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D.C.: A city for reflection

Courtesy Destination D.C.

Some tour operators have taken notice of a renewed interest in Washington. Collette Vacations recently announced that it was expanding its existing itinerary by a couple of days to take in some additional sites in and around the nation’s capital.

“We’ve had a Washington, D.C., program for quite a few years, but our customers were asking us if they could spend more time there,” said Suzanne Kinahan, product manager for Collette Vacations.

As a result, her company will launch a beefed-up Washington tour beginning in March.

“In terms of new stops specifically, in addition to the King memorial, we’ve had a lot of requests to visit the National Cathedral, where Dr. King gave his last sermon and so many historic occasions like state funerals have been held,” said Kinahan. “And our customers told us they also wanted to see the [U.S.]Naval Academy in Annapolis.”

McClain understands the interest in the National Cathedral.

“I grew up in this area,” she said. “There are many beautiful churches here; but quite frankly, the National Cathedral is the most beautiful. And it is huge.

“I don’t know if it’s a spiritual thing or just the overall reverence it inspires, but people want to go there. There is so much American history there: the presidential funerals, the dignitaries who’ve attended services there.”

It should be noted that the earthquake that occurred on the eastern seaboard on August 23 did some damage to both the Washington Monument and the National Cathedral.

The Washington Monument is closed through the end of 2011, while the National Cathedral reopened on Nov. 12.

In addition to the new stops, Collette will keep most major memorials on its itinerary.

“So many people have a personal connection of some sort to the memorials in Washington,” said Kinahan. “On our city tour, we visit the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial and the Korean War Memorial. And now, the new memorial for Dr. Martin Luther King will also become a major stop as well.”

When asked if the 10th anniversary of 9/11 was driving any new interest in Washington as a destination, Kinahan said the effect was probably more indirect than direct.

“Obviously, both New York and Washington were on people’s minds then and continue to be, but it’s more a matter of the fact that Washington, D.C., is a major destination for us, and based on interest we were getting, we felt like it was time to add some new sites,” she said.

McClain agreed: “The 10th anniversary was an important time for reflection for all of us as Americans, but I wouldn’t describe it as a sustained tourism driver for Washington.”

McClain made a point of recommending a couple of newer additions to the Washington scene for younger groups that have some free time in the city.

“For your travelers who want to get around town easily, I’d recommend either Capital Bike Share, which allows you to pick up and drop off a bicycle at many different points in the city, or Bike and Roll, which offers bicycle tours of Washington including the National Mall and also offers evening tours,” she said. “Both of them are on our website.”

In addition to the World War II Memorial, Callahan’s HonorTour groups visit Arlington National Cemetery, the White House, the Capitol and the Pentagon.