freeset works to provide training and jobs to women who would otherwise be forced or stolen into the sex trade. They provide women with an an education on sewing and screen printing techniques and additionally lend emotional and psychological support. Women involved with Freeset also learn to read, write, manage their finances, and they also receive a pension. Freeset USA is also partnered with Tours For Humanity and by attending one of our tours you can help give these ladies a better, happier life.
Warby Parker works around the motto “Good eyewear. Good outcome.” This company was created around the fact that eyeglasses are too expensive. Warby Parker’s goal is to provide quality stylish eyewear at an affordable price. They also believe that everyone has the right to see. As a result, WP is partnered with non-profits like VisionSpring to make sure that every pair of glasses sold results in a pair given to someone in need. WP also designs their glasses themselves and create stylish new collections every season including sunglasses. They have an extensive online store where you can pick five pairs of glasses to be sent to you for free home try on as well as brick and mortar stores all over the country including two in DC, one in Georgetown, and one in the Shaw neighborhood.
“An African elephant is killed every 15 minutes. Between 2010 and 2012 over 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory.” Founded in 2014, The Elephant Pants set out on an expedition to help rescue elephants from poachers, disease, and extinction, and to help provide habitat conservation. Partnered with the Internet Elephant Foundation, The Elephant Pants donates a portion of every sale to help protect elephants and let them thrive. As you can tell by the name of the organization’s name, TEP sells a variety of pants including, stretchy, harem, fleece lined, loungers, yoga, pleated, and hammer. In addition to a plethora of pants, they sell kimonos, yoga tops, beanies, scarves, t-shirts, jewelry bags, backpacks, and clothing for kids.
Want to do some social good? Join Tours for Humanity on one of our walking tours around D.C., including the National Mall, the Lincoln Assassination, the Tidal Basin, and our three-hour Drinking History tour. We donate a portion of profits to charities fighting ignorance, poverty, and disease. Our walking tours won’t save the world, but they are a step in the right direction.
Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed.
One of the best things about visiting D.C. is the amazing collection of museums the city has to offer. Everyone talks about the Air and Space and American History museum, but the United States Botanic Garden is one you hardly hear about. Which is a shame because I believe it is the most underrated “museum” in The Capitol.
The U.S. Botanic Garden has something for everyone. It has great resources for teachers who have brought their students to visit our nation’s capital. The U.S.B.G has free convenient tours every day you are not required to sign up for. Alternatively, for those of you who like to wander the gardens solo, the Botanical Gardens offers a self-guided cell phone tour.
When I visited the Botanic Garden, I attended the Conservatory tour at 10:30 am on Thursday morning, my tour guide was the lovely Sarah Merick from Decatur, Georgia. The nice thing about going on this tour on a weekday morning it was a small group, so we were able to be really interactive with our guide and she was able to answer all our questions. I learned some pretty cool botanical facts on this tour.
First of all, did you know quinine is a plant not only used to treat malaria and nocturnal leg cramps but is also an ingredient in tonic water? Apparently, back in the day, circa 1852, British Officers in the Indian Army improved the taste of this bitter medicine by mixing it with gin, sugar, and soda water. Instead of drinking it in the morning, the British officers enjoyed a cocktail hour in the evenings with their troops. Thus the Gin and Tonic was born, and soon became a quintessential drink of the British Empire.
Another interesting story we heard from our tour guide was one about Spanish moss. Supposedly, Henry Ford once used Spanish moss as seat stuffing for his newly invented automobiles. The cars were later recalled because drivers were complaining about little red bites on their butts. This is due to the fact that an insect called chiggers live in Spanish moss, so you don’t want to be sitting in it.
My absolute favorite exhibit in the Botanic Gardens is the Rainforest Room. It is humid, and warm and wonderful. The palm trees are 3 stories high and the room is dense with foliage. There are benches all over the room so you can sit and bring a book there if you so choose. The coolest part of the Rainforest Room is the canopy bridge. The bridge borders the top of the Rainforest Room and you can walk around and look down on all the cool plant life below.
