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Senior class trip ideas for NYC, Washington D.C. and Orlando

by Howard Clemens

Senior year in high school can be life changing in so many ways. Marking the border between adolescence and adulthood, school and college (or employment), senior high school students are looking forward to a world of new opportunities but also saying some poignant goodbyes. After all, the friends that have been so important to them over the last few years will also be going their own way. That is why the end of senior year is an important milestone – important enough to mark with lasting memories.

For many, a senior class trip is the perfect way to make this time extra special. Whether it is a day trip, a few days, a week or more, this is one vacation that must be carefully planned and thoughtfully constructed.

Among the most popular senior trip destinations are New York City, Washington DC and Orlando in Florida. These vibrant, exciting places make it almost impossible for high school seniors to be bored. Read on to learn more about some great senior class trip ideas for those destinations.

High School Seniors on their Final Trip Together: New York City

NYC is a legendary student trip destination, simply because there is an almost endless list of things to see and do there. If traveling to NYC is likely to leave classmates a little tired, why not spend the first evening relaxing at one of Broadway’s legendary musicals? Wicked, Les Miserables, Cabaret and Mamma Mia are just a few of the choices available right now.

If time allows, New York City’s Chinatown district is a must-visit, and the ideal place for that after-show meal. NYC has one of the biggest Chinese communities outside Asia, and there are a huge number of authentic Chinese and other Asian restaurants and shops. Mott Street and Grand Street, in particular, are lined with Chinese restaurants, while Canal Street is a great place to go for gifts and jewelry. Also located there is The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) offering fascinating insights into the vibrant culture and history of the community.

Of course, high school seniors are music and fashion-conscious, and one of the best hangouts for the young and fashionable in NYC has to be the world famous Hard Rock Cafe. Located in the heart of NYC, it is full of authentic rock memorabilia and is a great place for a relaxed, all-American dining experience. Priority seating can be booked in advance by an educational travel company, making the lines a non-issue.

Finally, no student trip to NYC is complete without a boat tour of the harbor. High school seniors can see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. A student trip to New York City rounds off high school in truly memorable style.

Senior Class Trips to Washington DC

Although it has politics at its heart, DC is far from being a dry, administrative center – there is plenty here for high school seniors to see and do. Within eyesight of Washington D.C., on the shores of the Potomac River in Maryland, the National Harbor (NH) has a bustling waterfront that can compete with any international city. NH has more than 150 diverse shops and boutiques, over 30 eating places to choose from, a range of enticing hotels and lots of special events. Many visitors find this area hard to leave! The National Harbor is also home to the National Wheel, a gigantic Ferris wheel with enclosed gondolas that give a superb – and unforgettable – panoramic view of DC.

For culture lovers, DC has a range of theaters; so taking in a play is a popular option. For those whose preference is for adrenaline, there is the opportunity to try whitewater rafting on the Shenandoah or Potomac rivers in nearby West Virginia. More laid-back water lovers might prefer a boat tour of calmer sections of the Rappahannock River.

Orlando, Florida has Much to Offer Student Traveler

Surely no high school career is complete without at least one trip to Walt Disney World in Florida. Disney World offers a range of special offers designed especially for senior class trips, including interactive rides and programs, themed dance parties and buffet breakfasts. With a setting like that, how could anybody forget their high school senior year?

A great alternative – or addition – to a trip to Disney World trip is Universal’s Islands of Adventure, which offers rides, characters, special events and shows for every age and taste. Senior students will love Universal CityWalk, a 30-acre entertainment complex with nightclubs, restaurants, shopping and movies.

Planning a senior class trip can be challenging; with so many different tastes, interests and personalities along, it is important to offer a good mix of activities and entertainment. However, the high school senior year trip is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all. So it is important to get it right. Hopefully these ideas have provided some inspiration.

For more information on putting together a senior class trip itinerary for New York City, Washington D.C. or any other destination, visit http://www.educationaltravelconsultants.com

Smithsonian National Museum of African Art: New Eyes on the Old World

national-museum-african-artby Howard Clemens

Visit one of the most popular museums in Washington DC and provide for your students a window into the cradle of civilization. First Lady Michelle Obama recently said, “Learning through the arts reinforces critical academic skills . . . and provides students with the skills to creatively solve problems.”

Take student travel groups on docent-led tours of the permanent and visiting and traveling exhibitions, or let them hook into an audio device and tour on their own. The museum website has easy access forms to plan your visit for both tours and museum staff-led workshops. Specific tours – such as the Jambo tour – will be tailored to elementary, junior high or high school curricular needs.

Permanent Exhibits at the National Museum of African Art in D.C.
The National Museum of African Art is often missed by student groups visiting Washington D.C., yet it contains one of the most staggering collections of African art on display in the world. Touring the museum will complement many types of African studies in literature, the arts, politics, and more. This museum is an excellent way to incorporate diversity into any student tour of Washington D.C. and just about any curriculum.

