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Washington DC Gift Guide November 24, 2019

Our Washington, DC gift guide will help your pick out a great gift for anyone who is visiting Washington, DC. Whether you’re shopping for a gift for the holidays, birthday or any other special occasion, these are five ideas to help someone you know have a great DC experience.

Commemorative Metro SmarTrip Card

When you visit Washington, DC a SmarTrip card is required to get around on the Metro. Sure, you can easily buy one at any Metro station, but imagine how cool your friend or family member will feel with a special commemorative SmarTrip. Plus, each commemorative card comes pre-loaded with $8, so they won’t have to worry about paying for their first few rides. You can order one of these cards online at the SmarTrip Store.

Trip Hacks DC Guide to Washington DC E-book

There are no shortage of Washington, DC travel books on the market, but ours is different. Our book is for the modern traveler who wants insider tips and travel hacks to help plan your trip. We’re not padding pages with lists of hotels or restaurants or out-of-date paper maps. We’ve all got smartphones these days for that stuff! Get this book if you want to help your family member or friend get a ton of useful information about their trip without spending a bunch of time on fluff that doesn’t matter.

Museum Tickets

Washington, DC has more great free museums than you can shake a stick at. So it may seem odd to include paid museum tickets in a Washington, DC Gift Guide, but if you only stick to the free museums you’re going to miss some of the best exhibits in the city! The International Spy Museum is a must for kids or kids-at-heart. The National Building Museum is a great spot for anyone interested in architecture, planning and design. And the National Geographic Museum is a great little spot for anyone who likes the magazine.

Tickets to a Tour, Show or Game

Washington, DC is not just museums and monuments. We’ve got a thriving theater scene as well as professional sports teams in almost every league. That said, everyone should see the museums and monuments, and walking around on your own is just one way to do it. Trip Hacks DC runs tours of the monuments including the fun and popular Monumental Trivia tour during the spring and summer months.

Trip Hacks DC Official Merch

This one is shamelessly self promotional, but we could write a Washington, DC gift guide without including our own souvenir merchandise. If you’re a fan of the Trip Hacks DC YouTube channel or Podcast or took a tour with us and want something to remember it, our shirts and merch is the perfect option. There are t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and a few other cool items. If you wear it on your trip to DC maybe you’ll make friends with some other Trip Hacks DC fans!

Ideas for Free and Cheap Things to Do in Washington DC September 1, 2019

Washington, DC can be an expensive city; but it doesn’t have to! The great thing about visiting is that there are so many free and cheap things to do in Washington, DC. I wanted to know if it’s possible to experience the city if you had only $20 in your pocket. And not just once (that’s too easy) but for three consecutive days.

In July, 2019, I took the $20 challenge. Unfortunately, I had to exclude the price of accommodation. There are plenty of hotel choices and areas to stay. Airbnb is an option as well. However, it’s not feasible to expect anything clean and comfortable for such a low price. That said, for this challenge, food, transportation and daily activities all came from a daily $20 budget.

Day 1: Thursday

The day started at Wicked Waffle – a great little breakfast spot downtown. Most folks opt for a waffle sandwich, but that was out of my price range, so I went with a simple Brussels Waffle with syrup instead. The total, with tax, was $5.23. This was also the moment I realized that I couldn’t get drinks with my meal, as they would easily push me over $20. Good thing I carry a water bottle with me!

After breakfast I took the DC Cirulator bus up to the National Zoo. At the time I did the challenge, Circulator was free! However, it’s back to the regular $1 per ride, which is still a bargain. The National Zoo is not the biggest zoo in America but it’s probably the best free zoo in America. Once I was done I took Metro back downtown. That ride cost me $2.00.

For lunch I stopped at my favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant, Well Dressed Burrito. I usually order an “El Gordo” burrito; but today opted for a smaller chicken burrito, which cost $7.15 with tax. Afterward I hopped on another (free at the time) Circulator bus to Georgetown. After exploring some of the Georgetown hidden gems I grabbed a falafel sandwich at Falafel Inc. for $3.30 to save for dinner later.

