Student Trips: Take the Virginia Presidents’ Tour or Add a Day to Washington D.C. Itinerary

Did you know some of the most prominent presidents, all founding fathers, lived in Virginia? Virginia was the seat of the colonial government and the place where the final battle of the American Revolutionary War took place at Yorktown. It’s no wonder that educated men and landholders who founded the nation lived and prospered during their time in Virginia.

Consider taking a student travel group on a themed tour of the plantations and estates of Virginia presidents. The Virginia presidents’ tour is an exciting way to present Early American presidents to students in social studies or history classes. Engage them in an active learning experience at some of the sites, such as Mount Vernon, where costumed interpreters/actors present history in short narratives.

On this educational tour, students may visit the dwellings of the following presidents, who lived in Virginia: George Washington’s home in Mount Vernon; Thomas Jefferson’s estate where he resided until his death: Monticello near Charlottesville; James Madison’s estate home, in Montpelier between Richmond and Charlottesville; and James Monroe’s former home at Ash Lawn-Highland, known simply as Highland during his time, is adjacent to Monticello in Charlottesville.

Mount Vernon: Estate of George Washington
Mount Vernon is just 16 miles from Washington D.C. George Washington’s plantation sits on the banks of the Potomac River. Student travel groups may tour the main mansion and the outbuildings on the property. A four-acre working farm is part of the tour and includes living history presentations. Student trips interested in the “National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets Tour” can learn about the filming of the movie at Mount Vernon and ways in which the basement was actually utilized during Washington’s time. If time allows, visit the The Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center and the Ford Orientation Center to view some of the interactive exhibits.

Monticello: Thomas Jefferson’s Home
Student tour groups who travel to Monticello will come to understand one of the greatest figures in American history. Tour groups will see the mansion, designed (and redesigned) by Thomas Jefferson along with gardens and dependencies. Monticello is indeed a special place, where Jefferson’s legacy and his home and its contents are preserved and remembered. It is here that Thomas Jefferson’s epitaph reads “All my wishes end, where I hope my days will end, at Monticello.” Jefferson wanted to be remembered as author of the Constitution, father of the University of Virginia, and author of the statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom. Visit for online educational materials to prepare for the student trip.

James Madison’s Mansion in Charlottesville
James Madison also resided near Charlottesville, at his mansion named Montpelier. Montepelier was recently restored. The plantation is 2,650 acres of gardens, grounds, walking trails and woods. Montepelier was built by James Madison, Sr. in 1764 and modified twice by James Madison Jr. to accommodate the numerous guests of state that would visit after he was elected President. In addition to James and Dolly Madison and their children, slaves and freedmen lived and worked at Montpelier until emancipation. Students will learn about the rich history of Montpelier, and view the growing collection of artifacts.

Learn About James Monroe’s Mansion in Charlottesville
Ash Lawn-Highland was James Monroe’s estate in Charlottesville and it is currently a museum as well as a 535-acre working farm, and a performing arts center. The Monroe estate is adjacent to Monticello. Jefferson was a lifelong friend of James Monroe. The Monroe family, which included his wife, Elizabeth, his son James Spence Monroe, and his daughter, Eliza lived at Highland estate for 24 years. James Monroe fought under George Washington at the Battle of Trenton and spent the cold winter at Valley Forge. He later distinguished himself as a diplomat to France, Britain, and Spain, and as the Secretary of State and Secretary of War for James Madison’s administration, during the War of 1812. Monroe was instrumental in negotiating a final treaty for the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and is known for the Monroe Doctrine. Student groups who visit Ash Lawn-Highland will see that it is still being partially used as a residence. Monroe bequeathed his estate to his alma mater, the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg whose alumni use it as a retreat even today.

A tour of Washington D.C. can be greatly enhanced with an itinerary that includes the homes of Virginia presidents. These intimate spaces illustrate what it might have been like to live in Early America during a time when democracy was at its formative stages. To request a quote on a student tour of Washington D.C. that includes a visit to the presidential homes in Virginia email or Request a quote.