Extensive African Photographs Available for Viewing by Student Groups
At the Museum, student travel groups will find over 350,000 items on display in the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, and that’s just one small portion of the Museum. Here students may also become familiar with the large number of African mosaics on display as well as rare sub-Saharan art on permanent loan from the Walt Disney-Tishman collection. In 2005 the Disney Foundation gave the museum 525 pieces of African art that includes a beautiful 19th century female figure carved from ivory. Since the 1960’s, this particular collection has greatly influenced the study of African art.

Artistic Dialogues Between African and African Diaspora in America
Also on display until January of 2016 is the Conversations exhibit where African art and artists are in conversation with African American art and artists. These contributions help celebrate the museum’s 50th anniversary, providing fruitful dialogue between Africa and the African diaspora. A few of the topics as part of the Conversations exhibit include “Spirituality, Power and Politics, Nature as Metaphor, and the popular Music and Urban Culture.”

Special Exhibitions
There is a special exhibition for the museum’s anniversary called “Connecting the Gems of the Indian Ocean.” The dance and music of the Omani people from East Africa are celebrated. The Al Najoom Dance Troupe is one of the most talented dance groups of Oman and they have been performing for over fifteen years, telling audiences the rich history of their culture through movement and sound. The dances they share are used for religious ceremony as well as everyday life.

Maya Angelou’s Legacy is Celebrated by Museum
The Smithsonian’s mission statement is, “To inspire conversations about the beauty, power, and diversity of African arts and culture worldwide.” The recent death of African American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou has been on the minds of museum curators and staff. Not long before her death the poet had a public conversation with the museum director Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole. You can view that conversation online at this link: http://youtu.be/e8S-mNq3ypg

Online Resources for Student Tour Leaders Preparing to Go to D.C.
Students and faculty can enjoy glimpses at the permanent collection and peek at upcoming traveling exhibitions online at this link: http://africa.si.edu. At the bottom right corner of the Home Page look for the “Radio Africa” link. Students can listen to this 24-hour radio program curated by the museum staff, sampling music from every corner of the African continent. Contact a student travel professional to arrange student group docent-led tours, or signup the class for workshops like the quilt collage workshop. There are also online galleries of student artwork made in the museum workshops or back at home in the classroom after returning from the museum tour.

The National Museum of African Art originally opened its doors with the help of Warren Robbins in June of 1964 in a townhouse that was the home of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Today it stands a world-class museum with visitors from every corner of the globe, helping place Africa at the center of conversation on the origins of humanity. On display until September, 2015 is a commemorative exhibition: Chief S.O. Alonge: Photographer to the Royal Court of Benin, Nigeria. These historic photographs did a marvelous job documenting the rituals and regalia of the court for more than fifty years, and provide a historical record of studio photography in West Africa. There has never been a better time to bring the class to the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.

For more information on creating a student travel itinerary of Washington D.C. that includes a visit to the National Museum of African Art, visit http://www.educationaltravelconsultants.com.

Student Travel Groups Encounter the Ghosts of Arlington, Virginia While Visiting Washington D.C. Area

By Howard Clemens
No student trip to Washington D.C. is complete without a stop in Arlington, Virginia. Arlington is the second largest city of the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Situated on the southern bank of the Potomac River, a stunning view of the D.C. skyline can be seen from all vantage points. While in Arlington, be sure to also visit The Pentagon Memorial, The Marine Corps Memorial and The United States Air Force Memorial. Student groups will learn a great deal about the history of the military in Arlington. In the evening, groups can look forward to seeing the hair-raising Arlington Ghost Tour, and learning about history from a different perspective.

 
Who said Virginia was for lovers? Actually, Virginia is for ghosts. Virginia is the most haunted state in America. No city in Virginia could be more haunted than Arlington, home of Arlington National Cemetery. The heroes of the United States are resting here, or according to the ghost hunters and tour guides – some of the ghosts of America’s past are not at rest at all.

Famous Ghosts Haunt Arlington

Arlington National Cemetery is one of the most haunted sites in the country. This famous cemetery is the second to the largest burial ground in the United States. It is home to the graves of many American war heroes and two U.S. presidents (John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft). Over 300,000 are buried on these green, rolling hills. Over 7,000 funerals occur here per year, adding many new apparitions with each passing season. On average, there are 28 funerals per day at Arlington National Cemetery. This is also the only cemetery where servicemen from every war in U.S. history are buried. Many apparitions of these departed souls have been spotted roaming the cemetery at night.

arlington national cemetery
The Custis Lee Mansion at Arlington National Cemetery was built in the early 1800s.

The Custis-Lee Arlington Mansion and Robert E. Lee Memorial is a haunted spot located within the cemetery. This Greek-revival style mansion was the last resting place for the Union War dead. Before this, it was the pre-war home of Robert E. and Mary Lee. Several ghosts have been spotted here, including the spirit of Mary Custis Lee herself.

 
Dedicated to American service members who died without their remains being identified, The Tomb of the Unknowns is famous for its frequent changing of the guard ceremony. It is perhaps even more famous for its high level of paranormal activity.

