We stayed at an Embassy Suites hotel in DC. This is the same chain we stayed with in Chicago, which meant breakfast was included. Breakfast in this hotel was a lot less busy, so there were less queues and it was much more peaceful. We had booked a segway tour for 11am, so we ate breakfast then walked the couple of blocks to the segway shop.
Neither of us had ridden a segway before, but we had seen other people riding them in Chicago and New York and it looked like fun. They showed us a quick safety video, which made it look like at least one person in the group was going to fall off and break a leg! After that we spent a few minutes riding them around the shop to get a feel for how they work. It’s quite strange because the segway naturally tries to keep itself upright. You stand on a platform, and by applying pressure with the front of your feet it starts to move forward. Putting weight on your heals slows it down and the handle bar is used to steer. I found it ok on a flat surface, but when we crossed the road or other rough surfaces I started to wobble a bit. This would make it worse because wobbling meant I would lean forward or back which would affect the speed.
We went across the road to a park and rode around there waiting for a couple more people to arrive. After a bit of practice it was getting easier to stop, start and steer. From there we made our way down the road towards the White House. It was a bit scary because we were actually on the road with cars. There was no bike lane on this part of the road so we had to be careful, especially going around parked cars. Fortunately we made it safely to the White House where the road is closed to cars and we could relax a bit. We stopped for a moment, took some photos and continued on our way.
There were about 10 people in the group, and we all had ear pieces so we could hear the guide. He told us interesting facts about the buildings we were passing and gave us instructions and directions as we rode. From the White House we continued to the Washington monument, then on to the World War 2 memorial.
From there we cruised along the Mall past the Smithsoneum museums. We stopped near Smithsoneum Castle for a break, and it was quite a relief to sit down. I was surprised how tiring it was to balance on the segway. After days of walking around cities my legs were getting used to a lot of activity, but I was discovering a while new set of muscles on the segway! After the break we jumped back on and made our way to the Capitol.
We then rode back to the road, this time with bike lanes, and made our way back to the start. Despite the scary safety video, no one fell off during the tour until the very end when one guy clipped the gutter and then jumped off. He was ok and the segway survived. The tour was good, but I think we were so focused on riding that we didn’t really take in the sights properly. It was a good overview though, giving us a feel for where everything was.
The tour finished back near the park where we started, and it was right on lunch time. About 20 food trucks had arrived around the edge of the park, so it was clear we should stay there for lunch. I had a really yummy BBQ pork roll from a Vietnamese van, and we sat in the park to eat.
After lunch we made our way back to some of the stops from the segway tour, starting with the White House. We could get a better look on foot because it was easier to negotiate crowds and get closer. Unfortunately it’s not possible to go inside, but we watched a short video on its history, which told of some of the additions various presidents have made, including two bowling lanes, a swimming pool, home cinema and baseball pitch!
On the other side of the White House is a big grass field where the national Christmas tree is planted. Apparently the original tree died a few years ago so the current one is quite new. Every year they decorate it with so many lights that you can barely see the tree, and the president and his family come out to light it. Next stop was the Mall. We started at the Washington Monument which is unfortunately surrounded by scaffolding due to earthquake damage. Nonetheless, it’s still an impressive structure.
This area didn’t seem so big on segway, but now that we were walking we discovered just how far everything is. It was a pretty warm day and there’s limited shade near the monument. We walked along the Mall back to the War Memorial heading in the direction of the Lincoln Memorial, something we hadn’t seen on the tour. There’s a long reflective pool and some trees leading up to it, which were a nice relief from the sun.
The Lincoln Memorial is massive. I thought the statue was outside, but it’s housed within a huge building supported by massive columns. There are great views back towards the Washington Monument and Capitol building too.
By then it was so warm and we’d walked so far we decided it was time for an air conditioned museum. The only problem was getting back to the museums, which were past the Washington Monument. We stopped halfway for a bus, couldn’t work out where to go, so kept walking. We were well and truly ready for the air conditioning when we arrived at the Space and Air Museum!
We only had an hour and a half before the museum closed, so we decided to take a look and come back the next day to finish looking at everything. The museum is huge and covers the history of navigation, the solar system, space travel, air travel and has an IMAX cinema with shows on the Hubble telescope and space junk. We only had time to look at some of the space stuff before it closed. There are a lot of interesting things on display, including actual rockets and satellites. Most of them haven’t been to space, but were built as back ups that were never needed. It was pretty exciting because they were all life sized and complete.
We made our way back to the hotel for free drinks and snacks (thank you Embassy Suites!) and to decide where to go for dinner. Our hotel was located in the business district so there wasn’t a lot nearby. We decided to go to Georgetown which was only a short taxi ride away. There was an American BBQ place we found there and wanted to check out. The servings were really big – I had pork ribs with coleslaw and grilled corn. It was really yum, and the meat was so tender it just fell off the bones.
After dinner we went for a walk along the main strip of shops in Georgetown before getting a taxi back to the hotel. We were pretty tired – it had been a very full day!