Are you planning a trip to DC? Looking for the best way to get around Washington DC? Perfect, you are in the right spot! There are some great options for getting around Washington DC and I am excited to share them with you.
Maybe you are not sure if you want to walk 10+ miles each day of your vacation looking at all the monuments. Don’t worry we have some ideas that will help you navigate Washington DC without a car.
In this post, we are going to discuss all the best ways to get around Washington DC which will include, bus tours, biking, scooters, and rideshares. This information will help you know the best way to see the Washington DC monuments for your vacation.
Let’s explore all your options for getting around Washington DC!
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Walking In Washington DC
We are going to start with walking in Washington DC, although most of this post will be alternatives to walking. Walking is the cheapest way to get around DC, so it needs to be on the list!
Washington DC is a walking city. The entire National Mall is a pedestrian-only area. The streetlights located in DC have crosswalks with a set timer to allow people to cross safely. There are many hotels located within walking distance of the Washington DC monuments.
The national monuments are located along the National Mall. There are 10 major monuments centrally located. “Centrally does not mean close together”
National Monuments Near National Mall
- Washington Monument
- Lincoln Memorial
- Jefferson Memorial
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial
- Korean War Memorial
- National World War II Memorial
- Martian Luther King Jr. Memorial
- Albert Einstein Memorial
- District of Columbia War Memorial
- Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial
To walk around the Tidal Basin takes about 2.2-miles. This might not be bad if you visit Washington DC during the Fall or Spring but during the heat of the summer walking to visit the monuments is miserably hot!
However, if a self-guided walking tour is what you want then walking is the perfect way to get around Washington DC! I would just suggest going early in the morning during the summer months or at night.
Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
If you have been to Washington DC you know that it is a ton of walking. One great alternative to walking is going on a Hop-on Hop-off bus tour.
On our recent trip to DC we took a sponsored bus tour to check out all the monuments. The staff was super friendly and helpful. We thought the bus tour was a great way to get around Washington DC.
The Big Bus Tour has 13 stops all along the National Mall. There is an app you can download that allows you to easily find the pickup locations. The buses come about every 15 minutes. You can sit on top or bottom of the double-decker bus. The top is where the best seats are located. You will be able to see all the sites.
What we found was that the buses stop at each location for about 15 minutes. It is not a continuous bus ride.
Tips about the Washington DC Bus Tour
- Plan an Entire Day for the Tour
- Route Includes Arlington Cemetery.
- You will Still Walk but Not as Much!
- Ponchos Available
- Headphones provided
- Most Ticket Options include a Free Bike Rental.
Ticket Options For Big Bus Tour
The monuments at night are amazing so if you are around when the night tour is available it is a great option. One great thing about the night tour is that you do not have to worry about the heat. During the summer months, touring during the day can be hot and exhausting.
However, we did enjoy our day tour because we were able to go to the Arlington Cemetery, the Fords Theater, and museums that are only open during the day.
Another great stop is the Jefferson Memorial, if you have been to DC you will know that this monument is much farther away from the National Mall than the others. It is nice to be dropped off right next to it!
The bus tour is a great option for getting around Washington DC!
Getting Around DC - Trolley Tour
Another option for getting around Washington DC is a Trolley Tour. Now, this is different than the bus option.
The trolley tour is a narrated hour and a half tour that includes views of the US Capitol, White House, and Washington Monument. You will also have great opportunities for photo ops of other monuments.
It only makes ONE STOP at the Lincoln Memorial. You are given 30 minutes to explore the area. It is not a hop-on hop-off tour.
Biking Around the Monuments
Biking to get around Washington DC is a great option. There are bike racks located in convenient locations throughout the city.
All I have to say is biking is so much faster and easier than walking! If you are in good biking shape this is a great option for getting around Washington DC.
If you purchased the hop-on hop-off bus ticket a bike rental is included. If not, don’t worry you can use your credit card to rent the bikes at the different stations. When you want to tour an area you can return your bike to the rack.
