Historic Alleyways of Washington, DC
22 Ratings
Explore DC's historic Shaw alleyways, uncover hidden stories, and enjoy a coffee break. Join our 1.5-hour tour every 1st Sunday at 2pm.
Duration: 2 hours
Cancellation: 1 day learn more
  • Blanche K. Bruce House - Blanche K. Bruce was the first African American to serve a full term as Senator, and rose to his position during the Reconstruction era after the Civil War. The tour starts as the location of his residence while he was serving his Senatorial term.
  • Blagden Alley Northwest - Blagden Alley is one of DC’s most well-preserved historic alleyways. Once the subject of a study of DC alleyways, it is now the site of art galleries, hidden-away restaurants and coffee shops.
  • La Colombe Coffee Roasters - The tour makes a pit stop at this popular coffee spot.
  • D.C. Alley Museum - Beginning in 2015, a series of works were commissioned by artists with a history in the Shaw neighborhood and in Blagden Alley — They created a stunning display of new works painted directly on the garage doors of several buildings in Bladgen Alley.
  • Naylor Court Northwest - Naylor Court is a former site of alleyway stables, and later old fashioned garages. It is a part of the Blagden Alley - Naylor Court Historic District.
What's Included
  • Up to 2 hours of a unique walking tour experience
  • Knowledgeable guide
What's Not Included
  • Tea and coffee
Additional Information

*2024 Schedule - Tour is offered the 1st Sunday of the month at 2pm.

Check out one of DC’s most unique features, less than a mile away from the National Mall, in the historic Shaw neighborhood, near the Convention Center.

The Alleyways of DC served a distinct purpose as a city planning feature, but they also provided a hidden safe space where escaped enslaved people and the poor could find inexpensive housing and live their lives away from prying eyes. While city officials condemned life in the alleyways as dangerous, dirty and diseased, they were in fact a place where communities sustained each other and provided security.

Tour is 1.5 hours with a halfway stop at La Colombe Coffee.

Blanche K. Bruce House
M Street Northwest
The northwest corner of M Street and 9th Street NW
Cancellation Policy

For a full refund, cancel at least 24 hours before the scheduled departure time.

Customer Ratings
(22 Ratings)
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1 star
May 6, 2024
Injecting modern perspectives into history to ignite it - Katie was a wonderful tour guide! She was well-informed, highly engaged with her subject and open to discussion about various elements of the material she shared. My friends were also impressed and grateful that they had been invited to join the tour. Katie does her homework and recognizes that communities change and evolve. She is a history student. Katie has also learned how to share the past in the context of present-day life to bring the past to life. I highly recommend this tour and Katie as your guide,
Review provided by Tripadvisor
Apr 12, 2023
An Enlightening Tour to Our Local History - I mentioned the tour to my friends as a new thing to learn more about the area we lived or worked close to. We learned so much. From me geeking out about the significance of the names of Metro Stations relating to the history to my friend realizing she was walking to work and passing so much history, we enjoyed ourselves so much! Katie is a fantastic storyteller and such a nice person. She obviously knows her history and delivers the knowledge with compassion and the respect it deserves. Now I wonder what history I am driving or walking by and it's made my commute so much more interesting. Definitely recommend it for locals and tourists alike!
Review provided by Tripadvisor
Mar 16, 2023
Gem off the beaten path--A tour not to be missed - Excellent tour. The tour guide and owner of the company, Katie, is passionate about DC and history. She is generally an erudite and inspired speaker with deep knowledge of the community. I have also done other tours with this company and wholeheartedly recommend each of the ones I have done (e.g., wives that won the Cold War). If you have more than a couple days in DC, do not miss this opportunity to explore the city beyond the standard tourist sites. Even as somewhat of a local, I have found these opportunities genuinely eye-opening.
Review provided by Tripadvisor
Nov 2, 2022
Phenomenal tour! - Don't miss this incredible tour!! I had no idea what it would be going into it, figured it would be looking at some street art in alleyways. It is WAY MORE than that. Katie has done an outstanding amount of historical research to educate us about the communities that lived in D.C. alleyways – at one point about 1/5 of the population of the city! The tour was incredibly engaging the entire time. I learned so much and have told many people about it. One of the best tours I've ever been on in my life!!
Review provided by Tripadvisor
Oct 31, 2022
Discovered a lost civilization with a hundred year history while sipping coffee in beautiful alleys - Katie was an EXCELLENT tour guide. She tailored the tour to our group, the environment, and our questions and reactions. We wandered and chatted as we walked along the most beautiful alleyways I have ever been in. Katie was well-researched and shared a narrative that had us all hooked. I can honestly say that I mourned the rise and fall of an entire culture/civilization that I hadn't even been aware of until the tour. Are you a DC local? This tour is a must. Are you a tourist who wants something more than the same 12 photos we all take? Do this tour.
Review provided by Tripadvisor
Oct 9, 2022
Go beyond the obvious sights! - What a great way to learn about DC beyond the obvious! Katie knows the ins and outs of what makes DC such a fascinating city. The Historic Alleyways tour was eye-opening in how the city started and grew. This is a perfect way to explore and gain a historical perspective on the city's cultural shifts over time. Katie's tour would be the best way to start a first-time visit to DC, but it is also valuable for residents who may not be aware of the city's hidden gems. As a resident, I look forward to taking all of Katie's tours. I see DC in a new light and with an appreciation for its path to the present day. Katie has an effortless, knowledgeable style, answered questions, and set the perfect tone and pace for the tour. Highly recommend.
Review provided by Tripadvisor
May 7, 2022
Informative, Interesting, and Incredible - Katie shared a lesser-known history of Washington D.C. and its alleyways. I'm so glad we did this Off the Mall tour, I've been sharing facts with friends who asked about my trip all week! I would definitely recommend catching any of the Off the Mall tours with Katie if you have time while you are visiting DC. Actually, even if you're a native (we had two DC local couples on our tour with us), you will likely learn something you didn't know before. My 13-year-old daughter enjoyed the tour as well.
Review provided by Tripadvisor
May 4, 2022
Best Tour in Washington DC - I received vouchers for Off the Mall Tours as a gift and it was an incredible experience. Katie was the best tour guide we could have asked for and was able to show us a part of Washington DC that I never knew existed. I highly recommend the Alleyway tour to learn more about the history of the Blagden Ally area.
Review provided by Tripadvisor
Apr 9, 2022
DC Alleyways are so interesting - We had a wonderful walking tour with Katy. The history of alleys in DC is so interesting. We’re thinking about our next tour with Katy already.
Review provided by Tripadvisor
Mar 7, 2022
Wonderful Tour! - I got this tour for my husband as a birthday present. We both had a great time, and Katie was very informed and explained the significance of each place very well!
Review provided by Tripadvisor
Select Date and Tickets
up to 10 guests
1 Adult
July 2024