Add a Tour of Virginia Battlefields to a Washington D.C. Student Trip

Student trips headed to Washington D.C. to tour may want to consider adding a visit to some Civil War battlefields in nearby Virginia to their itinerary. Many of the critical battles of the Civil War were fought in Virginia, with the ultimate goal being the capture of Richmond by Union forces, since it was the Confederate Capitol.

The furthest of the battlefields I suggest is Petersburg — a three-hour bus ride away. Appomattox, Shenandoah, Fredericksburg and Richmond are approximately two hours or less from Washington D.C.

A student trip can also be built solely around the Civil War. Or, it may include a more comprehensive look at history, beginning with the settlement of Jamestown and Williamsburg as Colonial capitals, and the early days of the Revolutionary War.

Shenandoah: New Market Battlefield and State Historical Park
The site of one of the Confederate victories, New Market Battlefield was the place where early in the war, young cadets from Virginia Military Institute fought and won a victory for the South. Student trips may visit a 19th Century farm, tour the Hall of Valor Civil War Museum, and learn about the actual cadets who made a difference that day.

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Civil War Battlefields
These sites are within a forty-five minute drive from Williamsburg, so student trip organizers may want to consider a visit to Colonial Williamsburg and/or Jamestown and Yorktown while visiting the area. The Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park and the Manassas National Battlefield Park are important components to any study of the Civil War. Manassas is the Virginia town where The Battle of Bull Run was fought. One of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, the Battle of Fredericksburg, was fought there and was considered a great victory for General Robert E. Lee. Chatham Manor is located at Fredericksburg and was at one time a hospital and Union headquarters. Three other battles fought between 1862-64 include: Battle of Chancellorsville, Battle of Wilderness, and Battle of Spotsylvania.

Petersburg: the Siege Ending the Civil War
The historic battle where General Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant’s armies faced off for the final battle of the Civil War was the Siege of Petersburg, a strategic supply point for the Confederate Army. During this battle, which lasted nearly a year, Confederate troops dug in while the Union army seized railroad supply lines surrounding Petersburg with the ultimate goal of taking Richmond. Grant’s army was successful at routing Lee and his army from Petersburg, and this decisive battle helped to end the Civil War in 1865. Teachers may easily prepare a curriculum for the student trip by consulting the website at

Pamplin Historical Park & The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier
Pamplin was the place near Richmond where the decisive Breakthrough Battle occurred April 2, 1865. After the Confederate Army suffered a loss at Pamplin, Richmond was evacuated. Pamplin encompasses 422 acres. Student groups will be engaged in interactive living history programs, and have access to four different museums at this location. Student groups may visit four antebellum homes and shopping facilities.

Richmond: Confederate Capital
As the site of the White House of the Confederacy and the present day Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond is a must see on a Civil War tour of Virginia. Richmond is significant because the siege of Richmond signified the war’s end. There were also numerous battles fought there from the beginning of the Civil War in 1862, mostly in the farm and plantation land surrounding the city. Richmond National Battlefield Park spans 1900 acres and is divided into 13 units. Numerous battles were fought throughout the war in the Richmond area. Richmond’s inhabitants saw a steady stream of wounded and were subject to rationing on a regular basis. Learn about the lives of United States Coloured Troops (USCT) who fought for the Union at the Battle of New Market and were one of the first regiments to reach Richmond. Tour the battlefield by bus and stop at some of the earthworks to view them up close. Teachers may prepare an advance lesson plan by visiting:

Appomattox Courthouse: Where the Civil War Ended

Grant and Lee at Appomattox Courthouse signed the final treaty sanctioning the end of the Civil War. On April 9, 1865 Lee requested a private meeting with Grant. They convened at the McLean residence in Appomattox Courthouse, where they conversed like gentlemen for 25 minutes before Lee mentioned a surrender of his troops. Grant put his terms in writing and Lee reviewed them there. Lee requested his men be allowed to keep their horses, since in the Confederate Army the men owned them. He also mentioned his troops were hungry. As an act of good will, Grant dispatched 25,000 rations that day. The war between the states ended quite calmly in this historic town in Virginia. A visit to Appomattox Courthouse is an excellent educational experience for any group. Learning materials for curriculum development are available at