Families with Kids
If you have little kids, I did see some bikes with seats on the front of the bikes. However, if you have kids between the ages of 6-9 the bikes at the rack are going to be too big for them.
Guided Bike Tour
Scooters are everywhere in DC! There are lots of different brands! If riding a scooter to get around Washington DC sounds fun to you then be sure to download the app of the scooter you want to use.
Most of the scooters are locked up so you will need to get the code to unlock them. Scooters are a great way to see the monuments. It is fun and is a great alternative to walking!
Families with Kids
We would have used this option, but our kids were a little too young to operate the scooters. It says you have to be 18 to ride. You could also go on a guided scooter tour but this option is a little more expensive than the ride-share scooters located around town.
We used Uber and other ride-share services for getting around Washington DC. It was so nice not to walk!
Our hotel was about a 10 -15 minute walk to the Smithsonian Museums on the National Mall. We typically did this in the morning but after touring we were tired and just wanted to get back to the hotel without walking back. We downloaded the app and checked prices because they change throughout the day. If it was a good deal we would use Uber instead of walking.
We didn’t have any problems being picked up at different locations throughout DC. However, something to keep in mind is that the traffic is sometimes bad and it might take you just as long to get back to your hotel by car as it would have by just walking.
Getting Around DC - Private Tour
Metro in Washington DC
The Metro is one way of getting around Washington DC. However, I think it is better used to get into the city than actually for touring purposes.
We found the stops were still pretty far away from the many tourist attractions. You will have to walk a ton once you get off the different stops. When we lived in DC we used the Metro daily to and from work but as tourists, we didn’t think it was the best option for getting around Washington DC.
The metro doesn’t connect to some of the areas I wanted to visit such as Mount Vernon and the National Harbor. We ended up renting a car to go to these areas.
When The Metro Makes Sense
Using the metro to get to Georgetown was a good option because parking in that area is impossible! Georgetown is where all the good food and shopping options are.
We thought we would use the metro a lot more than we did. We bought metro cards and then learned the places we wanted to see were not located near a Metro stop. The Metro in Washington DC are more work commuter trains compared to tourist transportation vehicles.
The DC Circulator is a cheap way to get around Washington DC. It only cost $1!! That is not bad! There is a route that goes right along the National Mall. It is basically the same route every tour bus goes.
I have not been on the public bus. However, I found it very difficult to find stop times and locations. We saw a lot of homelessness in Washington DC so you might be on the bus with these types of individuals.
Should I Rent a Car in Washington DC?
You really do not need to rent a car in Washington DC if you are planning on touring the main sites located on the National Mall. In fact, having a car is more expensive because hotels will charge a daily parking fee.
Parking near Monuments
Parking at the monuments is difficult. There is a free parking lot located near the Washington Monument but it is risky to drive because you might not find a spot. There are also paid spots along some streets but again it is hard to find those spots. You will need to be prepared to do some parallel parking as well.
Getting out of Washington DC Proper
Now, there are a few amazing places you can only get to by car. Mount Vernon is my favorite attraction and on our last trip, I felt it necessary to rent a car specifically so I could go to Mount Vernon.
Sites to Visit Outside of Washington DC
- Mount Vernon
- National Harbor
- Fort McHenry
- Air and Space Museum Chantilly
We did not have a car on the first part of our DC trip however I rented a Turo in DC so I could visit some of the sites located just outside of DC. My advice is to save money where you can but if you want to visit any of those sites you should!
Getting Around Washington DC
Hopefully, this post helps you figure out the best way to get around Washington DC!
We love to walk but it is hard on your body! The bus tour was a nice break from all the walking. Scooters and bikes are also fabulous ways to see the monuments! A private tour would be an amazing option for getting around Washington DC as well!
The metro was not my first choice and I didn’t try the public bus system.
Have fun planning your trip and figuring out you want to get around DC!
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