Contrary to popular thought here on the West Coast, those who live and work in the Washington, D.C. metro area are not consumed by P-O-L-I-T-I-C-S. No, just like all Americans who live beyond the Beltway, D.C.-area residents are just trying to make a buck.
“No matter who’s in power,” explains Bill Thomas, a long-time journalist who has covered politics and the D.C. scene for several decades, “(people who live here) are always looking to make money.”
And that’s what Thomas was doing when, four years ago, he founded Private Tours of Washington, a high-end tour company that provides excursions for individuals and small groups.
“I thought it would be interesting and fun and profitable…to give people what they want, plus I have editorial control,” says Thomas, whose career includes an eight-year assignment in Moscow. “But you’ve got to be prepared for what comes along.”
And what has come along is Donald Trump.
Thomas immediately saw the opportunities for showing off “the District” as it has and will play a part in the President-elect’s life, business and administration.
The Inaugural Trump Tour is a three-hour excursion that includes, among other sights, the Capitol Building where the billionaire businessman will be sworn in as the 45th president; the new Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue (lodging there starts at $625 per night for a king bed or two queens, and tops off at $21,250 per night for the two-bedroom, 6,300-square-foot Trump Townhouse); the hotel’s swank bar where wine is served by the spoon; the Four Seasons Hotel, where Marla Maples threw her high heels and $250,000 engagement ring at Trump, announcing, “I’ll never marry you!”; the wealthy neighborhoods of Georgetown and Kalorama, where Trump appointees are currently house-hunting; and the Russian Embassy and nearby FBI, “where the FBI is listening to the Russians listening to us,” Thomas explains.
All of the excursions offered by Private Tours of Washington transport visitors in high-end vehicles that match the size of the group. Multi-day or themed tours also can be arranged.
“It just depends on what you want,” Thomas says. “We can do Civil War battlefields, scandals, garden tours — anything. Or the tour can be free-form. Our narration is not canned and is often driven by questions. It’s whatever guests want to talk about.”
And there is no shortage of topics.
“Washington is the story of the United States told in the history of a single city,” Thomas says.
Best time to visit Washington, D.C.?
Probably the autumn, advises Thomas.
“You pretty much have the city to yourselves then. The leaves are turning colors; there are no long lines. You walk right into the museums and restaurants.”
Summer, of course, is for families, he says, and visitors must endure heat and humidity. And spring is probably the nicest time of year, “because the cherry blossoms are in bloom, but that’s when we have all the eighth-graders here. In the spring, it’s like the hallways in junior high (all over the city).”
Thomas is well-equipped to be at the helm of Private Tours of Washington. He reported for The Baltimore Sun and prominent political and global publications for more than 25 years. In 1994, he wrote the “informed and depressing survey of Capitol Hill” called “Club Fed: Power, Money, Sex and Violence on Capitol Hill.” In it, Thomas writes: “Washington, which began as a swamp, has never lost touch with its roots.’’
Some things never change.
Prices for the Trump Tour begin at $465 for one or two guests. Three-to-five guests is $565, and six-to-12 guests is $685. Visit privatetoursofwashington.com/.
E’Louise Ondash is a freelance writer living in North County. Tell her about your travels at firstname.lastname@example.org