by Howard Clemens
Washington, D.C. is the center of American political and social life and has been a hub for international visitors since the beginning. For foreign students traveling to Washington D.C. for the first time, it is almost always a thrilling experience. However, seeing everything that the area has to offer can take weeks. So the question for trip leaders may be – where is a student tour group to start? And which are the most important points of interest?
Many students from other countries want to shop in the U.S. They can obtain goods that may not be available in their country. Trip leaders need to know that there are several points of interest in the Washington D.C. area where the visitor can combine sightseeing, shopping and dining.
National Harbor: A Grand View of Washington D.C.
With its many shops and restaurants, The National Harbor is situated on the Maryland side of the Potomac River. It is a great place to kick off any excursion. Students can board The Capitol Wheel, a towering 180-foot wheel with enclosed cars, that offers sweeping views of the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol building, and the whole glittering panorama of the city itself. Groups can also cruise the Potomac (or even sail right to the National Mall & Memorial Parks) on the Alexandria-National Harbor Water Taxi, which operates day and night.
When it’s time to shop, choose from 150 retailers, with an outlet mall that appeals to everyone. There are also 30 different restaurants to choose from at the National Harbor, ranging from McDonald’s to a high end dining experience overlooking the Potomac.
Downtown Washington D.C. also has more than its share of fun theme restaurants: the Madhatter, which has been a city institution for more than 30 years, takes its name, its décor, and its inspiration from Alice in Wonderland. Or, have the student group sample some Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken. Here, patrons can sample maple-bacon, s’more, or passionfruit pastries. Astro Doughnuts is the kind of fun and quirky eatery that students are bound to love.
Shop, Dine & be Entertained in Georgetown
There’s also never any shortage of shopping, historical sights, and dining in D.C.’s legendary Georgetown neighborhood. Students can take the Gastronomic Georgetown Food Tour, an outing that will expose them to gourmet French and Italian cuisine, delectable desserts from D.C.’s best bakeries, and other capitol-region culinary delights.
Shop at the Smithsonian Museums or National Air and Space Museum
One-stop shopping (as in something-for-everyone) is also an apt way to describe D.C.’s Smithsonian Museums. Students can take in three centuries of American art at once, or explore “the final frontier” (as Star Trek calls it) at the National Air and Space Museum. At these prominent museums, the foreign visitor will find lots of interesting merchandise for purchase, from clothing to jewelry to interesting limited edition art and memorabilia. Students may also want to visit the magnificent Anderson House, a lavish 50-room mansion-museum located in the city’s historic Dupont Circle neighborhood. This is always a feast for the eyes, and a rare glimpse into what it’s like to live like American royalty.
When it comes to dining out, it doesn’t get any hipper than the Hard Rock Cafe, located near Washington D.C.’s bustling Chinatown district. Students can also visit the cafe’s “Rock ‘n Roll Embassy,” which is situated right next to the world-famous Ford’s Theater. Washington D.C. is also known for its lively dinner theater scene: at Medieval Madness at Renaissance Hall, students can enjoy a 4-course “knights of the round table” type feast while they take in a medieval-themed play, complete with sword fighting.
Finally, if foreign students are looking for really offbeat entertainment, they’ll find it at the Spy Museum, where they’ll learn how to decrypt secret audio conversations, escape from inescapable places, and engage in their own missions of espionage and intrigue. It is definitely an educational experience—and a great time that gives the term “interactive exhibit” a whole new meaning.
To sum it up, there’s no shortage of entertainment in the nation’s capitol, and for foreign students looking to get a taste of sightseeing, dining and entertainment all in one – there’s no place quite like Washington, D.C.