What’s the best way to go sight-seeing? A hop-on, hop-off bus tour? By bicycle? On foot? Every tourist will have a different answer, but travelers around the world are weighing in on the side of Segway tours.
Yes, Segways – those crazy scooter-like contraptions that you see mall security officers using to zip from one end of the building to the other in a breeze. Segway tours are the latest craze in touring from here in Southwestern Pennsylvania to cities around the world. There are Segway zoo tours, food tours, boardwalk and cemetery tours. There’s even a cheesesteak Segway Tour in Philly.
Not so sure about trying out a Segway? We took a spin for a city tour recently in Washington, D.C., and here’s what happened.
Once we arrived at Capital Segway, we filled out some release forms and got fitted with helmets and headphones so that we could easily hear our tour guide, even though he would be sailing along a good 20 yards in front of us. Several of my fellow travelers had taken a Segway tour in D.C. before, but wanted to do it again because they had so much fun.
We watched a short video explaining how the Segway works, the proper technique to step on and off and how to stop, go and steer, then stepped on board to get a feel for its motion. Getting your Segway legs is kind of like getting your sea legs: You feel a bit wobbly at first, but gradually you gain your balance and confidence.
By 15 minutes into the tour, I started going faster, making turns and really having a ball. The Segway goes forward when you put weight on the balls of your feet, sort of while leaning forward. When you lean back and pull back on the handle, the Segway slows and stops.
As we glided down the trail along the National Mall, it dawned on us how much faster we were seeing the sites and how much walking we saved ourselves. A beautiful stroll down the mall and taking time to stop at each individual monument is a treat in itself, but we had a grand time stopping at the Lincoln Memorial for a break, then pausing a few minutes at various stops for photos and to see the White House, Capitol and other spots all over town.
The first time we had to cross a street or toddle up a ramp gave me a bit of anxiety, but we quickly discovered that maneuvering the Segway was very easy, safe and fun. No wonder there are now more than 1,000 Segway tour locations around the world and in more than 75 countries. Some 600 cities across the globe now offer Segway tours using nearly 40,000 of the devices.
Our tour guide communicated with us continuously, making sure we were all comfortable and getting along well, while giving us a wonderful history and inside information about the monuments and buildings as we glided past them – the average speed is around 12 mph – and stopped for photo opportunities. Even cool weather and a slight drizzle didn’t dampen our enthusiasm as the tour guides provided us with ponchos.
These self-balancing devices are designed to go in all sorts of weather and are fairly easy to maneuver even with pedestrians around you on a sidewalk. Tours are usually conducted in small groups of six to eight, giving you more attention from your guide and a more intimate environment.
Once we concluded our glide around Washington, D.C., we slowly rolled back into the Capital Segway offices and parked our machines without incident. The crew there cleaned them up and plugged them in to charge up for another tour group coming later in the day. As we walked out, it felt funny to be walking on the ground again for the first few minutes, and we excitedly shared our opinions on the tour: Everyone loved it, and we were already talking about where our next Segway Tour would be.
If you go
• Tours generally last one to three hours.
• Prices range from $25 to $70, depending on location, duration and vendor.
• Wear comfortable shoes. Most companies require flat-bottomed shoes with closed toe or a sandal with a strap around the heel. No flip-flops or heels.
• Minimum age for most tour providers is 14, but some will take children as long as they weigh at least 70 pounds.
818 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.