They are blatantly apparent, walking down the sidewalk with sunglasses and maps, pointing at street signs and looking utterly confused. Spring is here, and tourists have officially invaded D.C.
As the eighth most popular city to visit in the U.S., according to the D.C. Department of Transportation, the District attracts many families and other sightseers looking to tour historic landmarks. This means heavy traffic along the routes to such destinations, and many tourists use the GW campus as a throughway.
“It’s been packed,” said freshman Joe Altenau, a member of GW’s cross country team. “We were running with a recruit down by the Lincoln (Memorial), and all the pathways were so filled with people we had to stop and walk. The guy was from Washington State and we kept telling him, ‘It’s not usually this busy.'”
A gateway to other memorials, Georgetown, the White House and the State Department, the Foggy Bottom Metro stop is a gateway spouting a heavy stream of tourists. Some students have found it difficult to cope with extra visitors who pass through GW.
“Tell the tourists to buy maps,” sophomore Paul Sullivan said. “And they need to stay to the right on the Metro escalators.”
“We are on a fast-paced campus and everyone has to be somewhere to be,” sophomore Zita Patai said. “Sometimes, the tourists just get in the way on the sidewalk and clog the intersections, slowing everything down.”
Despite grievances some students hold toward sojourners to the nation’s capital, many Foggy Bottom residents said they do not mind the traffic.
“They are always asking for a good place to eat,” said Jordan Gaines, a junior who said he bumped into a family just last week. “They had kids so I told them to go to Fridays or Lindy’s, but I didn’t mind.”
Sophomore Graham Isaac said he is more than happy to greet GW’s new, if temporary, guests.
“I am glad we go to a school that has tourists all around,” Isaac said. “I’d rather that than be in the middle of nowhere. Look at where we are.”
Some travelers interviewed in the past week said they are happy for the help that GW’s student population provides.
“Everyone has been so friendly,” said high school senior Katrina Jensen, who visited last weekend with her family from Boston. “They had no problem offering us directions.”
April also marks a high point in high school visitors who come to scout out the University as a possible future college. Nathan Chow, a prospective student from New Jersey, came to visit GW armed with a map and visitors guide but was still unable to make sense of things.
“We don’t know which building to go to,” said Chow’s mother, who did not want to give her name. “We don’t even know which direction we should walk.”
Sophomore Ashley Boeri, a former GW tour guide, said she has been grilled by prospective students and other tourists.
“I’m so used to it,” she said. “They always ask the standard questions – is it crowded, how much drinking is there, what is the housing like.”
And while some GW natives would like to help out those passing through for the day, sometimes their limited experience in D.C. makes it difficult.
“I don’t really mind,” junior Megan Tackney said. “I just often don’t know where to tell them to go. The Lincoln I can do, but I always get confused when they ask me where the Jefferson is.”