Visit the Kennedy Gravesites at Arlington National Cemetery

A trip to Arlington Cemetery wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Kennedy Gravesites. After President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, his widow Jacqueline decided her husband should be buried in a very public place, famously explaining, “he belongs to the people.” Thus, he was buried in Arlington Cemetery, on a slope below the Lee Arlington House. On the day of the funeral, Mrs. Kennedy lighted the Eternal Flame, which continues to burn at the head of the grave, serving as a beautiful reminder of the President’s life and lasting contributions to our country. The gravesites of the President’s esteemed brothers, Robert and Ted, are nearby, decorated with simple white wooden crosses.

student trips dc
Old Post Chapel is adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery and the site of many ghost sightings.

Ghost Tales from the Old Post Chapel

Across the street from the cemetery is perhaps the most haunted Arlington site of them all, Old Post Chapel. Once used as a mourning room, so much paranormal activity has been spotted here that students will experience a ghostly chill. Constant ghostly voices and footsteps have been reported at the chapel. Locked doors have been known to swing open without any known help. Cabinet drawers swing open to 90 degrees. Loud organ music has been said to play in the Chapel at odd hours of the night. The Chapel is also home to many known apparitions. There is a small boy often seen running through the Chapel – but as soon as he faintly appears, he just as quickly vanishes. Some have heard a woman wailing in the front of the Chapel while others have seen a beautiful dark-haired Spanish lady who disappears the moment she realizes she’s being watched.

Entertainment and Dining Near Arlington

The perfect complement to one of our exciting, ghoulish Ghost Tours is a nice meal in Arlington. Arlington has a sophisticated restaurant district including well-reviewed restaurants such as Liberty Tavern, The Green Pig Bistro and Boulevard Wood Grill. For large student groups, advanced reservations are required and an educational travel company can help make these arrangements. Student groups visiting Washington D.C. also love to visit the Hard Rock Café. Looking for fun entertainment and a meal? In nearby Old Town Alexandria Medieval Madness is a great way to spend an evening. For more information on combining a student tour of Washington D.C. with a ghost tour of Arlington visit http://www.educationaltravelconsultants.com.

Chorus, Orchestra and Band Trips to Washington D.C. Include Performance at Top D.C. Sites

Band trips for high school students include a public performance as the main objective of the trip.  Some performance groups travel specifically for adjudicated festivals, which usually occur on the weekends from early April through the end of May. Other bands, orchestras and choral groups schedule performances at notable pubic venues in major cities.  The Washington D.C. performance trip is especially rich because it gives students a chance to play in heavily trafficked public venues such as:  the Lincoln, Jefferson, or FDR Memorials, the White House ellipse, Union Station or the U.S. Navy Memorial. Student travel groups can also enjoy the many other sites in D.C. and engage in fun entertainment activities.
NationalMall
The White House Ellipse
The White House Ellipse is a nice venue for warmer months, where high school bands and orchestras can play outside. The ellipse is a circular driveway that surrounds an open field. Here, many citizens have demonstrated or participated in community functions.  This open area of the President’s Park outside the White House is a highly visible location for a performance group to showcase their talent and is available for performance group trips with enough advance notice.

Lincoln, Jefferson & FDR Memorials
Located on the National Mall in Washington D.C., the Lincoln Memorial offers a splendid view and excellent exposure for student performance groups.  Also on the National Mall, The Jefferson Memorial was completed in 1943 and it was built to resemble the Roman Pantheon, with a circular colonnaded style of architecture, which Jefferson himself brought to America. He was a true statesman, scholar and architect, among many other distinctions.  There is a statue of Jefferson within the memorial, looking out towards the White House.  There is also a statue of the five members of the Declaration of Independence drafting committee submitting their report to Congress, and five excerpts from Jefferson’s writing adorn the walls. These snippets encapsulate his main thoughts and philosophies.  Both Memorials are iconic American statues celebrating two of the greatest presidents.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) Memorial
Also on the National Mall in Washington D.C. is a memorial to one of the greatest Presidents of the United States – Franklin D. Roosevelt.  His presidency occurred during the 1930s and the 1940s and spanned the Great Depression and World War II. Despite having polio and being restrained to a wheel chair in later years, Roosevelt’s leadership is renowned and his legacy remains strong.  FDR’s statue is cast in a sitting position with a cloak draped around him and his dog is by his side.  On the other side of the memorial are men in a bread line waiting for food, signifying the Great Depression.  Because the Memorial is outdoors, on the National Mall, it provides a spectacular amount of visibility for student bands and orchestras.