To close out the day I saw a free movie at the Capitol Riverfront outdoor movie series. There are free movie nights all over the city. The movie series at the Navy Memorial is convenient to many downtown hotels.

Day 1 total: $17.68.

Day 2: Friday

The second day of the challenge started with a long walk from downtown over to Eastern Market in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Washington, DC is a walking city and walking is a great option because it’s always completely free.

Despite the name, Market Lunch actually has excellent breakfast. It’s located right inside the market. I ordered Blue Bucks (blueberry buckwheat pancakes). A short stack was plenty and cost $6.88. If you’re not a pancake person for a similar price you can order The Brick, a delicious and filling breakfast sandwich. Make sure to bring cash as this spot is cash only!

Eastern Market is less than a mile from the Capitol, so after lunch I walked over to the Capitol Visitor Center and hopped on a tour. During the busy times of year, a reservation is highly recommended. On this day, since I was a single person, I got lucky and got right onto a tour. Afterward, I took the tunnel to the Library of Congress, the most beautiful building in the city, in my opinion. After that I walked down the hill and spent a little time exploring at the U.S. Botanic Garden.

Around 2pm I started making my way down Independence Avenue toward the U.S. Department of Agriculture headquarters. USDA has a cafeteria that’s open to the public and every day after 2:30pm they discount buffet items by 30%. I was able to build a nice plate and after the discount and tax cost $6.19. The late afternoon discount is a great hack when you’re looking for cheap things to do in Washington, DC.

After lunch I saw some art at the Hishhorn Museum. It’s a modern art museum and generally less busy than the bigger Smithsonian museums nearby. Afterward I crossed the National Mall and stopped by the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden. On Fridays in the summer they do Jazz in the Garden. It’s a fun place to listen to music and kick off the weekend. I could only stay for a little while because then it was time to meet a group for a private tour.

Trip Hacks DC tours are not one of the cheap things to do in Washington, DC (they’re totally worth it though). But for the sake of this challenge I assumed you could see all of the monuments on your own. Self-guiding a tour is completely free. After the tour I rushed over to Roti, a great fast-casual restaurant and got a plate of food just before they closed. I used the LevelUp app and had a $5.00 credit, which meant my dinner only cost $4.68. Check out how you can use this app to get free food credits too.

Day 2 total: $17.75.

Day 3: Saturday

Saturday mornings in DC are surprisingly quiet and peaceful. I woke up and walked over to Bethesda Bagels for breakfast. They are best known for their delicious breakfast sandwiches, but I went with a staple cheap eat: an everything bagel with cream cheese. It was a filling breakfast for only $3.45.

Afterward I decided to walk off the calories and headed to the Old Post Office Tower. This is one of the best views in DC. The Washington Monument gets all the attention but the views down Pennsylvania Avenue from the tower and phenomenon. It’s also great for early birds because they open at 9am, about an hour earlier than most sights. Make sure to use the door behind the building off of 12th Street NW.

Most museums open at 10am which is when I arrived at the National Museum of American History. Museums on the National Mall are huge and you could spend an entire day in a single museum if you were really into it. With limited time it’s best to focus on the exhibits you most want to see.

For lunch I headed to the nearby Protein Bar. They have bowls and wraps that I would call healthy or at least healthy-ish. I ordered the buffalo bowl which had chicken, celery, carrots and blue cheese, on top of quinoa. It was delicious. Protein Bar also uses the LevelUp app so I was able to redeem a credit and only pay $3.84 for lunch.

Two underrated Smithsonian museums in DC are the Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum. I like these museums because they are fun an entertaining for both history buffs and art lovers. They are also connected by the Kogod Courtyard which is a great place to sit and relax during a busy day of sightseeing. It was where I planned out my evening.

