WASHINGTON – When people think of walking tour cities,they imagine Chicago,Philadelphia or London,not Washington.
Members of Cultural Tourism D.C. are trying to change that perception by hosting D.C. Open House,an event encouraging Washington residents to tour a variety of city neighborhoods on foot,although tourists are also welcome.
Kathryn Smith,63,executive director for Cultural Tourism D.C.,said Washington is a good walking tour city because of the Metro system and because the historic neighborhoods are close to downtown.
She said that,while the National Mall and monuments are very important,they give a one-dimensional view of the city.
“The idea is to get to know your city,” Smith said. “It is tourism in your own backyard.”
D.C. Open House is in its fourth year and will take place Oct. 4 and 5. There will be 30 free tours,and admission to more than 50 museums will be free.
Carolyn Crouch,40,founder of Washington Walks,and a colleague will provide seven tours of five D.C. neighborhoods. They will cover Foggy Bottom,Logan Circle,the Southwest Waterfront,Cleveland Park and Eastern Downtown.
Crouch said her tours last year attracted from 20 to 80 people each.
Crouch said the most popular tour last year was Embassy Row because “people are interested in what these houses look like up close.” Many foreign governments have their embassies in old mansions along Massachusetts Avenue N.W.
The City Museum will serve as the welcome center for residents and visitors interested in taking tours of the city,but most tours will start at Metrorail stations,which will distribute brochures,or Metrobus stops. Information about the tours is also available on the Web site www.dcopenhouse.org.
Mychalene Giampaoli,42,curator of education for the City Museum,said most area residents know such Washington neighborhoods as Adams Morgan,Georgetown or Dupont Circle. She said people need to get out of their own neighborhoods and look at the full city.
“There are some trepidations about going places you don't know,” Giampaoli said. “We give people information because we don't want them to feel stupid or lost.”
She said having the museum as the welcome center allows people to look at the aerial map of the city,which covers the floor of one of the exhibit rooms,and gather information on the different neighborhoods to visit.
The museum will host a number of musical and dance groups throughout the weekend. These will include some jazz,traditional Jewish music and Malaysian dance.
Last year in the biggest turnout yet,more than 1,200 people participated in the walking tours,and nearly 13,000 attended the free museums.
Smith said there are more than 60 museums other than those on the National Mall,including the Black Fashion Museum on U Street,the Pope John Paul II Center in Brookland and Woodrow Wilson House near Dupont Circle.
This year the Washington Ridge Crossing will be the longest event. People can do a two-day,16-mile hike that follows the ridges above the Potomac River north of Florida Avenue and those above the Anacostia River.
Laura Brower,29,director of communications for Cultural Tourism D.C.,said this hike is unique because it allows people to leave or join at a variety of points,all near Metro stations or bus stops.
Smith said tourism is one of Washington's biggest businesses,providing work for some 200,000 people directly and indirectly.