by Howard Clemens
The Washington Monument, a popular student travel destination, is still closed for repairs as of February 2013, and the National Park Service is predicting that it may remain closed until 2014.
The Washington Monument was damaged when a rare earthquake struck the East Coast August 23, 2011. Though the impact of the quake was comparatively slight, it was enough to significantly afflict the 555 feet structure. Hurricane Irene, which made landfall later that year, did further damage, particularly to the top of the pyramid-shaped landmark. The elevator system inside the structure was also compromised, though it has since been repaired. Over the last several years, nature has certainly taken its toll on this historic Washington D.C. monument.
Completed in 1885 and opened to the public in 1888, the Washington Monument is the tallest stone-and-obelisk structure in the world. Located near the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool, it is one of the world’s most sought-after tourist destinations. Countless student trips have visited the inside of the structure and enjoyed the epic views from its observation windows. The White House, the US Capitol, the Jefferson Memorial, the Potomac River, the Smithsonian Museum, and many other famous attractions are all viewable from the monument’s observation areas.
The structure may or may not still be visible during its repair process. The popularity of student tours of Washington D.C. hasn’t declined since the attraction closed, and there is a wealth of other things for student groups to do and see in Washington.
Washington Monument can still be Incorporated into Student Travel Trips
Though students will not have access to the Monument, teachers can use the Web as an excellent tool to prepare students prior to trips. Narrated, virtual tours of the Washington Monument are available online, via YouTube.com and various educational websites, which teachers can use to pique students’ interest in exploring Washington D.C. Washington’s walking tours (like those conducted by organizations like DC By Foot , Washington Walks, Walk of the Town, and numerous others) are as popular as ever, and most feature comprehensive information and/or mini-lectures about the Monument and its history.
Most student trips incorporate a visit to many different famous DC monuments through a monuments tour (which may include the Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Korean, Vietnam, and World War II Memorials). A monument tour is a wonderful way for students to get their fill of D.C. history and learn more about the many monuments in Washington D.C. Groups can also visit Arlington National Cemetery, the Smithsonian Museums, Ford’s Theater, the National Archives, and the Botanical Gardens (which are in bloom year-round). And there are many historical districts to take in, like the Dupont Circle Historic District, the 16th Street Historical District, the Massachusetts Avenue Historic District, and the nightlife of bustling Georgetown. In springtime, a stroll through Washington D.C. means enjoying the famous cherry trees – a major attraction for student tour groups.
Washington D.C. also offers a number of cruises, which offer students a particularly unique and exciting way to see the city. The Cherry Blossom Cruises, for example, are a beautiful alternate way for students to take in DC’s scenery, and its monuments. Student groups can also take a narrated, 45-minute long Monument Cruise, which boards every hour on the half hour and offers spectacular “boat’s eye views” of a full range of Washington D.C. landmarks, including the Washington Monument.
The DC cruise website has a section specifically for student travel groups. Some of the cruises offer lunch or dinner, so teachers can plan the trip around whatever they think would be most exciting and informative for their group.
Since the Washington monument is under construction, its status is subject to change, and updates can be found on the “For Teachers” section of the National Park Service’s website. By checking these and other resources and working with student travel coordinators, teachers can put together an unforgettable, definitive DC experience for students.