Up to this point I was winning this challenge because I took advantage of all the free activities in DC. On the last day I decided to do something a little crazy. I wanted to go to a Major League Baseball game. I knew I could pull it off because there are $5.00 tickets available at the Washington Nationals box office and because you can bring your own outside food. When it comes to cheap things to do in Washington, DC this one is still kind of a secret.

From the museum I hopped on a Capital Bikeshare bike (the ride cost $2.00) and headed toward the ballpark. Instead of going to a restaurant I stopped at Harris Teeter to pick up some groceries. I walked out with a salad, bag of peanuts and bottle of water. The snacks totaled up to $5.98. I got my ticket and the box office and walked right into the game.

Day 3 total: $20.27.

Building an itinerary from free and cheap things to do in Washington DC

Even though I exceeded $20 on the third day, I would call this challenge a wild success. It took a bit of planning and limited the number of options, but there are so many cheap things to do in Washington DC that it made it possible. Plus, these were three action packed days. If you tried to re-create this itinerary you would be exhausted by the end!

Best Evening Things in DC July 28, 2019

There are so many things to see and do when you visit Washington, DC but most of the major sites are daytime activities. The museums, Capitol and National Archives are open daily until around 5:00 or 5:30. However, after that, there is still plenty to do. These are six of our favorite evening things in DC.

1. Monuments and memorials

One of the most popular evening things to do in DC is visit the monuments and memorials. The cool thing about the monuments and memorials is that they are open 24/7. There really there is no bad time to see them, but because they are open all the time, it makes sense to plan your itinerary so that you see the daytime activities when they’re open and save the monuments for the after hours. Our most popular Trip Hacks DC tour is the evening monuments tour.

2. Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum

Most Smithsonian museums are open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. In the summer, a select number of museums on the National Mall do stay open a couple hours later, but only on a limited number of dates. Regardless, every day you can see two museums all the way up until 7pm: the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. There is also the Kogod Courtyard which is a cool place to relax and hang out. Aside from the courtyard, these two museums are actually pretty awesome and underrated. They are not on the National Mall. However, they are only a short walk away.

3. See a game 

For the most part, professional sports are evening things in DC. Baseball, soccer, basketball and hockey usually start around 7 PM and go late into the evening. Football is the one sport where this does not really apply since the games are usually on Sundays during the day. Sports games are great because they are family-friendly activities but you don’t need to have kids to enjoy going. Now of course, it is not free or cheap, but it is still an activity worth considering.   

4. Union Market 

Union Market calls itself the epicenter of culinary creativity in DC. Most people just call it a modern food hall. Regardless, it is a great place for food, drinks, coffee and all other foodie-related stuff. In 2019 Union Market is open 7 days a week 8:00am to 8:00pm Sunday through Wednesday and 8:00am to 9:00pm Thursday to Saturday.

5. Take in a show

If you are into theater, orchestra or opera and you can swing the price of tickets, the Kennedy Center is an awesome place to see a show. It might not be as famous as Broadway in New York City but the performances are top notch. If the Kennedy Center is out of range, then the good news is that DC actually has a thriving theater scene. The website Goldstar is a great place to look for tickets, especially if you are on a budget. You can get a taste of what shows are out there and maybe even get a discount on one if you find something you like.

6. Nightlife 

This is really more for the 21 and over crowd. When you think of evening things to do, nightlife is kind of the obvious one. The nightlife epicenter in DC tends to shift every few years. However, at least in 2019, a lot of it is around U Street and 14th Street NW, north of downtown. There is also a nightlife concentrated in the Adams Morgan neighborhood as well as Dupont Circle. You can find nightlife in just about every neighborhood. It might not hopping on a Wednesday night, but maybe that’s what you prefer. DC also has a thriving happy hour scene during the week.

Coming to Washington DC, and want us to show you around?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today! Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

Vietnam Memorial: Tips and Interesting Facts July 23, 2019

The Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC was dedicated in 1982. It was the first of the national war memorials on the National Mall and it honors the men and women who served during the Vietnam War. The Wall includes the names of over 58,000 Americans who gave their lives.

