Tour Ideas, Part IV: A Trip to Washington, D.C. Done Differently
Updated January 2020
By Randy Julian
Editor’s note: This post is part of a series that highlight some of our best ideas for single-day class trips — the type of outings that are perfect for educators looking for a spring or end-of-year field trip. For more ideas like these, click this link.
The Capitol. The Lincoln Memorial. The Air & Space Museum.
You know all the “standard” D.C. sites for a class trip. And you don’t want to organize a “standard” trip to D.C.
This post is for you.
What follows is a rundown of five venues to choose from if you want to plan an 8th grade Washington trip that is a little bit different, but still educational and fun:
1. The National Postal Museum
This museum, located near Union Station, is a lot more than a giant stamp collection.
The exhibits and collections highlight postal history from pre-stamp days to the present, including vehicles used to deliver the mail, Postal Service equipment, uniforms, mailboxes and more.
The “crown jewel” of the museum for most is the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery — the world’s largest gallery dedicated to stamps. The displays include more than 20,000 objects, divided into six thematic areas.
You can find the vehicles used to deliver the mail over the years in the “On the Road” exhibit. And “Systems At Work” shows how the Postal Service operates, as well as its importance to the nation.
2. The Mansion on O Street
This quirky site is decidedly “un-Washington,” billing itself as “dedicated to exploring the creative process.” Exhibits, music and surroundings change daily, but the experience is consistently fun and thought-provoking.
The Mansion itself features more than 70 secret doors, and groups can book a “Treasure Hunt Tour,” in which visitors scour the second floor in search of a variety of items.
Cicil rights icon Rosa Parks lived here for more than a decade, and the Mansion also offers a guided tour that focuses on her time here, her favorite rooms, favorite mementos and stories of her time on O Street.
3. Be One of the First …
Two new attractions are slated to open in May 2020. If you’re ready to try something new, these two may be perfect.
The Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial will open on May 8, the 75th anniversary of V-E Day. The memorial is located across Independence Avenue from the National Air and Space Museum, was designed by Frank Gehry and features two parts: one honoring Eisenhower the president, and one honoring Eisenhower the general.
Planet Word spells out its mission as inspiring a love of words and language, with interactive and immersive exhibits. It is scheduled to open on the corner of 13th and K streets NW on May 31. According to a Washington Post preview, “one gallery will boast a 12-foot, high-wattage globe where visitors can choose various languages and learn a few culturally specific words and phrases,” and elsewhere, “visitors will be invited to solve puzzles, listen to poetry and paint pictures with words and encouraged to try their skills at delivering famous speeches and creating a marketing pitch.”
Both of these attractions will be free.
There are several good food courts in D.C. — the Reagan Building has one, for instance. But as mentioned on the ‘Constitutional D.C.’ post, the best move on an 8th grade Washington trip is probably enjoying an on-the-go box lunch so you can stretch your D.C. touring time.
Did You Know?
Picking a cherry blossom from one of the trees surrounding the Tidal Basin is a federal crime.
All the best,
More Ideas for Creative Spring Day Trips
• A ‘Constitutional’ Trip to Washington, D.C.
• Philadelphia and the Constitution
• Underrated Richmond, Va.
• Getting Outdoors in Gettysburg and Williamsburg/Jamestown