It is obvious that Virginia is a pivotal state in the study of the Civil War. Consider a statewide tour focused on the subject of the Civil War completely, or develop a combination tour with a visit to Washington D.C. or Williamsburg for even greater coverage of American history. Whatever the itinerary or learning objective for a student group, a visit to historic Civil War sites in Virginia can be integrated into just about any type of educational tour.

Billie Shay and Her Choir from Saint Patrick School Travel With ETC

For the past eight years, Billie Shay has taken her Junior High choir from Saint Patrick School in Decatur, Illinois to Washington D.C., Chicago, Nashville and Atlanta on performance trips to sing at these destinations. Her student travel company of choice is Educational Travel Consultants.

Student Groups Attending Music Festivals

In the beginning years, Shay’s groups were traveling to attend America Sings, a national event that is held in different cities each year. But since the cost of attending America Sings increased, Shay is now taking her groups on performance tour to different cities each year — and still happily traveling with Educational Travel Consultants.

A Flexible Itinerary for a Student Trip
Shay says, “What I like most about Educational Travel Consultants is that they are not just selling trips with definite itineraries. They give me a tentative schedule, and they work with me to adapt the schedule to our preferences and needs.” This flexibility is valuable to an educator who is tasked with tailoring the trip into a learning experience and adding a service component. “We don’t just perform at the main venue selected, the choir also goes to other places to sing when we travel,” commented Shay. “We sing at nursing homes and we also sing at a church on each student trip.” Shay’s group even sorted clothes at the Salvation Army one year. At one nursing home where the choir sang, the students played bingo and musical chairs with residents.

Students Take a Trip to Atlanta to Sing

The student performance trips are filled with entertainment and educational activities, some free and some low cost. Shay recalled Atlanta as a destination with a selection of interesting things to do, “Some of the activities we’ve done in Atlanta that are free are a shopping trip to underground Atlanta, a visit to the memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and a visit to the Coca Cola Museum, where students sample Cokes from around the world.”

A Performance to Remember in Nashville

One of the most memorable performances over the years occurred when the student choir sang onstage at Nashville’s Opry Mills mall. “It was quite an experience,” remembered Shay. “They patched us into the sound system of the mall and no matter where you went in the mall – they heard us. Many people stopped in the mall to hear us sing. People love the kids no matter what they do.” The visibility impressed the students and they were enthusiastic to find they were so well received.

Keeping Student Trips on Budget

According to Shay, Educational Travel Consultants also strive to keep student trips within budget. Shay has called several student travel companies to compare pricing and tours. Her groups have performed at the same events as school groups who attend with other companies. She has noted the differences in price and service. For example, some student travel companies provide box lunches, while she requests that Educational Travel Consultants book her choir at sit down restaurants. Other travel companies offer pre-packaged trips with little, if any, wiggle room. Shay needs more than that to accommodate the needs of the school and the students.

A Student Trip Closer to Home This Year

With the economy in a slump, budgets are a main concern this year, but Shay is still committed to taking her choir on performance tour, and ETC is working with her existing budget. In years past the student trips were partially funded by bingo held at the church, but bingo was closed down six months ago due to lack of participation. “So, this year, we are working with a slashed budget,” said Shay. They only have 21 students traveling, and that represents about half of the normal number of 45 or more. Saint Patrick School Choir is traveling to Saint Louis, Missouri this year, because it’s a closer destination, and that reduces costs.

ETC’s Customer Service

Shay says the customer service at Educational Travel Consultants really is the best. “The whole staff works around me, my parents, students and what we want,” she acknowledges. “We’ve always stayed in nice hotels. I’ve never had any major complaints. I have a cell phone number so if there is a snafu, 9 times out of 10 the tour guide will handle it. If they don’t for some reason then I can phone someone at Educational Travel Consultants and they respond to my request.”

