Author Garrett Peck is a licensed tour guide in Washington, D.C. specializing in historic site interpretation and outdoor recreation. He offers a variety of “off the Mall” tours, every one of which tells a fascinating story. Contact Garrett for more info!
Capital Cheers. Whether by bicycle, bus or car, the DC area is awash in amazing beer. Our brewing history goes back to 1770, but it was nearly snuffed out by Prohibition. This is a highly customizable tour that can include historic brewing sites, brewer graves (such as the Brewers Tour of the awesomely quirky Congressional Cemetery), the Heurich House Museum, and modern breweries and brewpubs. Want to learn more about DC brewing? Check out Peck’s book Capital Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in Washington, D.C.
Historic Breweries of Alexandria. Northern Virginia Magazine rated this #6 in its list of “67 Adventures Every Northern Virginian Must Take” (August 2015). A walking tour of charming Old Town Alexandria, site of the first brewery in the DC area, the Andrew Wales Brewery (1770), and home of the Robert Portner Brewing Company’s massive Tivoli Brewery. It explores alleys, repurposed buildings, historic taverns, a 1792 ice well - and of course Alexandria’s magnificent colonial-era architecture. The standard tour is a 2.5 mile walk; a shorter, Wales Brewery-only tour is about a half mile walk.
Jazz History Tour. The combination of jazz and bootleg booze was an irresistible force in Prohibition-era Washington, and nowhere in town was the music hotter or the drinks more plentiful than in Shaw. The clubs and theaters on U Street, N.W., dubbed the city’s “Black Broadway,” drew audiences to hear headliners like Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, and D.C. born Duke Ellington. This two hour walking tour begins at the historic Howard Theatre and ends with happy hour at Right Proper Brewing, the site of Frank Holliday’s Pool Hall, where a teenaged Duke Ellington learned to appreciate music.
Seneca Quarry. A “lost” site on the C&O Canal just 45 minutes up the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., Seneca quarry supplied the distinct rusty red sandstone for the Smithsonian Castle and hundreds of buildings in the DC area. It closed in 1901 and has largely been forgotten without a single interpretive sign or official trail. Many structures, such as the Seneca Aqueduct, stonecutting mill and quarry master’s house, still stand. The site is best visited in winter when the leaves are off the trees. The quarry tour takes about 2-1/2 hours, and other sites in the broader Seneca community can be visited as well. Learn more in Peck’s book The Smithsonian Castle and the Seneca Quarry.
Temperance Tour. The first tour that Peck developed way back in 2006 and always a crowd pleaser. It’s a three-hour walking tour that explores unusual Prohibition-related sights in the nation’s capital that even most Washingtonians haven’t seen, like the Cogswell Temperance Fountain, Calvary Baptist Church and the rare Prohibition-era wine cellar in the Woodrow Wilson House. The tour is so unusual that Peck turned it into a book, Prohibition in Washington, D.C.: How Dry We Weren’t.
Walt Whitman in Washington. The American poet laureate of the Civil War, Walt Whitman, lived in Washington for ten years until a stroke prompted him to move to New Jersey in 1873. Whitman made an estimated 600 hospital visits during the war, supporting an estimated 80,000 - 100,000 sick and wounded soldiers, and later became a federal clerk. This walking tour of Civil War-era Washington looks at the many places Whitman worked, Clara Barton’s Missing Soldiers Office, Civil War graffiti in the Old Patent Office, Ford’s Theatre, and more. Learn more in Peck’s book Walt Whitman in Washington, D.C.: The Civil War and America's Great Poet.
George Washington's Alexandria. No other town is as associated with George Washington as Alexandria, and Washington considered it his hometown. He surveyed Alexandria's streets in 1749, and his public memorial service was held there fifty years later after his death. This one-mile, 90-minute walking tour of Old Town explores historic churches, houses, taverns, breweries, the waterfront, and other sites associated with the first president.
Fall Colors of Harpers Ferry. Harpers Ferry is one of the most beautiful and spectacular sites in the Mid-Atlantic, and it is full of history and wonderful hikes. As the leaves change in October, the hills seems on fire with color. Strap on your hiking boots and pack a lunch, as we’re climbing up Maryland Heights for the amazing view and Civil War fortifications. We’ll explore the richly historic town of Harpers Ferry, a national park, its former industrial sites, the C&O Canal, John Brown’s Raid, and much more.
The Road to Abolition. A one or two-day trip that explores a small corner of America that ultimately decided the fate of slavery. Harpers Ferry was the site of John Brown’s Raid in 1859. Three years later (and just twelve miles away), the Battle of Antietam was fought, the bloodiest day in American history, a battle that resulted in the Emancipation Proclamation. The tour explores these major sites, as well as the Kennedy Farm, where Brown organized his raid, and many beautiful bridges and historic sites along the Potomac River and Antietam Creek.
New Market & Fisher's Hill. Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley was both a crucial invasion route and the breadbasket for the Confederacy during the Civil War, and as a result, it was a much-fought-over region. The town of New Market was the site one of the most significant small battles of the war, in which a corps of VMI cadets fought on May 15, 1864 to turn back a Union invasion of the valley. The Confederate defeat at the Battle of Fisher’s Hill four months later opened the valley to invasion and destruction of the vital crops that fed Robert E. Lee’s army. In between are thirty gorgeous miles along the Valley Pike (U.S. 11) that was widely used by both sides during the war.
Cedar Creek and the Lost Cause. A day-long tour of the last major Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley on October 19, 1864. It was a remarkable two battles in one: a surprising Confederate victory in the morning, and a smashing Union counterattack in the afternoon, made possible by Union General Phil Sheridan's famous ride from Winchester. The battle was a lost cause for the Confederacy, as Abraham Lincoln was reelected three weeks later, and after the war Confederate General Jubal Early became a leading proponent of the "Lost Cause" myth of why the South lost the war. This is a sequel tour to New Market & Fisher's Hill above.
You can find many of these sites and many more in Peck’s book The Potomac River: A History and Guide, a book that combines historic sites with recreation opportunities.
Is there a tour you’re interested in taking - or have a customized tour in mind? Contact Garrett.