Vietnam memorial

Vietnam Memorial location

The Vietnam Memorial is located to the northeast of the Lincoln Memorial. It is a short walk over from the steps of Lincoln. The GPS address is 5 Henry Bacon Dr NW.

Getting to the Vietnam Memorial

There are several transportation options to get to the memorial:

  • Metro: Take the orange, blue, or silver line to the Foggy Bottom Metro station and walk southbound down 23rd Street until you reach the National Mall. It is about an eighteen minute walk to the memorial.
  • DC Circulator: Take the National Mall Circulator bus from anywhere on the National Mall. This bus route starts at Union Station and then makes a big loop past the Capitol, museums and monuments and memorials.
  • Capital Bikeshare: Ride a Capital Bikeshare bike from anywhere into the city to the nearby station named “Henry Bacon Dr & Lincoln Memorial Circle NW”.

TIP: The best and easiest way to see the Vietnam Memorial is on a guided tour. Our walking tours cover all of the major monuments and memorials on the National Mall. We use an efficient route that allows you to see all of them in three hours or less.

A few interesting facts 

  • The memorial’s design comes from a nationwide contest. The winning proposal was Maya Ying Lin, a college architecture student from Yale. She beat out more than 1,400 other entrants, including her own professor!
  • The VVMF (Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc.) raised money for the memorial. The Memorial was also funded by soldiers, individuals, and corporations.
  • There are three components that make up the memorial: the Wall, the Three Servicemen Statue, and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial.

Coming to Washington, DC and want to learn a whole lot more about the Vietnam Memorial?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today! Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

Korean War Memorial: Tips and Interesting Facts July 22, 2019

The Korean War was a war between North Korea and South Korea from 1950-1953. Unfortunately it is known as the “forgotten war” in U.S. history because few Americans know much about it beyond M*A*S*H. The designers of the Korean War Memorial hoped to change that nickname by drawing attention to those who served. The memorial opened in 1995.

Korean War Memorial location

The Korean War Memorial is located southeast of the Lincoln Memorial and south of the reflecting pool on the National Mall. The GPS address is 900 Ohio Dr SW.

Getting to the Korean War Memorial

There are several transportation options to get to the memorial:

  • Metro: Take the orange, blue, or silver line to the Foggy Bottom station. Walk southbound on 23rd Street until you reach the Lincoln Memorial and continue past it. The walk takes about 20 minutes.
  • DC Circulator: Take the National Mall Circulator bus from anywhere on the National Mall. This bus route starts at Union Station and then makes a big loop past the Capitol, museums and monuments and memorials.
  • Capital Bikeshare: You can ride a Capital Bikeshare bike from anywhere into the city to the nearby “Lincoln Memorial” station.

TIP: The best and easiest way to see the Korean War Memorial is on a guided tour. Our walking tours cover all of the major monuments and memorials on the National Mall. We use an efficient route that allows you to see all of them in three hours or less.

A few interesting facts

  • There are 19 statues of soldiers marching through what looks like a rice field. These are in proportion to the number of U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines who served in the Korean War.
  • The number 38 is important to the design of the memorial because of the 38th parallel and the 38 months of fighting between 1950 and 1953. However, there are only 19 statues, plus a reflective wall that reflects those statues. 19 + 19 = 38.
  • Statues are made of stainless steel because of their reflective properties. This is different from most statues on the National Mall which are made from granite or bronze.

Coming to Washington, DC and want to learn a whole lot more about the Korean War Memorial?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today! Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

Washington Monument: Tips and Interesting Facts July 21, 2019

The Washington Monument was the first monument constructed on the National Mall in honor of our founding father and first president. Construction lasted for decades before the monument was completed in 1884.

Washington Monument

Washington Monument location

The Washington Monument is located in the center of the National Mall. It is approximately halfway between the Capitol and Lincoln Memorial and almost directly south of the White House. The GPS address is 2 15th St NW.