This personal service is unique, and is one of the main reasons that Educational Travel Consultants is a leader in the student travel industry. The quality of tour, price point, and flexibility keep teachers returning to do business with Educational Travel Consultants. For more information about Saint Patrick School visit the school website. To request a quote for a student performance tour either fill out the request a quote or email

Planning Educational Student Trips to Chicago: Art Tours

Art Museum Tours: The Perfect Chicago Student Trip

In the windy city of Chicago students and teachers have the opportunity to plan educational field trips to a wide variety of art museums and exhibitions. Whether you plan a senior class trip or a typical high school tour, art tours in Chicago offer a number of artistic perspectives, styles, mediums, collections and educational programs. Exposure to various art mediums and artists teaches, encourages and inspires students of all ages.

Student Art Tours You’ll Want to Include on Your Chicago Field Trip

If you are currently in the process of planning a student trip to Chicago here are some art tours you won’t want to miss.

Student Trips at the Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago is more than a school. It is also home to one of the most breathtaking museums in the Chicago area. The Art Institute displays thousands of paintings, sculptures and other artworks from around the world. Collections include African, American, Ancient, Architectural, Medieval, Renaissance, Asian, Contemporary, European, American Indian and Modern art. Students can see the work of famous artists such as John Singer Sargent, Georgia O’Keeffe, Diego Rivera Ivan Albright, Picasso and Matisse.

Currently the Art Institute is completing construction of The Modern Wing, scheduled to open to the public on May 16, 2009. The Modern Wing will increase gallery space and be home to the Ryan Education Center. In March and May student tours will not be available.

Educational Tours of the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) provides guided, self-guided and Curator tours to student groups, families and individuals. The MCA is one of the country’s largest facilities devoted to modern art. Student tours can view contemporary visual art mediums such as painting, sculpture, photography, video, film, and performance. The MCA collection features artists from 1945 until the present day. Surrealist, minimalist and conceptual artists are often featured. Student trips to the MCA can also include interactive Creation and Design Labs.

Art-Oriented Field Trips to the University of Chicago
As the future home of the Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts, the University of Chicago deems the arts as an integral part of academia. The Center, scheduled to open in 2011 will house theatre and performance, music, and cinema and media studies.

The Center will have classrooms, individual studios, exhibition space for the visual arts, a black-box theater, music practice rooms, a film vault, a lecture/film screening hall, and computer editing labs.

On the University of Chicago’s Hyde Park campus student tour groups also have access to the David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, home to more than 10,000 objects, spanning five millennia of Western and Eastern civilization. The Smart Museum of Art is nationally recognized for its permanent collection, special exhibits, research, outreach and educational programs. In February and March of 2009 construction upgrades to the Smart Museum of Art will be completed. Student tours will not have access to all galleries during this time.

Educational Field Trips to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio

Frank Lloyd Wright lived and worked at his now famous home and studio from 1889 to 1909. Wright’s home became his experimental, architectural laboratory. Here Wright and his colleagues created a new American architecture: the Prairie style. One hundred and twenty-five buildings were designed and constructed. Each spring individual, group and student trips can be planned during the annual Housewalk, during which visitors are able to view the interiors of multiple Wright designed homes. Educational programs are available to help visitors experience architecture first hand and learn more about historic preservation.

A One-of-a-Kind Student Trip: The National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum
The National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum (NVVAM) is unlike any other Chicago field trip destination. NVVAM displays over 1500 artworks created by artists to chronicle experiences in the Vietnam War. Exhibits are sometimes interactive and always meant to provoke dialogue about the realities of war. The “Things They Carried” exhibit allows children to wear the uniforms, boots and backpacks of Vietnam soldiers.

Art therapy, for many veterans, has been a healthy way to process and express painful memories and feelings. NVVAM is dedicated to helping veterans from all wars share their perspectives with the public. Currently the NVVAM is now showing art by Iraq veterans. Work by a local University of Illinois art student, Aaron Hughes, is now being shown. Hughes served in Iraq for 18 months.

