With lots of free attractions and historic sites in a relatively compact area, Washington, D.C., is a tourist’s delight. Even so, there’s no better way to get to know the nation’s capital than with an expert. U.S. News gathered expert recommendations and traveler opinions to create this list of the top tours in Washington. Whether your interests include architecture, history or food, the following tours let you get to know the city like a local.
D.C. By Foot – National Mall Tour
Price: $3 tour reservation fee; tips are encouraged
Duration: 2 hours
D.C. By Foot’s National Mall walking tour is a two-hour, mile-long stroll that includes stories about famous landmarks like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument. Travelers praise the tour, saying it is chock-full of information and that the guides are engaging. D.C. By Foot is a pay-what-you-want tour: it’s free, though it is assumed you will tip your licensed, freelance guides.
Tours depart Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 2 p.m. Travelers should note reservations are required for this tour and there is a $3 reservation fee per person for tours. The company also conducts a slightly shorter Scavenger Hunt at the Mall tour geared toward kids and a bevy of other tours around the city.
Old Town Trolley Tours of Washington D.C.
Price: Adults from $49.95; kids from $33
According to reviewers, this trolley tour provides an educational and relaxing outing, thanks to informative commentary from the friendly onboard guides. This hop-on, hop-off tour option allows travelers to explore Washington at their own pace and check out the monuments, museums and attractions that they are most interested in. Popular stops on the trolley route include the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the International Spy Museum, the Lincoln Memorial, the National Portrait Gallery and more.
One-day tickets for adults cost approximately $50 to $70, depending on the time of year. Tickets are $33 for kids ages 4 to 12. Kids younger than 4 can join the tour for free. Travelers can purchase two-day consecutive passes, which run between $99 and $119 for adults (prices vary depending on the time of year) and cost $67.90 for kids ages 4 to 12. Trollies run hourly from 9 a.m. to about 4 p.m., Thursdays through Mondays. Old Town Trolley Tours also offers specialized Arlington National Cemetery tours and a Monuments by Moonlight Tour, among others.
Unlimited Biking DC – Monuments and Memorials Bike Tour
Price: Adults from $54; kids from $49
Duration: 3 hours
A great way to quickly cover a lot of ground is on the Monuments and Memorials Bike Tour from Unlimited Biking DC, which takes you on an approximately three-hour guided tour to see the main monuments along the National Mall and the Tidal Basin. What’s more, the entire tour takes place on sidewalks, paths and trails, so you never have to worry about navigating city streets. Plus, you can hop off to take photos and explore sites during the roughly 4-mile adventure. Visitors say the tour is perfect for families thanks to the engaging guides and manageable pace of the route.
Tickets cost approximately $54 for adults and $49 for kids ages 12 and younger. E-bikes are available for adults for $79. The tour runs at 10 a.m. daily, with an additional 2:30 p.m. tour on select days in the spring, summer and fall. If you can’t get enough of the monuments, the company also offers a Monuments at Night Bike Tour as well as Segway tours, among other options.
(Reza Venegas/Courtesy of Mangia D.C.)
Mangia DC Food Tours – Georgetown Foodie Tour
Price: Adults from $79; kids from $69
Duration: 3 to 3.5 hours
Eating your way through Georgetown – one of D.C.’s wealthiest and most picturesque neighborhoods – with Mangia D.C Food Tours is a delightful way to get acquainted with the area. On its approximately 3- to 3.5-hour Georgetown Foodie Tour, you’ll visit up to five restaurants for tasty samples, plus a wine or spritz pairing. Your guide will give you an overview of the area’s cultural and political ties, as well as point out historic landmarks. Foodies say the tour is both filling and educational.
Mangia D.C. limits tours to 14 people, which makes for an intimate group – another point of praise for reviewers. Tours run Friday through Sunday and start at 1 p.m. Tickets cost $79 for adults and $69 for kids ages 5 to 16. Looking for more local eats? Mangia also offers an Italian Food Tour in Washington’s Dupont Circle neighborhood.
Capital Segway Tours
Price: From $70
Duration: 2 hours
Seeing all of Washington’s landmarks on foot is an ambitious goal, but if you swap walking for riding a Segway, you can glide to most of them. Highlights on this approximately two-hour tour include the White House, the National Archives, the Washington Monument and the Capitol. Every rider receives a radio headset, which makes it easy to hear the guide’s descriptions. Reviewers say the guides are fantastic and the tours provide the perfect overview of the city, which in turn helps visitors decide where they want to spend more time. Many add that they appreciate the guides spending time to make sure everyone feels comfortable and safe on the Segway before setting off.
Participants must be 16 or older and weigh at least 100 pounds to ride. Tours are not suitable for those who weigh over 250 pounds or women who are pregnant. Capital Segway Tours requires travelers to arrive 30 minutes prior to tour for orientation and training session. Tickets start at $70. Tours run year-round and are offered several times a day, weather permitting.
Blue Fern Travel – U Street Food Tour
Price: From $105
Duration: 2.5 to 3 hours
This U Street tour run by Blue Fern Travel (formerly Carpe D.C. Food Tours) is purportedly the company’s most popular, which makes sense because the U Street neighborhood is one of the liveliest in the city. During the 2.5- to 3-hour tour, your guide will take you to several locally owned restaurants for hearty samples. As you make your way along U Street, you’ll learn about the neighborhood’s history, architecture and jazz heritage. Foodies find the history lessons surprising and informative; some love the information almost as much as the food.