I will definitely be going back to visit the Gardens when it gets warmer to wander through the outdoor courtyards. Even if you don’t possess an affinity for botany, or your thumb isn’t the greenest, I highly recommend you check out the United States Botanical Gardens, You never know what you might learn.
The U.S.B.G. is located at 100 Maryland Ave. SW in Washington DC right near The Capitol Building and is open from 10 AM to 5 PM Monday-Friday.
Want to take a tour of the Botanic Gardens? Join Tours for Humanity on one of our walking tours around D.C., including the National Mall, the Lincoln Assassination, the Tidal Basin, and our three-hour Drinking History tour. We donate a portion of profits to charities fighting ignorance, poverty, and disease. Our walking tours won’t save the world, but they are a step in the right direction.
At Tours for Humanity, we love using history to help people. Whether it makes people honor the legacies that people left in the past, shudder at their mistakes, or laugh at the mishaps, we believe that history should always be remembered. This President’s Day, we’re looking back at the presidents of U.S. past for some interesting facts.
1. Have you ever struggled to give a speech? So did Teddy Roosevelt. A man named John Schrank shot the president in the chest right before an important speech in the Milwaukee Auditorium in 1912. Roosevelt delivered his speech as promised, the full ninety minutes, and made it to the hospital in time to save his life. While he lost reelection, the bullet remained in his chest — a reminder that “it takes more than [being shot] to kill a bull moose.”
2. Being president is a tough job, and it’s not unusual to hear stories of alcohol or tobacco consumption while working through difficult times. One president, Grover Cleveland, drank four to eight beers a day at one point.
3. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Having a cold is miserable, and sometimes you’ll do anything to cure it. The day before the inaugural ceremony in 1865, Andrew Johnson was sick from typhoid. Secretary of Senate John W. Forney invited him to a party and offered him whiskey. The next morning, Johnson had more alcohol — to the point where he couldn’t carry out his immediate Vice Presidential duties.
4. Barack Obama is a man of many firsts. He was the first black president, the first sitting president to visit a prison, and the first president to deliver a speech at a mosque while in office. Unlike his vice president, Barack Obama doesn’t like ice cream — perhaps, because he used to work at Baskin-Robbins.
5. William Henry Harrison has many interesting facts: the last British subject to be President, the president with the shortest term, and the president with the longest address at his inauguration. The address was almost two hours, and may have contributed to his early death.
6. Representatives Keith Ellison and Ilhan Omar took their oaths on Qur’ans. Many deemed this as being “un-American,” but one president, Thomas Jefferson, owned a copy of the Qur’an. You can find it in the Library of Congress with the initials “T. J.”
7. Our current president is the richest in U.S. history, but who was the poorest? Historians estimate the answer to be Harry S. Truman, who is worth less than $1 million by our standards today.
8. Presidents see and hear information that many people can’t. The same goes for Jimmy Carter, who famously reported seeing a UFO in 1973.
9. Several U.S. Presidents served military careers before taking office. Dwight D. Eisenhower executed campaigns in both World Wars, and is the only president to have done so.
10. Where did the phrase “only Nixon could go to China” come from? He was the first president to have visited China, along with all 50 U.S. states.
Want to learn more about U.S. Presidents? Join Tours for Humanity on one of our walking tours around D.C., including the National Mall, the Lincoln Assassination, the Tidal Basin, and our three-hour Drinking History tour. We donate a portion of profits to charities fighting ignorance, poverty, and disease. Our walking tours won’t save the world, but they are a step in the right direction.
TR’s Valentine’s Day Diary Entry © Library of Congress
It’s that time of year again. That day of the year where society says you have to over pay for a meal or buy a stupid card. Valentine’s Day is as inevitable as death and taxes, and only slightly more enjoyable. While it’s the bane of many since middle school, there is a story that will make you grateful for your worst V-day. This tale is also a useful excuse for not celebrating at all (out of respect of course). We must reach back to the young love of the most badass and well read President of our history: Theodore Roosevelt.