Educational Student Tours of Chicago’s Museum of Mexican Art

Educational field trips to The National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA) feature curator Talks and guides as well as children’s and adult art classes. The Museum preserves Mexican culture and educates the public about the Mexican visual and performing arts. As the largest Latino arts institution in the United States, the NMMA is actively involved in community based art programs, cultural equity issues and Latino groups throughout the City of Chicago.

As anyone planning a student trip to Chicago can see, art is a great way to focus the learning experience. Take one or several of these art destinations and add them to an itinerary for any student tour of the Chicago area.

Taking Student Performance Trips to Washington D.C. with ETC

by Howard Clemens

Educational Travel Consultants has an excellent relationship with many schools across the United States that have been traveling with us for well over a decade. Susan Grooms is a Music Specialist for Meramec Elementary Choir in Clayton, Missouri, and a suburb of Saint Louis. She has been taking her choir to Washington D.C. every other year with Educational Travel Consultants for the past 14 years.

The following interview with Susan captures the essence of the Educational Travel Consultants’ student tour experience from the perspective of a music teacher.

Q. What are some of the most important logistics for a music teacher when taking a performance group to a major venue in Washington D.C.?

A. The most important thing for me is to have all of the details in line for the performance with the venue before the group sings. Most of the venues in Washington D.C. are overseen by the government. An Educational Travel Consultant staff member takes care of everything in advance, by contacting the appropriate official and obtaining clearance for our group. We arrive, set up and sing.

Q. What is most important aspect of touring to a student performer? visiting Washington D.C.
A. I would say my students love seeing the monuments and performing at them. It??s just very inspiring to stand at the Lincoln Memorial and sing. I pointed out last Tuesday to our choir that we sang exactly where Barack Obama took his oath of office. The performance trip to Washington D.C. really comes to life for my students when they see it on television — then they’re actually there.

Q. How long have you peen taking performance groups up to Washington D.C. with ETC?
A. I have been going to Washington D.C. with ETC for 14 years. One year we went to Nashville instead. This year we are going to Kansas City. With my teaching schedule, I just don’t have time to attend to all these details. I insist on using ETC because they know what I want and they are experts at working out all the particulars. I am confident ETC will make a great trip for the choir, no matter what the destination.

Q. Do you take the choir or are there other types of instrumental groups that attend these student trips?
A. All I’ve ever done is accompany the choir to Washington D.C. and other destinations. I teach General Music from K-5th Grade and the choir is an extra-curricular activity for me.

Q. Where in Washington D.C. have your groups been able to perform?
A. We performed four times at the Old Post Office. It has a wonderful indoor stage. The group has also performed on the steps of Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, The Capitol, and the new Roosevelt Monument.

Q. Are there complementary activities that you prefer to schedule with your groups after performances are over and touring begins?
A. We attempt to keep costs low, so public performances are not on the itinerary. We usually do a pool party one evening and the early evening ride around the monuments in the busses. The student group always stops at the statue of Einstein, gets out, and we take fabulous pictures there. Other activities that are low cost are a visit to Arlington National Cemetery. It’s exciting for students to watch the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. Last time we visited Arlington, we got to present a wreath for our school. This was very special. Six hundred schools applied and there were only 10 wreaths presented that day.

The choir also visits Mount Vernon. Periodically, we visit the Capitol Building. But sometimes we can??t fit it into our schedule. Students love a visit to the FBI Museum as well.

Q. What is it like for students to perform at the monuments, or anywhere else in Washington D.C.?
A. Crowds can be big or small. It’s a walk-by crowd. But if the choir starts singing the public tends to pay attention. I prefer to schedule student performances in the middle of the day. A lunchtime crowd is nice. My favorite place to perform is the Old Post Office. Once we were performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and the President’s office buzzed us. We waved flags. We had 80 kids waving red white and blue. They just wanted to see what was happening.

