Sep 27 - Oct 10, 2020
14 days
$8,950per person, twin share (land content only). $2,900 supplement for sole use of a hotel room.

Tour Leader

Dr Matthew Laing
Sep 27 - Oct 10, 2020

Tour Leader

Dr Matthew Laing$8,950per person, twin share (land content only). $2,900 supplement for sole use of a hotel room.
  • Tour Info
  • Itinerary
  • Tour Leader
  • Hotels
  • Inclusions


The great scholar Lewis Mumford once wrote “the chief function of the city is to convert power into form and energy into culture.” Nowhere is this truer than in the twin capitals of the United States, Washington and New York, two remarkably different cities that became icons of the 20th-century. This new 14-day residential-style tour investigates the development of these political, economic and cultural capitals of the modern world, while enjoying the very best of art, performance and design these cities have to offer.


  • America’s history in a nutshell, from Dutch New Amsterdam to Gettysburg, Wall Street and beyond
  • The story of America told by its art: in-depth tours of the National Gallery of Art, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian and Metropolitan Museum, and a before hours tour of MoMA
  • Five performances, including the Kennedy Center, Ford’s Theatre and the Metropolitan Opera
  • America’s lesser-known urban history: Harlem’s African American community and jazz, the immigrant worlds of Brooklyn and the Lower East Side
  • Prepare for the 2020 presidential elections: special in-depth lectures

Itinerary Overview

Days 1–6: In Washington, witness nation building at the National Mall, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials and Mt Vernon. Comprehend America’s political history at the Capitol, Library of Congress and White House. Admire great cultural repositories from the National Gallery of Art to the Kennedy Center. Washington at war: Gettysburg to the Pentagon.

Days 7–14: Explore New York’s personal histories on Wall Street, Ellis Island and the Lower East Side. Admire the Gilded Age at the Frick, Metropolitan Museum and Met Opera. New York’s cultural chutzpah, from Midtown Art Deco to the Harlem Renaissance. Celebrate the modern at MoMA and Hudson Yards.

Detailed Itinerary

Start & Finish

The tour begins at our hotel in Washington D.C. and ends at our hotel in New York. Qantas, American Airlines, Air New Zealand and Air Canada offer suitable connections to and from the USA from most Australian capital cities. Contact us for quotes and bookings.

Detailed Itinerary

Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.

Sunday September 27: Welcome & introductions

We meet your guide and fellow travellers for a welcome reception in the hotel. Overnight Washington

Monday September 28: The Story of a Nation

Our tour starts with the National Mall and visits to the monuments that tell the story of America’s trials and triumphs – the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Roosevelt Memorial, the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials, and finally the Lincoln Memorial, on the steps of which Martin Luther King read his “I Have A Dream” speech in 1963. In the afternoon, we’ll cross over Potomac River and visit Mount Vernon, the estate and home of George Washington, America’s legendary founding father who served as first president and for whom the capital is named. Mount Vernon, and the nearby city of Alexandria, provide a window into the colonial past of the region and the origins of modern Washington. We return to Washington in the evening for a welcome dinner. Overnight Washington (B, D)

Tuesday September 29: Political Capital

We start our day with a morning lecture introducing the American political system and some of the key issues and personalities in current US politics. We then take a guided tour of the Capitol Building, home to the United States Congress. After a break for lunch, we’ll take a tour of the Supreme Court and see where some of the most important issues of the nation are debated, as well as the Library of Congress, and pay a visit to the National Archives, where the original Declaration of Independence, and the United States Constitution, can be viewed up close. In the early evening there will be an optional stroll with the tour leader to the White House, perhaps the most recognisable house in the world. Overnight Washington (B)

Wednesday September 30: The Smithsonian

James Smithson, an English chemist and mineralogist who never in his life visited the United States, left the extraordinary bequest in his will of 1829 that his estate be used to form an institution for the diffusion of learning. This was the beginning of the Smithsonian Institution, one of the largest museum complexes in the world with over 154 million items in its collection. The morning is free for you to explore the areas of this vast complex that most interest you. After lunch, we’ll take a guided viewing at the National Gallery of Art, with a special emphasis on American art, but of course covering some of the unmissable European masters in the collection, including the only Da Vinci painting in America. In the early evening, there will also be the option to visit the National Portrait Gallery. Overnight Washington (B)

Thursday October 1: A House Divided
– Ford’s Theatre

Today we explore America’s darkest chapter – the Civil War – and its enduring legacy in the United States. We depart north in the morning to Gettysburg, site of the definitive battle of the conflict, and take a tour of the site with an expert battlefield guide. On our return in the afternoon we’ll tour Arlington National Cemetery, which began as a way to honour those lost in that conflict, while also seeing the Pentagon and some of the other sites which are keystones of the world’s security infrastructure. In the evening, we’ll take in a performance at Ford’s Theatre, the site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and still a memorial to the former president. Overnight Washington (B)

Performance details
Venue: Ford’s Theatre
Program: to be announced
Performers: to be announced

