25 October 2016
Anyone with an interest in the USA's political culture, or its history, will be fascinated by this 12-day tour of Washington DC and the surrounding region. You'll start out by exploring Washington's museums and key sites, then continue to Philadelphia, the Amish farms of Bucks County, historic Gettysburg, Baltimore and Annapolis. There's a chance to relax at Virginia Beach before continuing the history lessons at Colonial Williamsburg, Charlottesville and Shenandoah Valley. With the perfect blend of historical insights and spectacular sightseeing, this is a truly memorable trip.
Your trip to the US capital begins as you arrive at Washington-Dulles International Airport (DCA) and proceed to your hotel, where you'll have the rest of the day at leisure before you begin exploring in earnest tomorrow.
Today you'll explore the city's most famous sites, mostly concentrated along the National Mall, known as "The Nation's Front Yard". Here you'll find most of the 18 museums that comprise the Smithsonian Institution, as well as the War Memorials and the Washington Monument, where you can take a ride to the top of the obelisk. Other points of interest are the Arlington National Cemetery, the Library of Congress, the National Cathedral and the National Zoo, and you may be pleasantly surprised that admission to many of the attractions is free. For a fun way to see the city, join an optional guided Segway tour – an easy and comfortable way to travel! This evening, you may like to explore Washington's vibrant nightlife: the city offers a wealth of world-class restaurants, as well as theatres and live music.
You'll leave Washington this morning for Philadelphia, a key city in the American Revolution. Head to the National Historical Park to see the city's most famous attraction: the Liberty Bell Pavilion, which houses the huge bell. Just across the street, Independence Hall is named for Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, constructed and adopted here on 4 July 1776. You may also like to visit the Betsy Ross House, where Betsy sewed the first United States flag, presented to George Washington. Once you've had your fill of history, the Philadelphia Zoo is home to over 1,300 animals, while the Please Touch Museum is filled with hand-on exhibits that will delight younger visitors.
This morning you'll make the hour's drive to Bucks County, where you'll visit the Washington Crossing Historical Park at the edge of the Delaware River and have a chance to try your hand at tubing, kayaking, canoeing or rafting. Afterwards, you'll continue to Lancaster County, where you'll have the chance to take a guided tour of an authentic 1840s Old Order Amish farmhouse or to ride on a traditional Amish buggy. This afternoon you'll visit Kitchen Kettle Village, where you can shop for pottery, hand-made tiles and other arts and crafts.
Over breakfast this morning you'll be able to watch a traditional Amish spectacle as the children run across the fields towards their one-room schoolhouse. You'll also have the chance to take an optional two-hour Amish Country Farmland Tour, to learn more about how the Amish people farm this area without modern equipment. Along the way you will visit roadside stands, bake shops and a quilt shop. Afterwards, you'll leave Lancaster and drive towards Gettysburg, near the Maryland border. Here you'll visit the Gettysburg National Military Park, which commemorates the Civil War's bloodiest battle, with 51,000 casualties over three days in 1863, and the setting for President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. After a day of sight-seeing, you'll dine tonight in Gettysburg's oldest house, Dobbin House Tavern, built in 1776.
For a different perspective on the Battle of Gettysburg, today you may like to join the optional trip to Shriver House Museum, where you'll learn about the experiences of civilians during the battle. Guides wearing period dress will talk you through the story of one family, the Shrivers, during this time. Next you're headed to Baltimore, where you can explore the inside of the World War II submarine Torsk, or take an elevator ride to The Top of the World Observation Level for an unforgettable panoramic view of the city's skyline and harbour. You may also like to tour the USS Constellation, the last all-sail warship built by the US Navy. Afterwards, you'll continue to Annapolis, state capital of Maryland, a beautiful historic seaport. Here you can visit The Maryland State House, the oldest state house still in legislative use, stroll along the City Dock or take a tour of the US Naval Academy.
This morning you'll enjoy a scenic coastal drive through the Chesapeake Bay area as you leave Annapolis. You may like to take a short cruise or Bay tour before continuing to Virginia Beach, "the least stressful city in America". Here you can walk or cycle along the world's longest pleasure beach, keeping your eyes peeled for the dolphins which frequent the coastal waters.
Today you can choose from a whole range of outdoor adventures – kayaking with dolphins, jet-skiing, sport-fishing or hiking through a wildlife refuge – or just relax on the sunny beach all day. Other options include the Ocean Breeze Water Park, the Virginia Aquarium, or cycling the trails of First Landing State Park.
Today you'll continue to Colonial Williamsburg, the nation's largest living history museum, where you can step back more than 220 years to the eve of the American Revolution, with 500 buildings, homes, stores and taverns reconstructed and restored to their 18th-century appearance. In Williamsburg, you'll also visit Jamestown, America's birthplace, and Yorktown, scene of a decisive battle in the American Revolutionary War.
Today you will travel to Charlottesville, home of Thomas Jefferson, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here you'll take a tour of Jefferson's beloved University of Virginia and his retirement home, the Monticello Plantation, where you can stroll through the attractive gardens. Other must-see attractions include Ash Lawn-Highland, home of James Monroe, Historic Court Square and Charlottesville's excellent museums, galleries, wineries, shops and parks.
This morning you'll leave Charlottesville and head toward Shenandoah Valley, where you'll explore the Luray Caverns, including the awe-inspiring "Giant Hall", an enormous underground chamber filled with an amazing variety of stone formations. You'll also head to Shenandoah National Park, known for its stunning panoramic views, where you can enjoy hiking, horse-riding, cycling, fishing and canoeing.
On your final morning you're at leisure and, time permitting, may have a last chance to explore the area before you depart for Washington-Dulles International Airport (DCA).
Standard fr £693pp
Rates based on twinshare
International flights not included unless otherwise stated