Getting around Washington DC - Washington Monument

Best Ways For Getting Around Washington DC (Bus, Bike, Scooter…Alternative to Walking)

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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Getting around Washington DC Walking

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

Getting around Washington DC 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

Our Experience 

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

Trolley Tour in DC

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.  

Tickets 

There are two ticket options for the trolley tour.  A daytime sightseeing tour which I described above and a moonlight trolley tour.  

Biking Around the Monuments

biking in DC... Best way to see Washington DC

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

Another great option is to go on a guided bike tour.  You can do this during the day or there is a special tour at night.  It is nice to have a knowledgeable guide who knows the area. 

Scooters

scooters in DC

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. 

Uber and Other Ride Share Services in Washington DC

Getting around Washington DC

We used Uber and other ride-share services for getting around Washington DC. It was so nice not to walk! 

Our Experience

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

Getting around DC private Tour Jefferson Memorial

There are many private tours around DC. 

Some tours are in golf carts, but others are in limousines and nice SUVs.  This is a more personal guided tour. 

The guide told us that he could not get super close to the monuments but it wasn’t too far to walk in each area the tour stopped at.  

Metro in Washington DC

DC Metro Stop

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.  

Metro Tips

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. 

 

DC Circulator

getting around DC DC circulator

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?

Should I rent a car in 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
  • Annapolis
  • Baltimore

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

getting around DC Monuments

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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28 Comments

  1. Great post! I love it when you can explore a city without a car. It makes it so much more relaxing to not need to worry about parking. 🙂 Plus bikes and a trolly tour look really fun!

  2. And here I am thinking people drive everywhere in the US! I am actually glad that is not the case, I love walking cities!

    1. Most cities you have to drive but the East Coast big cities have a walking option! Washington DC, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia are all good walking cities.

  3. When we visited DC we decided to rent some bikes which turned out to be a fun option. Although the roads were very busy at times!

  4. A useful guide, especially the tips that hotels will charge you for parking, so it can work out more expensive! There are so many other alternatives. I am definitely not opposed to a hop on/off bus or biking, they’re fun ways to see a city!

  5. I’m yet to visit Washington DC so I’ll definitely save this post for later – thanks for this wonderful guide!

  6. We love visiting Washington, DC. The options that are available for getting around our incredible! We completely forgot about the hop-on-hop-off bus tour; thank you for sharing.

  7. We just got back from a road trip where we stopped at Washington DC for 4 days! The monuments at sundown were beautiful(!), but seeing them on a hop-on-hop-off tour would probably be amazing! We actually used the subway a lot. Our Airbnb was on one of the lines, but we also used it to go from the Smithsonian Zoo to the National Mall and to go from the National Mall to Arlington Cemetary. These are great options for getting around Washington DC!

    1. That would work out really nicely if you stay right on a line. When we lived in Virginia we used it all the time.

  8. Some great options for getting around Washington DC! Next time we are visiting my daughter, the scooters are definitely a must try!

  9. This is great info! I haven’t been to DC since my last visit when I was 22. It’s been a while! My family is planning an east coast road trip for next summer, so this is handy. I’m hoping to do the monument tour at night. We will have a car, but maybe we will stay outside the city itself and use public transportation to get there. Then maybe the hop-on hop off. DC will be towards the end of our trip, so I’m not sure how long we’ll stay. Still planning!

    1. We had so much fun out East! There is so much to see and do! I liked staying within walking distance. Kids can only walk so much before they melt down!

  10. I haven’t been to Washington DC in years! Last time I walked all day, my feet hurt but I didn’t do any research on other options first to know what was available.

  11. This is an excellent guide to getting around Washington DC! I’ll be visiting this fall. My grandson lives there now.

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