Friday October 2: Modern Washington
– Kennedy Center

On our final day in Washington, we’ll take a guided tour of the Phillips Collection, one of the nation’s most extraordinary small collections and famously the home of Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. Our afternoon is free, giving you a chance to squeeze in one last attraction, or alternatively to join the tour leader on a visit to Georgetown, the oldest part of Washington with beautiful brick homes and churches. This evening, we’ll have a farewell meal, as well as attending a performance at the Kennedy Center. With its world-class offerings and sweeping views over the Potomac, it’s an excellent way to finish our visit to DC. Overnight Washington (B, D)

Performance details
Venue: John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Program: to be announced
Performers: to be announced

Saturday October 3: To New York via Philadelphia

After checking out of our hotel this morning we head to the Big Apple by coach. We’ll stop en route for a quick visit to Philadelphia, one of America’s best-preserved colonial cities, with a chance to see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and some of the colonial architecture of the city. We’ll also have a visit to the Barnes Foundation, one of the most unusual and extraordinary art collections in the United States. Upon arriving in New York and after checking-in at our hotel, we’ll venture out for a welcome reception and dinner in New York. Overnight New York (B, D)

Sunday October 4: The African American Experience
– Broadway

We have an early start this morning, as we go up to Harlem to experience a traditional gospel church service. Afterwards, we’ll join a local guide for a tour of Harlem and the rich African American history in New York, the birthplace of modern African American culture as well as many 20th-century American icons. After times of trouble in the 1970s, Harlem is once again on the rise and a diverse and fascinating place within the city. Afterwards in the afternoon we’ll take in a matinee performance of a Broadway play or musical, selected from the best offerings of the 2020 season. Overnight New York (B)

Performance details
Venue: Broadway
Program: to be announced
Performers: to be announced

Monday October 5: A Financial Capital

This morning after a lecture in the hotel we’ll venture down to the tip of Manhattan to see where the city began – as New Amsterdam. A bustling centre of trade and commerce, its legacy lives on in the Financial District, and we’ll do a walking tour of Wall Street and its environs, as well as visit the 9/11 Memorial. After lunch and a break, we’ll return uptown in the afternoon to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with free time to explore its incredible collection. Overnight New York (B)

Tuesday October 6: City of Immigrants

Today we explore the rich history of immigration and cultural interchange that has defined much of New York’s unique history and peoples. We begin with a ferry ride out to Ellis Island, now maintained as a National Park. Ellis Island was the port of entry for millions immigrating to the United States and now stands as a permanent museum of their lives and stories. We’ll also stop by the Statue of Liberty. After lunch in Little Italy, we explore the Lower East Side, long a hub for new immigrants to the city, and explore Little Italy and Chinatown, as well as visit the Tenement Museum, a remarkably preserved example of the 19th-century immigrant experience. We’ll also take the opportunity to survey some of the Jewish heritage in the area, such as the Eldridge Synagogue and Katz’s Delicatessen. Overnight New York (B)

Wednesday October 7: The Gilded Age
– Metropolitan Opera

The Gilded Age was one of incredible growth and prosperity in the United States in the second half of the 19th century, and its legacy can be felt everywhere in New York. We start today with a tour down 5th Avenue, along the avenue of millionaires in the city, and through Central Park, one of its most important and extraordinary public works. We’ll have a luncheon in the beautiful Boathouse Restaurant in the park, resplendent in fall colours. Afterwards, we’ll venture to the Frick Collection, the legacy of one of the Gilded Age’s great robber baron patrons, who assembled one of the greatest collections of Old Masters in the world. This evening we will take in a performance of the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center. Overnight New York
(B, L)

Performance details
Venue: Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center
Program: to be announced
Performers: to be announced

Thursday October 8: Brooklyn

One of the most diverse places in the world, Brooklyn holds a special place in New York’s history and is one of the less explored, but most rewarding, areas of the city. In the morning we’ll take the iconic walk from downtown over the Brooklyn Bridge, an engineering marvel of the 19th century, and have free time for lunch and shopping in the fashionable DUMBO district on the other side. In the afternoon, we’ll take a walking tour of Brooklyn Heights, before moving onto the Brooklyn Museum, which has garnered a reputation in recent years for its daring and contemporary exhbitions, as well as being home of Judy Chicago’s incredible The Dinner Party. The evening is free. Overnight New York (B)

Friday October 9: The Jazz Age
– Jazz at the Lincoln Center

The early 20th century was a golden age for New York city, emerging as one of the most influential and vibrant cities in the world and helping to create the modern era we all recognise today. We start that story at the Museum of Modern Art, with a special private before-hours tour highlighting the best pieces of its invaluable collection. Afterwards we’ll embark upon a walking tour of Midtown, with a special emphasis on the Art Deco masterpieces such as the Rockefeller Center that epitomise the excitement of the roaring twenties in New York. Naturally, no tour of the jazz age would be complete without the music, and so we’ll spend our last night in New York at Jazz at the Lincoln Center, the city’s premier jazz venue with incredible sweeping views over Central Park and the New York skyline, complete with canapes and cocktails. Overnight New York (B, D)

Performance details
Venue: Jazz at the Lincoln Center
Program: to be announced
Performers: to be announced

Saturday October 10: The Future of New York

We finish our tour with a visit to the Chelsea High Line, one of the most successful cases of urban redevelopment in recent years, and take in the views at Hudson Yards, the largest real estate project in history, which is transforming the western side of Manhattan. In the mid-afternoon, there is a transfer to JFK airport for those departing from New York today. (B)

Dr Matthew Laing

A political scientist and expert in US history, with a doctorate on the history of the United States presidency.