Tours depart Thursday through Sunday at 11:30 a.m. year-round; group size is typically around 12 people, according to the company. You can expect to walk about a mile on the tour visiting the different eateries. Tickets cost $105 per person. Blue Fern also offers food tours of Georgetown and Old Town Alexandria.
USA Guided Tours – African American History and Culture Tour
Price: Adults from $89; kids from $79
Duration: 3.5 hours
Travelers heap praise on the guides leading the African American History and Culture Tour, applauding their expertise and storytelling. During the 3.5-hour bus ride across D.C., travelers will learn of African American history and Black perspectives of different D.C. monuments. Sites on the tour include Black Lives Matter Plaza, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the African American Civil War Memorial, among other significant locations. Trips conclude at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, where you will have reserved access to the popular site. (Note: Some stops are guided around monuments, while others are quick pauses for photos.)
Tours cost $89 for adults and $79 for children ages 3 to 12. They run daily at 10 a.m. This tour is also available as a private excursion. USA Guided tours operates a variety of bus and walking tours.
D.C. Design Tours – Dupont Circle & Embassy Row Tour
Price: Adults from $35; kids from $20
Duration: 2 hours
D.C. Design Tours focuses on Washington’s eclectic architecture and design. On the approximately two-hour, 2-mile Dupont Circle & Embassy Row Tour, you’ll explore the area while an experienced guide identifies and describes significant properties, such as The Cosmos Club, the Embassy of Indonesia (Walsh-McLean House) and the Woodrow Wilson House. You’ll also hear a good deal of history and some juicy gossip about some of the nation’s movers and shakers. Tour-takers rave about the hidden gems and stories the guides share.
Public tours run on Saturdays, and cost $35 per adult and $20 per child ages 16 and younger. Tours Design Tours also guides visitors through surrounding neighborhoods, such as Capitol Hill and Georgetown.
D.C. Metro Food Tours – Georgetown Food Tour
Price: From $74
Duration: 3.5 hours
During the 3.5-hour Georgetown Food Tour, you’ll visit up to five local spots in this upscale neighborhood. But you won’t just be stopping in for a quick bite. Instead, tour-takers will sit down and be served a specialty of the house – an element foodies love about the tour. Dining highlights might include pie from a family-owned bakery, a Korean dish and Italian-American fare. In addition to tasty cuisine, guides will regale you with stories about local sites and landmarks as you walk between stops.
Tickets cost about $74 per person. Tours operate Thursday through Sunday at 3 p.m. D.C. Metro Food Tours offers food tours of other neighborhoods, including Dupont Circle and Virginia’s Old Town Alexandria.
City Brew Tours – D.C. Original Brew Tour
Price: From $99
Duration: 5 hours
With a motto of “You Drink, We Drive,” D.C. Brew Tours sets the stage for a safe yet beer-filled day on its Original Brew Tour. During the five-hour outing, you’ll be chauffeured around the city in a comfortable van, visit four breweries, get behind-the-scenes tours and enjoy up to 16 local craft beers. This tour also includes a beer-pairing lunch. Participants champion expert guides and excellent beers.
Get your beer fix during the tour, which runs Friday through Sunday at 11:30 a.m. or 11:45 a.m. D.C. Brew Tours limits its excursions to 14 people. Tickets cost $99. Crunched for time? The company also offers a shorter 3.5-hour Sip of D.C. Tour.
Nonpartisan Pedicab – Smithsonian Museums and Pennsylvania Avenue
Price: $180 per hour
Duration: 1.5 to 2 hours
Being chauffeured around town in a private pedicab with Nonpartisan Pedicab is a novel and comfortable way to see the sights in D.C. You can sit back and relax while an expert guide gives you a personalized tour and does the cycling for you. On the company’s Smithsonian Museums and Pennsylvania Avenue tour, you’ll follow the inaugural route from the Capitol to the White House, passing 24 landmarks along the way. Tour-takers say the guides are excellent and share plenty of fun facts and history during the 1.5- to 2-hour trip.
Rates start at $165 per hour; occasionally the company offers discounts and deals on the hourly rate (check its website for details). Nonpartisan Pedicab offers a variety of tours around the city, including a twilight tour of the monuments and an Embassy Row and Georgetown tour, among others.
City Cruises – Monuments and Sightseeing Tour
Price: Adults from $33; kids from $23
Duration: 1 hour
After you’ve toured the monuments by foot, bike or bus, why not admire them from the water? City Cruises offers one-way and round-trip departures from Alexandria and Georgetown. Along the way, you’ll see the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Washington Monument, the Arlington Memorial Bridge and more, all while enjoying prerecorded commentary describing the monuments. Visitors appreciate the narration but note that engine noise sometimes drowns out the recording.
The Monuments and Sightseeing Tour runs Friday through Sunday. Round-trip tickets cost $33 to $44 for adults and seniors, and $23 to $32 for kids ages 2 to 11. One-way trips last 45 minutes each way and cost $22 for adults and $16 for kids ages 2 to 11. Round-trip journeys span just under two hours. The company offers several other sightseeing cruises, including one that drops off visitors at Mount Vernon.