In 1884, Teddy was an idealist state legislator in the New York assembly. While fighting the good fight in Albany, an urgent message arrived for TR. His mother was terribly ill and dying. He traveled back to NYC as fast as the trains could carry him. He arrived at his home at 6 West 57th Street to a dark situation. In the early hours of February 14th, Roosevelt’s mother, Mittie, passed away. Upstairs his young wife, Alice Lee, was suffering from kidney failure, a condition known then as Bright’s disease. At 2pm that very day, Theodore lost his wife. Only two days earlier Alice gave birth to their first child who shared her name.
The two most important women in his world were gone. In his pocket diary he had little to say on the 14th, except for a black “X” and “The light has gone out of my life.” For the remaining decades of his life he would not talk about or even whisper Alice’s name.
So what’s the moral of this story? I guess what I’m trying to say is to disregard all the pink and red crap, leave the candy on the shelf, and treasure that person that makes you the best version of yourself. Then do that everyday until you can’t.
Interested in learning more about Theodore Roosevelt?
The mystique and legacy of Theodore Roosevelt looms large over modern Washington, D.C. TR is perhaps one of the most iconic and recognizable Commanders-in-Chief in our history, but if you expect to find his memorial among the massive throngs of tourists and never-ending construction of downtown DC, then you lack a true appreciation for his character.
In 1903, President Roosevelt ventured to California to meet up with the naturalist John Muir, whom he had asked to lead a four-day tour through Yosemite. Upon his arrival, Teddy’s aides attempted to outfit him with dozens of blankets and other gear – to no avail. Equipped with only the essentials, Roosevelt and Muir ventured off into the wilderness alone. In his letters to Muir, he had expressed his desire to escape from politics (if only for a few days) and dive into the natural beauty of America with the guide who understood it best. After travelling through the sequoia and pine forests to Glacier Point, Roosevelt and Muir spent the night on a bed of tree boughs and awoke covered in fresh layer of snow. Of course, this delighted Teddy to no end.
This was not TR’s first exposure to the stunning natural landscapes of America. After the untimely deaths of his wife and mother on the same day in 1884, he escaped from the noise of New York politics and found solace in the badlands of the Dakota Territories as a rancher and amateur sheriff. But with the newfound powers of his presidential office, the Yosemite trip would have a much greater impact on the way that Roosevelt viewed the responsibility of the federal government to preserve and protect the natural wonders and resources of the United States. Upon his return to Washington, TR took action to establish the first national parks and ultimately preserved over 200 million acres of land for public use.
TR Island © Tours for Humanity
What can a Washington, D.C. urbanite do to get even a small taste of the escape to nature that Roosevelt sought out in Yosemite? Taking a detour off of the GW Parkway will bring you to a narrow footbridge that leads to Roosevelt Island, an isolated slice of nature where the trees muffle the sounds of the city. Trails crisscross the island, and in the center of it all rests the memorial to the man who enjoyed being President more than anyone else.
Interested in learning more about Theodore Roosevelt?
Drop in on any 6th grade U.S. history class and you’ll hear that the American Revolution found its legs when the British slapped taxes on the colonists’ tea and stamps in an ill-conceived attempt to raise funds. Their tax on sugar is less talked about, but perhaps more pivotal in speeding up the insurrection. Follow the money trail. When sugar is taxed, molasses is taxed. When molasses is taxed, rum is taxed. When rum is taxed, all hell breaks loose. Thus begins the long and storied history of alcohol’s course through the veins of America.
From the very beginning, our founders helped bring potent potables to the forefront of American culture. George Washington built a distillery at Mount Vernon to produce his own whiskey. John Adams began each morning with a stiff glass of hard cider. Thomas Jefferson had such a taste for fine French wine that his drinking habits left him bankrupt.
As time went on, the American affinity for hooch seemed to grow. During the civil war, rumors filled the air about General Ulysses S. Grant’s love for the bottle. Impressed by Grant’s prowess on the battlefield, President Lincoln instructed his aides to “find out what kind of whiskey Grant likes and send a barrel of it to all my other generals.”
Interested in America’s Drinking Habits?