Getting to the Washington Monument

There are several transportation options to get to the Washington Monument. 

  • Metro: Take the orange, blue, or silver line to the Smithsonian station. Exit via the “National Mall” side and then walk westbound across the National Mall. It is easy to find the Washington Monument because it is visible as soon as you come above ground. The walk takes about nine minutes.
  • DC Circulator: Take the National Mall Circulator bus from anywhere on the National Mall. This bus route starts at Union Station and then makes a big loop past the Capitol, museums and monuments and memorials.
  • Capital Bikeshare: You can ride a Capital Bikeshare bike from anywhere into the city to the closest station which is named “Jefferson Dr & 14th St SW”.

TIP: The best and easiest way to see the Washington Monument is on a guided tour. Our walking tours cover all of the major monuments and memorials on the National Mall. We use an efficient route that allows you to see all of them in three hours or less.

A few interesting facts

  • The Washington Monument stands 555 feet. It is the tallest building in Washington, DC and was the tallest building in the world when it opened (until the Eiffel Tower broke the record a few years later).
  • Because Washington, DC does not have any tall buildings, once you reach the top you can see over 30 miles on a clear day.
  • There is a pyramid made of aluminum at the top of the monument. In 1884 aluminum was a very expensive precious metal, almost the same price as silver!

Coming to Washington, DC and want to learn a whole lot more about the Washington Monument?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today! Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

FDR Memorial: Tips and Interesting Facts July 17, 2019

Franklin D. Roosevelt was the 32nd president of the United States. As the only president elected more than two times, his memorial is one of the largest of all the presidential monuments, taking visitors through the story of his presidency. The FDR Memorial is located on the Tidal Basin as was dedicated in 1997.

FDR Memorial

FDR Memorial location

The FDR Memorial is located on the National Mall, in between the Jefferson Memorial and MLK Memorial. The GPS address is 1850 West Basin Dr SW. It is adjacent to the southwest side of the Tidal Basin.

Getting to the FDR Memorial

There are several transportation options to get to the FDR Memorial

  • Metro: Take the orange, blue, or silver line to the Smithsonian Station, walk westbound Independence Ave SW and turn left to walk southbound on West Basin Dr SW.  It is about an twenty-four minute walk.
  • DC Circulator: Take the National Mall Circulator bus from anywhere on the National Mall. This bus route starts at Union Station and then makes a big loop past the Capitol, museums and monuments and memorials.
  • Capital Bikeshare: You can ride a Capital Bikeshare bike from anywhere into the city to one of the two nearby stations: “Ohio Dr & West Basin Dr SW” or “MLK & FDR Memorials”.

TIP: The best and easiest way to see the FDR Memorial is on a guided tour. Our walking tours cover all of the major monuments and memorials on the National Mall. We use an efficient route that allows you to see all of them in three hours or less.

A few interesting facts

  • The FDR Memorial is the only memorial to include a statue for a first lady. Visitors can see America’s first United Nations Delegate and former first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. This is also the only memorial to feature a presidential pet, FDR’s dog, Fala.
  • Unlike many memorials which are made from white granite, the FDR Memorial was created from red granite. The designers had to ship in granite all the way from the Dakotas to make a memorial in this color.
  • The Memorial has over twenty quotes by FDR inscribed inside on the walls, including his famous “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.

Coming to Washington, DC and want to learn a whole lot more about the FDR Memorial?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today! Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

MLK memorial: Tips and Interesting Facts July 15, 2019

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is the only major memorial on the National Mall not dedicated to a former president (there are a few smaller memorials dedicated to other non-presidents). Dr. King was a minister, activist and civil rights leader during the 1950s and 1960s.

MLK Memorial

MLK Memorial location

The MLK Memorial is located on the Tidal Basin, across the water from the Jefferson Memorial. The address of the memorial is 1964 Independence Avenue SW. Interestingly enough, this references the year the Civil Rights Act Of 1964 became law.