Union Station
Union Station in Washington D.C. has a rich history as one of the major crossroads of America. Opened in 1907 when the Baltimore and Ohio Pittsburgh Express came into the station, Union Station’s construction was eventually completed in 1908.  The white granite construction is outstanding and it is embellished with many different images.  All of the wood features inside the Station are made from a deep, rich mahogany.  In the fall of 1988, Union Station reopened its doors after a restoration project.  Student performance groups have the chance to perform in this iconic structure, which still amazes many with its magnificence today.  Travelers can take all forms of rail through Union Station:  Amtrak, the DC Area Metro, Maryland Rail Commuter Service (MARC) or Virginia Railway Express (VRE). Bus service on all major public transportation lines as well as private bus companies such as Megabus, Bolt and Peter Pan can also be boarded and disembarked from at Union Station.  The bustling Station houses restaurants, newsstands and stores and is the location of many special events.

U.S. Navy Memorial
The U.S. Navy Memorial was dedicated in 1987, in the 212th year of the Navy’s existence.  It is centrally located on Pennsylvania Avenue, between 7th and 9th Streets.  This public, outdoor park also has a Naval Heritage Center on site.  The Navy Memorial is centrally located and can easily encompass large groups for special events.  Student performers will find that a performance at the U.S. Navy Memorial puts them in the heart of the Washington D.C. political district, where Pennsylvania Avenue connects the White House and the Capital.

Trip leaders need to plan ahead with a recommended one year to six months advance to schedule a performance trip to Washington D.C. that includes their desired venue. There are numerous details of a performance trip, but it is well worth the effort.  Student travel groups need a special tour guide who is experienced in performance tours.   Musicians have to carry their instruments for performance tours in Washington D.C. and this may be bit complicated, especially if air travel is involved and airline luggage fees apply. A specialized tour guide will be able to test stage equipment pre-performance and take on other duties associated in organizing this type of student trip.

Many high school bands, orchestras or choral groups scheduled to perform in Washington D.C. usually stay four or five days so they have a chance to see the entire Washington D.C. area. Some performance groups will perform in Washington D.C. and take a short trip out to Mount Vernon or Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.  Others may want to explore political sites such as the U.S. Capitol and the White House, or visit the National Archives or see inside the J. Edgar Hoover F.B.I. Building.

In the evenings, student performance groups can have fun, related entertainment, such as a stop at the Hard Rock Café or an evening at the Medieval Dinner Theater.  There are, of course, numerous other options to add to itineraries such as exploration of the Smithsonian Museums, or a visit to the newly opened Washington Harbor to ride the brand new observation wheel with a view of downtown D.C.

There are so many excellent touring sites that student musicians can see while visiting the Washington D.C. area.  And, trip highlights may be customized by the trip leader, band director or teacher. Request a quote for student performance trips to Washington D.C.

Student Tours of the Pentagon and the 911 Pentagon Memorial in DC

Many student travel groups heading to New York City will visit the new 911 Memorial and Museum.  This phenomenal new National 9/11 Memorial is open to the public now and will be visited by many.

student travel washington dcDid you know there is also a National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial in Washington D.C.?  The memorial marks the site of the crash of American Airlines Flight 77. The large-scale outdoor memorial illustrates each person’s life with a line that begins with a birth year and ends on September 11, 2001. Prior to seeing the actual memorial, student groups will pass through the Memorial Gateway, where visitors will learn more about the Pentagon, and have time for reflection.

A Brief History of Pentagon’s Damage on 911
On September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the west side of the Pentagon, after being hijacked by five terrorists. All on board Flight 77 died that day and so did nearly one hundred employees of the Pentagon, for a total of 184 people.  This section of the building was demolished and reconstructed. The building was created with safer construction features (such as walls and windows that can withstand blasts), and the new design deliberately excludes the escalator that used to connect the Pentagon to the Metro station.

911 Memorial Description
The exact position of the memorial is at the point of the plane’s impact that day, and there is even a black stone in the new foundation of the Pentagon, pulled from the demolition, that is inscribed with the date.  Each life lost is marked with the year the person was born, with a line extending out towards September 11, 2001.  Each memorial culminates in a bench made from marble and stainless steel and is inscribed with the person’s name. The National 911 Memorial at the Pentagon was dedicated in a public ceremony that included the families and loved ones of survivors in 2008, making it the first of the three national memorial sites (including New York City, World Trade Center and Shanksville, Pennsylvania) to be open to the public.

The 911 Memorial at the Pentagon is one aspect of the student trip to the Pentagon.  Provided there is enough advance planning, student tour groups headed to the Washington D.C. area can visit parts of the Pentagon that are accessible to the public and learn more about the military’s rich history and role in maintaining a democratic nation.

Is the Pentagon Accessible for Student Tour Groups?
In the post-911 era, procedures and rules when visiting a government building have changed. Despite heightened concerns about security, the Pentagon has done an excellent job of keeping the building open to student group tours. The tour guides at the Pentagon are staff members assigned the duty of conducting tours for a one-year period. Approximately 50 Pentagon employees are assigned the duty of taking students and other types of tour groups throughout this huge facility, and they are imminently qualified to do so.

