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Washington, D.C. Field Trip Guide

Washington, D.C. Field Trip Guide

There’s plenty of history to learn about in Washington, D.C., especially with so many great educational field trip ideas and iconic locations to visit.

Our nation’s capital is a premier field trip destination and populated with cultural institutions, government centers and world-class universities that will appeal to school groups of all interests. The city and surrounding area are home to engaging museums (most of them free) and memorials that honor America’s past and encourage students to create a brighter future, making D.C. one of the best places in the country for field trip ideas.

Washington Monument field trip
Photo of the Washington Monument at sunset

Washington D.C. Field Trip Ideas for History & Heritage

Begin your Washington, D.C. field trip at the National Mall—the home to famous landmarks such as the Washington Memorial, Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial. Honoring the 16 million Americans who served in the war, the structure consists of an oval fountain surrounded by two separate semi-circles of 28 stone pillars and a center archway on each end. The two arches feature bronze Baldacchino sculptures and represent the European and Pacific theaters.

Student field trip groups will also want to tour the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum chronicles the African American experience of slavery, Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement, as well as Black excellence in science, the arts and athletics, making it an incredibly educational field trip idea. Among the 3,500 artifacts on display include a shawl given to Harriet Tubman by Queen Victoria, training aircraft used by the Tuskegee Institute, an invitation to President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration and a boombox owned by Chuck D of Public Enemy.

Ford's Theatre field trip idea
Photo of Ford’s Theatre in D.C.

Performance Arts Field Trips in D.C.

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is home to the world-class National Symphony Orchestra, Washington National Opera and the Suzanne Farrell Ballet.  The expansive theater houses seven state-of-the-art venues and welcomes touring groups of 15-60 people. These tours feature the theater’s memorial to President Kennedy, a look at the art and decorations gifted to the theater from foreign supporters and a visit to the building’s rooftop terrace with stunning views of the city, which all makes for an unforgettable field trip experience.

You can also step into history at Ford’s Theatre, the venue where actor John Wilkes Booth fatally shot President Abraham Lincoln in 1865. Today the theater functions as part of the Ford’s Theatre Museum and depicts the event and Lincoln’s life while continuing to put on plays year-round. In addition to catching a performance of one of the theater’s upcoming shows, field trip groups can also tour the inside of the theater and learn about the events of that night on their own with a National Park Service ranger leading them or, in the spring or summer months, through a half-hour informational play depicting the assassination from the perspective of an audience member. 

National Air and Space museum field trip
Photo of the National Air and Space Museum

Washington D.C. STEM Field Trip Ideas

Students interested in engineering will want to explore one of the city’s signature attractions: the National Air & Space Museum. This hall houses iconic aircraft like the 1903 Wright Flyer, Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis and the Apollo 11 command module, and various exhibits spotlight spacecraft, World War II aviation and flight in fiction. Field trip groups will especially enjoy “How Things Fly,” which features dozens of hands-on stations that invite visitors to push, lift and manipulate objects to learn the basic physics of flight. Also on the National Mall is the United States Botanic Garden, one of the largest enclosed gardens in the world and home to constantly rotating exhibitions that encourage farming sustainability and biodiversity.

You will also want to spend time in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, which is another amazing field trip idea in Washington, D.C.Group members will especially enjoy the Hall of Human Origins (which explores man’s evolution from East African primates), Ocean Hall (where a North Atlantic whale and giant squid hang from the ceiling) and the Hall of Paleobiology (a cavernous space that houses dozens of dinosaur skeletons).

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