Getting to the MLK Memorial

There are several transportation options to get to the memorial:

  • Metro: Take the orange, blue, or silver line to the Smithsonian Metro and walk eastbound along Independence Avenue SW until you reach the memorial.  It is about an eighteen minute walk.  
  • DC Circulator: Take the National Mall Circulator bus from anywhere on the National Mall. This bus route starts at Union Station and then makes a big loop past the Capitol, museums and monuments and memorials.
  • Capital Bikeshare: You can ride a Capital Bikeshare bike from anywhere into the city to the nearby “Ohio Dr & West Basin Dr SW / MLK & FDR Memorials” station.

TIP: The best and easiest way to see the MLK Memorial is on a guided tour. Our walking tours cover all of the major monuments and memorials on the National Mall. We use an efficient route that allows you to see all of them in three hours or less.

A few interesting facts 

  • The memorial is based on a single quote from Martin Luther King: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” This quote is carved on the side of the statue of Dr. King.
  • The designers chose quotes on the walls of the memorial from speeches other than I have a Dream to help visitors appreciate the different speeches that Martin Luther King delivered during his lifetime.
  • The MLK Memorial falls directly in line with the Jefferson Memorial and Lincoln Memorial. These three men form a “line of leadership” that honors Americans who shaped what the country is today.

Coming to Washington, DC and want to learn a whole lot more about the MLK Memorial?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today! Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

World War II Memorial: Tips and Interesting Facts July 15, 2019

The World War II Memorial in Washington, DC is the newest war memorial on the National Mall. Opened in 2004, it was constructed after the memorials for two wars that came after it (Korean War and Vietnam War). It honors the 16 million Americans who served in the global conflict and the over 400,000 Americans who gave their lives.

World War Memorial in Washington, DC

World War II Memorial location

The World War II Memorial is located on 17th Street SW, between Constitution and Independence Avenues. It is approximately halfway between Washington Monument to the east and the Lincoln Memorial to the west.

Getting to the World War II Memorial

There are several transportation options to get to the memorial:

  • Metro: Take the orange, blue, or silver line to the Smithsonian station. Walk eastbound along Independence Avenue SW until you reach 17th Street. It is about a sixteen minute walk.  
  • DC Circulator: Take the National Mall Circulator bus from anywhere on the National Mall. This bus route starts at Union Station and then makes a big loop past the Capitol, museums and monuments and memorials.
  • Capital Bikeshare: You can ride a Capital Bikeshare bike from anywhere into the city to the nearby “17th St & Independence Ave SW” station.

TIP: The best and easiest way to see the WWII Memorial is on a guided tour. Our walking tours cover all of the major monuments and memorials on the National Mall. We use an efficient route that allows you to see all of them in three hours or less.

A few interesting facts

  • The WWII Memorial opened in April 2004, a month ahead of schedule. It was important to open the memorial as soon as possible because of the age of many World War II veterans.
  • “Kilroy” can be spotted at two places in the memorial. Look for them hiding on the outside of the memorial on the side closest to Lincoln. Kilroy was a symbol of American Serviceman during the war. Writing “Kilroy was here” was a claim of victory.
  • From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial the World War II Memorial is almost invisible. This is not by accident. The designers wanted to preserve the picturesque view from the far end of the National Mall.

Coming to Washington, DC and want to learn a whole lot more about the WWII Memorial?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today! Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

Scooters in DC: Things you Should Know July 14, 2019

It’s 2019 and scooters in DC are hugely popular. Electric scooters came onto the scene last year and have exploded ever since. This post includes information you should know before your pick up a scooter for the first time and details about how to ride.

While it may seem to the untrained eye that there are scooters abandoned everywhere, that’s actually just how the system is set up. You take a scooter, ride it to where you need to go, and leave it once you get there. Then, at the end of the day someone comes and picks them up, takes them to charge them, and then drops them back on the street the next day.

These scooters look almost exactly like the old razor scooters you might remember from your childhood. Except, of course, that they’re electric and you do not have to kick them everywhere.