Student Trips to Washington D.C. Consider Touring the Pentagon
In this age of technological and traditional warfare, the largest military installation in the U.S. is heavily guarded and has special rules for those who attend the 90-minute tours.  These tours offer a thorough overview of all branches of the military and a history of commemorative battles fought, so they are well worth it from an educational point of view.  For the ROTC student, and for the student thinking of enlisting in the military, a tour of the Pentagon will be fascinating.  These students will certainly learn more about the history and battles of their chosen branch of the military.

However, if all procedures are not honored by the entire student travel group, students will not be allowed to participate in the Pentagon tour. Just over 100,000 people toured the Pentagon last year, so it is certainly a privilege.  Tours can be booked 14-90 days in advance. Trip leaders and teachers need to let a qualified student travel company know of a student group’s intentions to take the Pentagon tour in the planning stages of trip to Washington D.C.

Student Travelers Must Follow Procedures for Pentagon Tour
Students cannot carry backpacks or camera bags, and pocketbooks will be subject to search.  Electronic devices of any kind are not permitted on tour – including cell phones and smartphones. No food or beverages or tobacco products are allowed on tour, nor are weapons or sharp objects that could be used as weapons permitted. All students on the Pentagon tour must have photo identification to be presented prior to beginning the tour.  Making sure each high school student has a proper identification, whether they hold a driver’s license or not, is a detail that needs to be confirmed before students board busses or planes for trips to Washington D.C.  It is important that Pentagon staff have an accurate record of persons entering and leaving the building.

The most challenging guidelines for today’s tech savvy high school student to observe will be the surrender of cell phones and other electronic devices. This informative tour will include nearly a mile and a half of walking. The immense size of the Pentagon and its history are sure to impress many students.

What Student Groups Can Learn from a Visit to the Pentagon
Because it houses leadership of the national defense, the Pentagon is a building that has airs of secrecy and mystery about it. Prior to an actual visit, it is likely many students’ opinions about the Pentagon may have been formed from watching television and movies.

Hollywood’s portrayals of Pentagon activities do not always reflect reality. Nor do fictional images of the Pentagon show the initiative, knowledge and skills behind the nearly 23,000 civilian and military employees who work at this complex everyday. Pentagon staff performs an array of duties that are integral to our nation’s defense.  By attending a Pentagon Tour, students will come away with more knowledge about warfare, and the way in which U.S. soldiers have distinguished themselves throughout history.  After a visit, student’s viewpoint of the Pentagon will be more accurate.

To schedule a student trip to Washington D.C. that includes a tour of the Pentagon, visit http://www.educationaltravelconsultants.com.

Washington Monument Reopens After Nearly Three Years of Closure

Washington Monument reopened in May 2014.  The NPS is offering extended hours (until 10 p.m.) for visitors who want to take the elevator to the observation deck.
The Washington Monument reopened in May 2014. The NPS is offering extended hours (until 10 p.m.) for visitors who want to take the elevator to the observation deck.

 

The Washington Monument in Washington D.C. has always been a favorite for student travel groups heading to the D.C. area.  The obelisk has graced the nation’s capital since the 19th Century – until it was struck by an earthquake on August 22, 2011.  Although people were inside and falling debris and stone did affect some visitors, thankfully no staff or tourists were seriously injured or died while visiting the Monument that day.

The Earthquake of August 2011 Damaged Washington Monument
The Washington Monument sustained a great deal of damage from the earthquake. The quake was nearly a 6 on the Richter Scale, with an epicenter 90 miles southwest of D.C., in Virginia. Damages included “cracks, spalls and displacements of stones and joints throughout the building,” according the National Park Service website.  The Washington Monument had to be closed to visitors in the interest of public safety.

Repair to the Washington Monument has taken nearly three years of labor to aright this structure and make it suitable for visitation.  Stones with fissures had to be repaired one by one, and laborers logged over one thousand days of work on the structure.

The Washington Monument re-opened May 12, 2014 with a public ceremony, just in time for the late spring and summer travel season.  Trip leaders taking student tours to Washington D.C. may now add a visit to the Washington Monument to their itinerary.

Short History of the Washington Monument
Built to honor the memory of George Washington, first president, this monument was constructed in two phases: 1848-1854 and 1876-1884. The architect was Robert Mills – and his vision was to place the enormous monument (which would be the tallest in the world at that time) in the center of the green with nothing overshadowing it.  Though he originally planned on a 600-foot structure, the actual height was 555 feet, 5.125 inches. It remained the tallest building until the Eiffel Tower overshadowed it.

Lt. Col. Casey supervised the latter stages of construction and he revised the height of the structure so the foundational base was strong enough to support it. It is created from the stones of three different quarries:  two in Baltimore and one in Massachusetts.  Different color stones are noticeable on the Monument. The Army Corps of Engineers completed construction on December 6, 1884 and the Monument was dedicated on February 21, 1885, during James J. Polk’s presidency.

