Like many leaders of overnight class trips, my level of alertness goes up when the sun goes down. The kids often have had their fill of amazingly well-planned, educational experiences during the day and they are ready to let loose. And, while they won’t admit it, most are usually tired, emotional, and running on fumes – not the best combo for making  “wise choices.”

Planning well-supervised nighttime activities that allow the kids to blow off steam and enjoy time with their friends will help you make the most of the evening hours of your tour.

Here is a list of ten great nighttime activities for middle and high school student groups in Washington, D.C.

  1. Enjoy a dinner and/or entertainment cruise on the Potomac River.
  2. Spend the evening at the Capital Wheel on National Harbor.
  3. Laugh the night away at Shear Madness at the Kennedy Center.
  4. Tour the Monuments by moonlight.
  5. Watch a baseball game at Nationals Park or drive out to see the Orioles in Baltimore.
  6. See a show at one of the Smithsonian IMAX Theaters.
  7. Experience dinner and a show with a private murder mystery event.
  8. Watch a Washington Wizards Basketball game at the Verizon Center.
  9. Play to win at an evening of bowling, go-carting, and golfing.
  10. Tremble with fear on a guided Ghost and Graveyard Tour of Alexandria.

Work closely with your student travel consultant early in the planning stages to secure reservations. Some of the options, like Shear Madness, book up well in advance.

In addition to fun, many of these activities can be tied to the curricular goals of your tour, or even extend them.

  • Before heading to the ballpark, remind your kids that math is everywhere, including baseball, as illustrated by Mathnasium’s post, which covers the mathematical concepts behind pitching, batting, and fielding.
Or …

Once you pick the activity, you can kick up the fun in a few ways. These may sound hokey, but kids of all ages love getting a bit of flare. You can order any of these inexpensively through Oriental Trading or a party supply store.

  • Hand out glow necklaces for outdoor tours.
  • Allow the kids to “dress for the occasion” by bringing bow ties on elastic bands and beaded necklaces if you’re going to the theater.
  • Buy pennants in advance for sporting events and bring them into the park to cheer on the team.

One last piece of advice: Switch it up every few years. It’s easy to stick with what you know, but if you lead a tour each year or you have a group of veteran chaperones, you’ll have more fun if you try a new adventure once in a while.

Originally published July 2017, updated November 2023