Q. What aspects of touring with ETC do you like?
A. I do not have to worry about details. If something happens during the middle of a trip, and we need to make a change the tour guide is accommodating and makes changes right on the spot. One night a pool party rained out and they were able to obtain restaurant reservations for our large group. Tour guides know the city. They help us solve problems. When you travel with a large student group, things happen that are unpredictable. I just would not travel without a tour guide or a travel agent. ETC is very resourceful and reliable.

In addition to scheduling a performance tour to Washington D.C. every other year, Susan Grooms is also bringing her choir to some other cities, such as Kansas City and Nashville. She says she would not tour with any other company — because she knows she can expect personal service, flexibility, and excellent planning and execution of performance tours with Educational Travel Consultants. For more information email or request a quote for a student trip to Washington D.C.

Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum Captures the Glory of Naval and Aircraft History in New York City

A museum which claims to cover air, sea, and space must have something impressive to offer student tour groups, and the Intrepid Museum in New York City delivers. The Intrepid Museum opened in 1982, but just renovated exhibits and re-opened in November 2008. Keeping with the interactive theme of other new museums such as the Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington D.C., and the Newseum, this New York City museum offers the visitor an interactive learning experience. Touring a decommissioned aircraft carrier and a nuclear submarine in a museum where pictures, audio and video clips tell the stories is a great way to learn on student trips focused on Social Studies, U. S. history, and more.

A Brief History of the Intrepid
Commissioned during the height of World War II in 1943, the Intrepid, a floating aircraft carrier, is now a museum. Though the Intrepid is permanently docked in New York City it was once in Vietnam and traveled the waters of the north during the Cold War. At one time, the crew and ship recovered space shuttles for NASA. This varied history intrigues student tour groups and invites them to consider the long-range impact any naval vessel can have upon history.

What to Expect on Tour of the Intrepid
Heroism, education and excitement all color a visit to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. The Museum features a range of interactive exhibits and events providing students a range of activities. Thrilling historical re-creations such as Kamikaze: Day of Darkness, Day of Light, is dramatic and powerfully presented with the latest in video and audio technology. Visitors may ride in the A-6 Cockpit Simulator, visit the Virtual Flight Zone, and tour the inside of the world??s fastest commercial airplane, the Concorde. The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum provides a powerful student tour experience fed by a dynamic, innovative and moving environment for learning and enjoyment.

In addition to the aircraft carrier, the Intrepid Museum also houses the submarine USS Growler. An historic vessel, it is the only intact strategic diesel-powered submarine capable of nuclear missile firepower open to the public anywhere in the world. Since the chance to tour an actual decommissioned nuclear submarine is rare — student travelers will surely remember it.

Students also have a chance to learn about the Intrepid as a machine. The technology of the aircrafts that flew from her deck is explored in the museum. Student tour groups will be able to comprehend the inner workings of the naval vessel that supported over 3,000 American lives while at sea. Students will also come to know the Intrepid as a community of people, committed to protecting the United States. The crew, their lives as sailors, and the remarkable bonds they forged are explored in narratives captured in a variety of media.

The Michael Tyler Fisher Center for Education
“Stop, think, and do” are the objectives of the educational programs at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Problem solving and critical thinking skills are put into play with active learning exercises tied to the exhibits. Students derive a true educational experience from the trip to the Intrepid because the programs are structured with various grade level requirements in mind. Teachers may even obtain lesson plans and teacher training from Intrepid Museum Educators. Participation in the Museum??s teacher programs is a great opportunity to prepare curriculum tie-ins before and after the student trip to New York City.

After a visit to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, students, teachers and chaperones will gain insight into the level of sophistication of the U.S. air and naval defense systems ? even dating to World War II.

Learn about history by listening to the narratives of the members of the armed forces who partook in it and the artifacts they left behind. Put a trip to the Intrepid Museum on a student tour itinerary for New York City.

For more information of a tour of the Intrepid, email or take a minute to fill out the Request a Quote inquiry.