Student Travelers Can Tour the Washington Monument Again
New exhibits have opened at the Washington Monument, with more opportunities for learning than ever before.   For guided student group tours, teachers and trip leaders are best advised to book tickets well in advance with the assistance of a qualified student travel company.  On tour, a ranger will discuss some historical facts for groups as they take the elevator up. Then they will spend some time on the observation deck for a few minutes and descend to the 490’ foot level to view the exhibits.  Students re-board the elevator at the 490’ level and while the elevator takes them back down, the ranger will once again point out details about the Monument’s construction and history.

For any student of American history, a visit to Washington D.C. and the Washington Monument is a must.  Students learn more about George Washington and one of the most awe-inspiring monuments constructed in the world.  Visit http://www.educationaltravelconsultants.com to find out more about student trips to Washington D.C.

A New Student Travel Site in DC: Capital Ferris Wheel Set to Open this Spring

National Harbor will have a 175 foot observation wheel opening in May 2014.

Student travel groups with a destination of Washington D.C. will want to spend some time at The National Harbor (NH).  It’s located on the shores of Prince George County, Maryland, just across the Potomac River from Washington D.C.

The National Harbor encompasses a stretch of shoreline with magnificent views of Washington D.C. and the many famous structures that dot the skyline of the nation’s capital. National Harbor visitors will have a new treat when they come in the spring of 2014: The Capital Ferris Wheel. Get ready for a ride on an observation wheel that is 175 feet above the Potomac River, providing phenomenal views of downtown Washington D.C. and the surrounding area.

The Capital Wheel

This project is a small piece of the National Harbor as a whole, which offers hotels, shopping, dining and entertainment for visitors.  While student tour groups may enjoy these activities, some groups may have limited time to further explore the National Harbor – but trip leaders will still want to schedule a ride on the Capital Ferris Wheel.

The Capital Ferris Wheel is slated for completion in May, 2014 and will be a great attraction to enhance National Harbor. Initially, developers wanted to build a Disney theme park and resort at National Harbor, but this deal fell through.

Now MGM will be building a casino at National Harbor instead, a decision that has left many unhappy.   Student travelers and educational travel companies would have benefitted more from a Disney resort than a casino.  Yet the harbor itself and the views of D.C. the Capital Wheel provides are reason enough to visit.

Representatives of the maker of the Capital Wheel, Chance Rides, call it an observation wheel, not a ferris wheel, making an important distinction.  Rather than a carnival ride, the Capital Wheel is designed for those who want a long, slow look at landmarks with a bird’s eye view of the Washington D.C. skyline.  Each ride allows for two revolutions around the Capital Wheel. Riders see views of the Washington Monument, U.S. Capital, the Pentagon, Alexandria, Virginia and Prince George’s County, Maryland.

There are other world-class cities that have observation wheels and these have proven to have great appeal for the public. The idea is to see iconic landmarks in cities like Washington D.C. from a high vantage point.  Other cities with wheels include, Seattle, Washington and London, England, among others. The London Eye reaches heights of over 400 feet and surely bedazzles visitors.

Up to eight people can be seated in each of the 42 climate controlled gondolas and it can be used year round. Students can ride it anytime between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m., making it convenient to complementary activities in Northern Virginia, such as a visit to Arlington National Cemetery and/or Mount Vernon.

On a pleasant spring or fall day, student travel groups will love a visit to the Potomac River waterfront, strolling along the docks of the National Harbor Marina. If there is time for the student tour group, perhaps they can enjoy a lunch or dinner at one of the fine restaurants in National Harbor, too. If time permits, groups may take water taxi rides or even add a sightseeing cruise on the Potomac River to their itinerary. Whatever the plan when visiting National Harbor, consult an educational travel company. Their experts will help to coordinate the trip with visits to many of the other rich historical and cultural sites to visit in the Washington D.C. area.

Visit http://www.educationaltravelconsultants.com for more information about student trips to Washington D.C. that include a stop at the National Harbor.

Popular Smithsonian Museum for Student Travel Groups: National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC

The National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. is a popular place for student travel groups to visit.

One of the most popular stops on a student tour of Washington D.C. is the National Air and Space Museum, part of the Smithsonian Museums.  The Smithsonian Museum is so vast it would be a huge challenge to construct a student group tour of each museum on just a four to five day visit. So, educators and student trip leaders need to be selective about which Smithsonian Museum fit best with curricular objectives.  For science, history and social studies students who want to be exposed to the evolution of air and space travel – the National Air and Space Museum is a winning choice.  Students learn through contemporary interactive exhibits designed to keep their attention.

This overview of the National Air and Space Museum will highlight major parts of it. This is a great snapshot of the Museum’s offerings, so student trip leaders can plan on which places in the Museum and exhibits to include in their visit beforehand.  Social studies, history and science teachers may be interested in using educational materials found on the website to prepare students in advance of a student trip to Washington D.C. Visit the Explore and Learn section of the National Air and Space Museum website to download classroom materials.

