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Washington, DC tours and excursions

Washington, DC tours

Walking tours

Two-hour themed walks, such as 'The Most Haunted Houses' and 'Georgetown', are run by Washington Walks and bring the city to life. Other thematic topics are available from Thursday to Sunday, but not all tours run each day. Morning and evening tours are available, no reservation required.

Tel: +1 202 484 1565.
Website: http://www.washingtonwalks.com

Bus tours

After the discontinuation of the infamous Tourmobile Sightseeing bus tours, the Old Town Trolley Tours have taken over where they left off, running interesting two-hour guided tours to over 75 points of interest. Tickets permit users to hop on and off at 19 different stops, allowing you to enjoy the attractions at your leisure.

Tel: +1 888 312 8687.
Website: http://www.trolleytours.com/washington-dc

Amphibious craft tours

DC Ducks tours are aboard restored amphibious crafts from 1942 and give visitors a 90-minute land/water sightseeing experience. The tours depart hourly from Union Station and take in sights such as the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, U.S Capitol and a number of other major attractions.

Tel: +1 855 323 8257.
Website: http://www.dcducks.com

African American Heritage tours

Site Seeing Tours, Inc specialise in African American Heritage tours which include Duke Ellington's Jazz Tour and Walking in the Footsteps of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Tours are done by bus or on foot with private packages also available.

Tel: +1 301 445 2098.
Website: http://www.siteseeingtoursinc.com

Bicycle tours

Bike the Sites runs guided tours on bicycles lasting three hours over a mainly flat 13km (8-mile) route passing an impressive 55 landmarks, including the Washington Monument, White House and Vietnam Memorial. Bicycles, helmets, water and snacks are included in the price. Night time and Segway tours are also available.

Tel: +1 202 842 2453.
Website: http://www.bikethesites.com

Boat tours

A pleasant way to get an overview of Washington, DC is to go on a 45-minute boat trip aboard Nightingale II, operated by Capitol River Cruises. The tours depart Georgetown Harbour on Saturdays and Sundays from 1100 until 1900, taking in sights like the Kennedy Center, Key Bridge, Memorial Bridge, Roosevelt Island and Washington Monument.

Tel: +1 301 460 7447.
Website: http://www.capitolrivercruises.com

Washington, DC excursions

Gettysburg

Just 90 minutes from Washington, DC, Abraham Lincoln made a two-minute speech to dedicate the new cemetery to the Civil War dead. His famous Gettysburg Address at Cemetery Ridge reminded the nation of the true purpose of the sacrifice the people had made. Gettysburg is also the site of the largest battle ever fought on American soil when, in July 1863, the Union Army under General George C Meade defeated the Confederate forces under General Robert E Lee. There are numerous places of interest in the town, including houses that featured significantly in the fighting, now open to the public.

Tel: +1 717 334 0035.
Website: http://www.gettysburg.com

Arlington National Cemetery

Just across the Memorial Bridge from the Lincoln Memorial is America's largest national cemetery. Over 260,000 US soldiers, who fought in wars from the American Revolution onwards, are buried here, together with President John F Kennedy and the world champion boxer Joe Louis. Arlington National Cemetery is open daily year-round and admission is free. The nearest Metro station is Arlington Cemetery.

Tel: +1 877 907 8585.
Website: http://www.arlingtoncemetery.org

George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Garden

Located in Virginia around 26km (16 miles) from Washington, DC, the delightful home of George and Martha Washington covers 200 hectares (500 acres) and includes his mansion, tomb, Slave Memorial, gardens and restaurants. A pleasant way to travel there from Washington, DC is to take the Spirit Cruise Line (tel: +1 866 302 2469; www.spiritcruises.com), which leaves Pier 4 at Sixth and Water Streets, SW, at 0830 for the 90-minute journey and returns from Mount Vernon at 1330. Cruises run from March to October. The fare includes admission to the estate and gardens. Gray Line of Washington (tel: +1 301 386 8300; www.graylinedc.com) also runs tours, which can include Alexandria.

Tel: +1 703 780 2000.
Website: http://www.mountvernon.org

Featured Hotels

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Hotel Helix

If funk is your thing, you'll love this Kimpton boutique hotel where pop art meets Hollywood. The guestrooms are decorated in eye-popping patterns, bright red, green and blue colours, and underscored with rounded mirrors and large pillows. Twelve of the rooms are themed including the cool Zone rooms, fun family Bunk rooms and Italian-inspired Eats rooms. The lighting system changes from blue to gold in the hotel's bar/café, Helix Lounge, and the outdoor patio is popular with locals. Located in the Logan Circle neighbourhood, Hotel Helix is more appealing to young hipsters rather than sedate business people.

The William Lewis House

A home from home, this welcoming bed and breakfast has all the trinkets and touches of grandma's place with patterned rugs, plump sofas and candles and doilies above the fireplace. Actually taking up two Edwardian townhouses, The William Lewis House has 10 individually decorated rooms, scattered with antiques and family heirlooms, plus free Wi-Fi. What's more, the owners host happy hours with wine and hot chocolate. Gay friendly.

Washington Plaza Hotel

Under the watchful eye of architect Morris Lapidus, the Washington Plaza sprung up in 1962, placing a resort-like hotel in the middle of a city. Right next to the Smithsonian museums, the location is superb, while its glorious swimming pool, 340 well turned out rooms and recently renovated fitness suite are all as good as any modern contemporaries.

Normandy Hotel

Located on an elegant street with embassies as neighbours, and within walking distance of bars, restaurants, shops and the Dupont Circle Metro, this small hotel is a real find. Extensively renovated in 2009, the 75 rooms are decorated in black and white highlighted with fabrics in warm colours. The lobby and rooms have complimentary Wi-Fi internet access and although there is no restaurant, afternoon tea and coffee is served to guests and there is a free wine and cheese reception some evenings.

Mandarin Oriental Washington, DC

The award-winning Oriental is one of the most popular hotels in Washington, DC. Touches of Feng Shui have made its huge guest rooms calming - in fact, you may not want to leave them. All have Chinese marble bathrooms, silk bed tapestries, flatscreen TVs, high-speed internet access and smashing views of city monuments or the Potomac Tidal Basin. The hotel also has a state-of-the-art spa plus two restaurants - the Asian-inspired, award-winning Cafe MoZU and the Sou'Wester, serving regional American cuisine. For lighter fare or cocktails try the Empress Lounge.

Hotel Tabard Inn

Located on a tree-lined side street in the Dupont Circle neighbourhood, this is the small hotel that residents recommend to their friends. As it was constructed from three Federal-style row houses, no two rooms are exactly the same, but each is filled with unique antiques and has Wi-Fi access throughout. Some rooms have a shared bathroom. Victorian sitting areas in the lounge are quite cosy and feature live jazz on Sunday night. The hotel's downstairs dining room, a popular lunch spot for both guests and non-guests, features American cuisine. The restaurant's brick-walled garden is one of the most pleasant places to pass an afternoon in Washington, DC. Price includes continental breakfast.