What companies have scooters in DC?

The companies that currently run scooters in DC are: Bird, Lime, Spin, Skip, Lyft, and Jump by Uber. Each company has its own app which means you’ll need to download a bunch of different ones and create a bunch of different accounts. This is unless you’re just going to pick one and stick with it.

How much does it cost?

Scooters are not free, Honestly they are not even cheap. Each company is different but generally speaking, you will pay an unlock fee to unlock the scooter and then a usage fee, charged per minute that you ride it.

The unlock fee is usually around $1 and then the usage fee is somewhere between 25 and 30 cents depending on the specific scooter company. Now, that might not initially sound like a lot but keep in mind that a 30 minute scooter ride under that system will cost you around $10. By comparison, a 30 minute ride on Capital Bikeshare will only cost you $2. So, if you’re on a budget but plan to do a lot of scooting this can really add up quick now.

Rules for riding scooters in DC

Before we talk about riding the scooter, we need to go over the ground rules. Yes, when you come to DC, you will see each and every single one of these rules broken. But, if you want to ride a scooter and do it by the book these are the rules and you should follow them.

1. Kids are not allowed.

Kids are not allowed on the scooters. Scooter companies require their riders to be at least 18 years or older.

2. Only one person per scooter

These scooters are just not safe enough to transport more than one person. If you have multiple people in your group, each person should ride their own scooter.

3. You can’t end your trip outside of the company’s service area

The National Mall is not part of the service areas. This is important because many visitors see the scooters and consider them a great way to see the monuments and memorials. However, be careful! Some scooter companies will charge you a hefty fine if you end your ride on the National Mall. Others might not even allow you to end a trip at all until you leave the area.

If you do plan to break this one, don’t ride the scooters in the memorials. It is not just illegal but it’s totally disrespectful and obnoxious, especially the war memorials.

4. You cannot just leave the scooter anywhere

You have to leave the scooter in a public place and away from pedestrians. One of the reasons why scooters have become such a huge lightning rods is because people keep leaving them right in the middle of the sidewalk instead of off and out of the way.

5. You need to wear a helmet

Less than 1% of scooter riders actually follow this one and most visitors won’t travel with helmets. But this is the rule and it’s for your safety.

How to start your scooter ride

The first thing you obviously need to do is find one. Depending on exactly where you are this could be as simple as stumbling down the street until you come upon one. However, if you’re using the apps you can look on the app to see exactly where they’re located. Once you get to your scooter, look for a QR code, probably on the top or somewhere on the front.

If you haven’t already, you will need to create an account with the scooter company and enter your billing information. Then, you will click on the “start your ride” button. This will open up your phone’s camera app which will let you scan the QR code on the actual scooter. Once you’ve done that, depending on the company, the scooter will either play a sound or the app will give you a notification to confirm that your ride has started.

How to operate the scooter

The scooters don’t all look exactly the same. Some of them have taller or shorter handlebars. Some have wider or thinner boards. But, they all function basically the same way. The scooter will have a button for the throttle (or what you could think of as the gas) and a brake (which will probably look like the standard brake you see on a bicycle). In order to activate the electric motor you have to give the scooter one or two manual kicks. This is a safety feature to keep the scooter from taking off on you when you’re not already moving.

Now, the first time you ride one of these scooters, it will take a few moments to get used to it. So, you should not take a scooter immediately out into traffic. When you reach your destination, make sure to put the scooter in a public place and out of the way. Then, you should reopen your app and tap the button to finish your ride.

Are scooters in DC worth the cost?

If you’re here on vacation, scooters in DC can be a fun novelty. Also, it is an okay way to get from place to place.

The biggest disadvantage, at least in 2019, is that you either have to create multiple accounts with multiple apps or stick to one or two. A good place to start might be with the Lyft scooters for the simple reason that if you already have a Lyft account you can use the same app without having to create a new account or re-enter your billing information. Then, if you like scooting, maybe you try out one of the other companies.

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