National Air and Space Museum Exhibits
There are so many exhibits to choose from at the Museum in Washington D.C. Some historical exhibits include: Early Flight, Apollo to the Moon and the Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight Gallery.  Exhibits that showcase contemporary technology developed by scientists include:  Lunar Exploration Vehicles, Military Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and Moving Beyond Earth. These are just a sampling of a long list of extraordinary topics related to air and space.

For history students, a focus on specific periods may work best. Many students study the major U.S. conflicts. See World War I; the Pre-1920 Aviation exhibit, which covers this era; and, World War II Aviation spans the 1930s and 1940s.  One of the most popular exhibits at the Museum is Spirit & Opportunity: 10 Years Roving Across Mars.  This particular exhibit focuses on notable accomplishments of two Mars Rovers and is on exhibit through September 14, 2014.  Learn more about other exhibits by visiting:  http://www.airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/mer/.

Albert Einstein Planetarium
Student groups may have time to catch a show at the Planetarium.  Shows last only 25 minutes.  Choose from Journey to the Stars, Undiscovered Worlds and What’s New in Space Science. All movies are scheduled at different times during the day, usually in half hour increments. So when student groups visit they may be able to work one movie in.

Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater

Viewing a show at the IMAX Theater at the National Air and Space Museum will cost extra for the students and chaperones in the group, but it’s well worth $7.50-10 fee.  IMAX films are as close to re-creation of reality as possible, heightening sight, sound,  and vision for the spectator.  Choose an IMAX movie that parallels nicely with classroom activities. These include:  Air Racers 3D (Watch Reno Air Races from a pilot’s view), Hubble 3D (Astronauts on a mission to save the Hubble Space Telescope), The Dream is Alive (Space Shuttle simulations), and To Fly! (A journey through the history of flight).

Public Observatory
On a group visit to the National Air and Space Museum, try to schedule enough time for students to visit the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory.  Access to the Observatory is through the East Terrace.  Hours are 12-3 p.m. Wednesday thorough Sunday, weather permitting, so there is a small window of opportunity. The reward is that on clear days students can observe the sun, the moon, and phases of Venus, as well as other sights and phenomenon.

For those interested in the development of aircraft and air travel and space exploration, a visit to the National Air and Space Museum is probably the most comprehensive view of the history of U.S. technological advances over the past century – and into the future. This is the type of Museum most students, teachers and chaperones can get excited about visiting.  To plan a student trip to Washington D.C. that includes the National Air and Space Museum, visit Educational Travel Consultants website.

Student Travel Groups Visiting Washington DC Gain New Perspectives from Capitol Dome Repair and Restoration

The deterioration of the dome of America’s Capitol Building has taken a toll on this notable historic structure. With the oxidation of the cast iron girders and mortar in particular, the Capitol Building is in dire need of repair.  Old paint needs to be removed, iron and stone repairs are needed and a fresh coat of paint needs to be expertly applied to one of this country’s most popular landmarks.  This important work must take place over a course of time.  The Capitol Dome in Washington D.C. is a marvel of engineering built during the American Civil War and was subject to the pressures of that era.  Now it will be stabilized and improved using contemporary engineering methods.

Over the years, many structural pieces have already been removed from the Capitol as the building has degraded. But the pieces have been removed to protect passersby below. Now a thorough repair to the Capitol dome will begin, and with it will come a new look at historical perspectives of its design and construction for student travel groups.

The U.S. Capitol Building's iconic dome is an American legacy that must be properly preserved. The Capitol Dome is under renovation to improve its structure.

While the improvements to the Capitol are underway, a vast system of white canopies will be installed to protect the public.  The doughnut shaped configuration of the protective canopy will be lit from within at night while workers reconstruct the dome.  Most work will take place in evenings and on weekends, leaving time and space for student tours of Washington D.C.  In many ways this is the best possible time to be a visitor as tours will include much added information surrounding the reconstruction:  the original engineers, proposed drafts, materials, symbolism, and challenges to building in the midst of the bloody Civil War.

Student groups visiting Washington D.C. will take the official U.S. Capitol Building Tour. This is one of the best tours in D.C., with extremely knowledgeable guides who will help history and social studies students become informed about the Capitol’s history and recent renovations. Capitol Building tours take student groups through the vast halls of national sculpture, paintings and tapestries.  Tours begin in the orientation theaters for viewing the short educational film titled, “Out of Many, One.”  All official tours start at 8:50 a.m. and at 3:20 p.m., every Monday through Saturday.  Have a student travel company with experience in organizing educational trips to Washington D.C. schedule the Capitol tour well in advance, to ensure a visit.

Be sure to be part of the special tour “Capitol and the Congress During Civil War.”  This special tour is in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and will include exclusive stops at the Old Supreme Court Chambers. Be sure to ask a student travel company representative for passes to this special tour.  There are a limited number of passes given out each day, and the tour begins promptly at 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The U.S. Capitol Dome was constructed during the Civil War era. Learn more about the repairs that are being done on this historic landmark.