Dr Matthew Laing is a historian and political scientist at Monash University who has led tours to the Americas and Europe with Academy Travel for five years. He has a strong personal interest in architecture, cultural history and modern art, with a particular expertise in the United States.

Matthew holds a BA and PhD from the Australian National University, and wrote his doctorate on the history of the United States presidency. He has worked as a lecturer and research fellow at the Australian National University, Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and now at Monash University in Melbourne. He is an accredited ADFAS lecturer and frequently holds public lecture series in Melbourne. He currently teaches United States history and leadership, and has published on both topics.

Matthew’s tours strive for intellectual engagement and to reveal the stories, both big and small, that can bring history to life. A voracious reader and traveller, Matthew strives to be a generalist and draws upon a wide range of subjects – from politics to architecture – to develop his understanding of a place. Matthew’s passion for the United States started as an intern in the United States Congress in 2007. Since then he has made dozens of trips across the country, for both work and pleasure, and is closing in on his goal of visiting all 50 states. He has lectured and written on a wide variety of US subjects, including the American Revolution, the Gilded Age, and American Modernist architecture. Matthew also lived in the Netherlands for two years and has travelled widely there, and has a particular interest in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

Matthew has been tour leading for Academy Travel annually since 2013, with many tours to the United States and Europe, and is now taking on a greater role managing and developing further tours in these regions, including developing new tours to areas like the Southern United States.

We asked Matthew, what do you enjoy most about leading a group tour?

“As an academic, the personal joy of leading tours for Academy Travel is that I get one of the best classrooms I could ask for of intelligent and attentive global travellers who share my passion for learning about our world. And yet often I also find myself the student – with intellectually-engaged travellers from all walks of life, some of the most stimulating debates and discussions I’ve had are with my clients on tours.”

“I think those who come on tour with me benefit most from my enthusiasm, energy and passion – whether it’s a giving a morning lecture or having a causal chat at lunch, I’m always striving to draw out new insights and connections that can further understanding and increase engagement.”

View Bio & Upcoming Tours


Washington DC, Hotel Zena (6 nights)

This four-star hotel is conveniently located in the Downtown area right on Logan Circle, only 800m from the White House and surrounded by some of DC’s best restaurants. Re-opening in Spring 2020 following extensive renovations, this eco-friendly hotel offers great amenities and the rooftop pool offers views over the city.

New York, Warwick Hotel (7 nights)

This four-star hotel is very conveniently located in Midtown Manhattan, on 54th Street. We have booked premier plus rooms. These are large and comfortable, each with modern amenities. The hotel is in walking distance of many of New York’s most popular attractions.

Tour Inclusions

What is included in the tour price? 

Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:

  • Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
  • Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate, taxis or public transport are also used for short distance travel on some tours
  • All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
  • Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
  • Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
  • Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
  • Services of tour leader throughout tour
  • All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
  • Local guides at some sites
  • Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
  • Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required and when stated as included

Airport Transfers

Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.

What is not included in the tour price?

Our tours do not include the following:

  • Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
  • Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
  • Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
  • Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
  • Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
  • Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity


Booking Conditions

You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.


A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.

Cancellation Fees

If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:

  • More than 60 days before departure: $500*
  • 60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
  • 44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
  • 14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due

*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.

Unused Portions of the tour

We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.

Travel Insurance

Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.

Passport and Visa

A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.

Will the tour price change?

If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.

Will the itinerary change?

Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.

Final Payment

Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.

Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller. We aim to be fair and reasonable in all our dealings with our clients. We aim to provide full and accurate information about our tours and promptly provide information of any changes or alterations that take place before departure.

Tour Details

Fitness Requirement

Grade One

A Grade 1 tour is appropriate for travellers in good health with good mobility, who can comfortably participate in up to 3 hours of physical activity per day on most days.
More Details


Book Online Now More Details
Hold a Place Download Booking Form

Speak to a consultant

For further information or to secure a place on this tour please contact:
Jamal Fairbrother 02 9235 0023 or 1800 639 699
(outside Sydney)

Next Departure

If these dates don't work for you, register to hear about the next tour.


Please keep me informed about the next departure of this tour.

Hold a Place

Thank you for your interest in this tour. We are happy to hold a tentative place for seven days while you make your final arrangements to come on tour.


Sign up to our mailing list for tour updates and latest news.