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The Short Version: For the last 20 years, Washington Walks has invited locals and tourists to take a walk like no other and explore the lesser known sights in the D.C. metro area. The walking tours offer a history lesson and cultural immersion with plenty of must-see and must-eat recommendations along the way. Daters can step out of their everyday routines and learn something new by taking an in-person or virtual tour powered by Washington Walks.
In 1999, Carolyn Crouch was all set to start a career in acting when she fell in love and everything changed. Her honeymoon took her to London, and she went on a walking tour. Then she went on another walking tour. And another. She learned about the city’s history and local culture one walking tour at a time.
“I thought it was the best way to see a city,” Carolyn said. “I never would have seen or learned so much walking by myself.”
Once she returned home to D.C., Carolyn took steps to find local walking tours that could hire her as a guide, but no walking tour companies operated in D.C. at the time. So Carolyn decided to be the first and start a trend. She founded Washington Walks to share her passion and knowledge about D.C. neighborhoods with anyone willing to listen and keep up.
From the beginning, Carolyn’s aim was to take people beyond the typical tourist route in the National Mall and show them lesser-known places of interest. Washington Walks has gone to historic districts, parks, memorials, and sites where visitors can get a sense of the spirit of D.C. and the story of America.
Washington Walks appeals to history buffs who want to learn something new, couples who want a low-key date activity, and locals who want to see their hometown in a different light.
“There are vibrant, fascinating, and historic stories to be told in these neighborhoods,” Carolyn said. “Our walking tours are about finding places most people wouldn’t necessarily know existed — but thanks to us, they do.”
Washington Walks typically conducts a dozen walking tours throughout the D.C. metro area. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Carolyn and her team have switched gears to offer virtual walking tours that deliver just as much information and entertainment — but with less strain on your feet.
Most tourists going to Washington D.C. stick to the big hits — the Washington Monument, the Capitol Building, the White House — and they miss out on all the sights, sounds, and flavors outside the National Mall.
Washington Walks encourages people to take a deeper dive into the city and see neighborhoods like Georgetown or Embassy Row from a unique perspective.
The walking tours go off the beaten path and share fun facts about the local history, people, and culture. Washington Walks employs 16 tour guides, and all of them have lived in D.C. for years and years. Some have been giving tours for decades now.
“We delight in talking to people, sharing stories, and pointing things out,” Carolyn said. “Our crew has a nice mix of professional knowledge and life experience.”
Washington Walks has crafted unique tours that appeal to anyone who wants to cover a lot of ground in D.C. and find interesting places to hang. The tours offer a wealth of knowledge about the city, and taking a walk through history can lead to some memorable conversations.
Carolyn said one of the upsides of going on a walking tour with a date is that you’re surrounded by conversation starters and icebreakers. Couples don’t have to worry about running out of things to say during the tour — because the guide does most of the talking — and they can keep up a dialogue afterward by talking about the things they’ve seen, done, and learned on the tour.
If you’re looking for a fun and educational date activity, Washington Walks has got it covered. The walking tours have a knack for bringing out the best in the city and its people.
“There’s a lot to be proud of and inspired by in Washington, D.C.,” Carolyn said. “I think it’s really important for us to continue to tell those stories.”
Washington Walks has a proud history of taking people into the heart of D.C. and showing the beauty and diversity of its neighborhoods. Sadly, the in-person walking tours have had to shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect those same neighborhoods.
However, Carolyn has not let social distancing slow down the company’s mission. Washington Walks unveiled its virtual walking series in March 2020, and it has built a national audience over the last year.
The first virtual walking tours were offered for free as a community-driven distraction during the height of lockdowns in the U.S. And they really gained momentum.
“We just wanted to see if we could do it, if it would work, and if anyone would even show up,” Carolyn said. “We learned yes we could do it, yes it does work, and yes a lot people love it!”
By September 2020, Washington Walks had created an itinerary of virtual walking tours. Each tour costs $10 and lasts about an hour. You must register before the tour to receive the Zoom link. Only one registration is required per household.
Much like the traditional walking tours, the virtual series can offer a fresh perspective on D.C. And you don’t even have to physically be in D.C. to attend. People from across the country have joined the Zoom webinars hosted by Washington Walks. It’s great for a stay-at-home date or an educational family activity.
In honor of Black history month, the February tours will focus on the stories of African-American leaders, artists, authors, and activists in D.C. The subjects span hundreds of years of U.S. history up to and including Black Lives Matter.
March 2021 will be dedicated to women’s history. The virtual walking tours will profile noteworthy women in D.C., including philanthropist Mary Harriman Rumsey and suffragette Alice Paul.
Washington Walks schedules its virtual walking tours on Saturday and Wednesday afternoons. If you miss a virtual walking tour, you may be able to catch a replay sometime soon. Carolyn said she’s working on a pay-per-view option on Vimeo that would allow participants to join the virtual tours on their own time.
“Our goal is to resume walking tours when it’s safe to do so,” Carolyn said. “But we also want to figure out how to continue using virtual and online experiences to connect people everywhere to D.C.”
Carolyn started her journey as a local historian, tour guide, and business owner over 20 years ago. She has channeled her passion for storytelling into an off-the-beaten-path walking tour company. Washington Walks entertains and educates people who want to learn more about the DC metro area and explore historic sites beyond the National Mall.
Despite the pandemic, Washington Walks has continued to capture imaginations on a virtual stage, and the tour guides have raised the profile of local heroes and historic areas that make the United States truly great.
Whether you’re planning a stay-at-home date or hoping to get to D.C. when it’s safe, you can depend upon Washington Walks to take you around town and give you a lot to talk about.
“It’s really gratifying work,” Carolyn said. “One thing Washington Walks can provide is a more positive narrative about D.C. This is people’s hometown, and there are inspiring stories about people who have made their home here and done remarkable things.”