The Capitol offers another special tour that is offered Monday through Friday at 2 p.m.:  the Brumidi Corridors Tour.  Designed by Constantino Brumidi in the mid nineteenth century, these corridors are unique in their mastery of painting and tile work.  This tour is approximately thirty minutes in length and takes groups through the Senate wing on the first floor of the Capitol.  The tour guide will discuss the exquisite paintings on the walls and ceiling of the corridor.  There is no other corridor like it, and this tour is strongly recommended.

Every Monday through Friday at 11 a.m. in Exhibition Hall there is a special thirty-minute program called, “Exhibition Hall Family Program.”  This talk details how the Capitol was expanded over time and how it impacts the laws and what goes into making legislative decisions that change all of our lives.

Students may also visit the restaurant or gift shop in the Capitol Building on the lower level of the Capitol Visitor Center. It is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.. The restaurant serves a wide variety of soups, salads, special entrees, pizzas, and desserts – all recipe items designed to reflect the different regions of the United States. The gift shop specializes in merchandize inspired by the U.S. Capitol’s art and architecture.

Learn more about a school trip to Washington D.C.  Or, request a quote by filling out a short inquiry online.

Smithsonian Will Open National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall

by Howard Clemens

The new National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) will open on the National Mall in D.C. in 2015

A new National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), a branch of the Smithsonian, is under construction in a prominent location near the Washington Monument in Washington D.C.

Doors of the new museum are scheduled to open in 2015. Until then, school groups on trips to D.C. can see the “Changing America” exhibition across the street at the National Museum of American History. This new exhibit looks at the century of hard work between the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and the 1963 March on Washington. Students studying the anti slavery and civil rights movements will find this directly related to their curriculum. A short visit to this exhibit will be a great way to learn about some of the people and events that defined these eras in American history.

Architects Philip Freelon and David Adjaye are seeing their dream building come together right on the Mall in Washington D.C. There have been generous donations from many groups and individuals, including Oprah Winfrey – who recently gave the NMAAHC a much-needed twelve million dollar donation for their museum construction project. This will be an institution dedicated to helping all Americans see the great importance of African American history to the nation as a whole. Equally as important, the NMAAHC will make clear how the stories and histories of African Americans helped shape the struggles for freedom around the world.

The NMAAHC website has detailed information about the progress of the construction of the NMAAHC with several short documentary films, one of which shows a 3D digital model of the proposed final structure.

An interior rendition of the NMAAHC when it opens in 2015.

The NMAAHC project is innovative because of its approach to using the Web to gather archival material. Students and teachers can check the website for information on how to help preserve African American artifacts, from furniture to personal items to books. There are programs available for preserving photographs, paper documents, and also clothing and textiles. In the classroom, students can view video interviews with such prominent African American citizens as United States District Court judge Matthew J. Perry Jr. and Lawrence Guyot.

For those student travel groups and group leaders who are curious to see the project unfolding, The NMAAHC website has a construction camera with an ongoing series of snapshots of up-to-date footage of the Museum’s construction. The Washington Monument is right next door to the site of the future NMAAHC – within walking distance.

Students interested in pursuing a career in Museum work may want to explore the many internship jobs available with the NMAAHC. There are currently internship projects with the cataloging department, the collection preservation department, as well as curatorial, education and exhibition display. Students in the classroom can also be part of bringing together the many facets of this museum by helping to find and catalogue archival materials.

Some of the highlights of the museum include historical documents such as texts and photos and even implements such as shackles used during the dark age of American slavery. There are galleries also devoted to music and performing arts, as well as visual art by and about African Americans including the Harlem Renaissance through the civil rights movement of the 1960s, as well as contemporary African American artists of today.

The website gives visitors insight into upcoming exhibits for the NMAAHC. Samples of the Black Fashion Museum Collection, originally founded in 1979 by Lois K. Alexander Lane are available on the website. This collection includes bonnets worn by slaves as well as opera capes. There are also beautiful gowns made by African American fashion designer Ann Lowe, whose patrons included the Vanderbilts, the Rockefellers, the Duponts, and also former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

Students studying slavery in the United States will also be interested in viewing the Harriet Tubman Collection, dedicated to the magnificent dedication of the woman who herself ran away from slavery as a young girl in the early 1800s. There are nearly 100 artifacts belonging to Harriet Tubman that will be on display, and some of those are currently shown in photographs on the NMAAHC website. Tubman’s fearless hard work on the Underground Railroad changed the lives of hundreds of people. She and others help make this one of the most extraordinary museum experiences on the Mall in Washington D.C.

Student trips headed to Washington D.C. will definitely want to plan a visit to the website prior to their visit – and schedule an actual visit to the museum itself in 2015. In the meantime, seeing the National Museum of American History “Changing America” exhibit is highly recommended. Learn more about black history tours of Atlanta, Baltimore and Washington D.C. These student tours are designed to create a broader understanding of the history of slavery, emancipation and civil rights in the United States.

Learn more about black history tours of Washington D.C., designed for students studying the anti-slavery movement of the 19th Century and the Civil Rights movement of the 20th Century.