Every year, the Library of Congress hosts the National Book Festival in Washington, DC. It is a celebration of books, authors, and libraries. The festival was started in 2001 by First Lady Laura Bush. The first festival took place on the lawn near the Library of Congress. Now, it’s indoors at the Washington Convention Center. The festival usually takes place in very late August or early September.
If you’re planning to attend, these are four of our favorite National Book Festival tips.
1. Plan ahead
Go to the National Book Festival website and see exactly what you might want to do. It is hard to emphasize just how many people are going to be there. There are usually tens of thousands of people who attend this one-day festival. So, if you walk into the Convention Center with no plan, you’re going to feel completely overwhelmed. Wear your best pair of walking shoes and plan on doing a lot of walking.
2. Download the app
The National Book Festival has an official app that you should definitely download and use. It has all kinds of useful information like the schedule, authors in attendance, and a map of the Convention Center. It also includes information about where to go for book signings, and when you can see author talks.
If you do want to go to an author talk, it is really important to know exactly when it’s happening and where. If you’re trying to get a copy of a book signed by an author, you can either bring your own or buy one there. Now, if you want multiple copies signed that is going to be up to each individual author. After all, you will quickly discover how long some of the lines are.
3. Ask the volunteers
The Library of Congress recruits a small army of volunteers to help out every year. The whole reason why they are there is to help you. So do not feel shy about asking! The volunteers will have matching shirts and carry around matching signs.
4. Skip the festival food
The food vendors inside the Convention Center are pretty ordinary. You will find sandwiches, pizza, and other kinds of fast food. However, the biggest reason why you should not plan to eat here is because of the lines. There is also often not even enough space for people to sit down and eat. You should either eat beforehand or plan to visit a restaurant nearby afterwards.
Coming to Washington DC for the Book Festival and want to stick around for a tour?
Planning on attending a Washington Nationals game? Here are some tips and hacks to help you get the most out of your Nationals Park experience.
1. Don’t drive
At a lot of Major League parks the transportation works the same: you drive, pay, park your car, and walk straight into the game. For Washington Nationals games there is parking nearby, but it’s limited. This means that prices are pretty high. For the closest lots $30 – $40 per car is pretty standard.
The way that most fans arrive at games is by Metro. The Navy Yard-Ballpark station is only one block north from the center field gate, so it’s very convenient. You can also bike. There is a huge Capital Bikeshare station nearby, and a bicycle valet if you have your own. If none of these options work you can always take a taxi, or an Uber or a Lyft. However, if you’re trying to cross downtown during rush hour, the traffic can be brutal. Make sure to factor that in so you don’t arrive late.
2. Bring your own food
One of the biggest complaints about attending Major League ball games is that the food is expensive. A lot of people do not know is that many MLB parks actually let you bring outside food. It is perfectly withing the rules, just usually not very well advertised. Nationals Park is one of them.
Check out the fast casual restaurants lining First Street SE. RASA is a local Indian restaurant; Roti has excellent Mediterranean dishes; and Chopt is great for those looking for a healthier option.
If you do pick a food that requires a fork, do no forget to grab the silverware! It is hard to find a plastic fork inside the ballpark. Also, while you are allowed to bring in your own food, you are not allowed to bring in drinks. The one exception is a plain, unopened bottle of water. If you try to bring any other type of drink, or a refillable water bottle, they are going to make you dump it before you come in.
3. Check out the Washington Nationals official happy hour
If you are the kind of person who likes to get to the park early for batting practice, then you can take advantage of the inside the park happy hour. This is offered only in one spot, the bar under the scoreboard in right field. In 2018 you can get a 16 ounce can of Bud or Bud Light for $5. The most important thing to know is that happy hour ends 35 minutes before the scheduled first pitch, so if it is a 7:05 start, you have to have your beer in hand by 6:30.
Georgetown is a popular destination for Washington, DC visitors. Between the picturesque row houses, the high-end shopping and the restaurants, there’s a lot to see and do. Don’t just stick to the main drag. Check out some of these off-the-beaten-path hidden gems of Georgetown.
Tudor Place is the home of George and Martha Washington’s granddaughter, Martha Custis. This is the perfect place for any George Washington history buff to come and explore. When George and Martha passed away, they bequeathed their estate to their granddaughter. So, Custis used this money to build a home in 1805. The last descendant of Custis left the house in 1983. Now, the house is a museum where you can learn all about George Washington and see the gorgeous gardens. Above all, it is one of the less crowded attractions in Georgetown. It also has one of the biggest collections of George Washington memorabilia outside of Mount Vernon. Tudor Place is in North Georgetown off of 33rd street. Tickets are $10 each.
Old Aqueduct Bridge
Of all the hidden gems of Georgetown, this one might be the hardest to find because it doesn’t exist any more. This bridge was built to connect two canals on either side of the Potomac River. In the 1930s, the city demolished the bridge and by the 1960s they removed almost all of what remained. However, there is one piece still sticking out of the water if you know what to look for. There is also a huge swath of graffiti that is really cool to look at while you are out kayaking on the Potomac.
These stairs are from the famous 1973 movie, The Exorcist. The film was based on a book by a student at Georgetown University: William Peter Blatty. The author actually witnessed a exorcism in the 1940s while attending Georgetown. In the movie, the priest falls to his death down these stairs after performing it.
In the 1800s, Cady’s Alley was built as shops and stores. Over a hundred years later, in 2004, architects renovated the alley. So, they converted the buildings into trendy shops. Today, it is known as one of the most fashionable back streets in DC.
This quaint street is an extremely popular Instagram spot. It was originally the site of 10 homes built by freedmen. These modest homes were only 600 square feet and back then they were not connected to electricity or running water. Each home would house 2-4 families and the living was unfortunately not very comfortable. There was an act passed to resettle these communities and most were torn down. Eventually, the remaining homes were renovated.
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The most important thing to know about White House tours is that the require serious planning. Check out our post about how to request White House tickets from your member of congress.
The second most important thing to know is what you’re going to see and what you are not. White House tours are an unguided walk and does not include the West Wing. So, unless you are friends with someone in the current presidential administration, you will not get to see the oval office, situation room, or any of the other places in the West Wing.
You got White House tickets, now what?
Once you have your confirmed reservation, make sure to review your all the paperwork you get from the White House very carefully. This paperwork will tell you exactly what to bring and also exactly what is prohibited. On the day of your assigned tour, show up on 15th Street NW at least 15 minutes before your assigned time. Photos are allowed on White House tours. However, you are not allowed to take videos.
White House security – what to expect
Security at the White House is tight. There are multiple security checkpoints before you can enter the East Wing. The first checkpoint is the name check, where you will show your photo ID and Secret Service will check your name off the reservation list. Then, you will stand in line to have your photo taken. After that, you will stand in line for the second security check where they have the airport style metal detector. You should plan to spend 30 minutes to an hour in security lines depending on how early in the day your assigned time is.
A very crucial trip hack is to use the restroom before getting in line. The White House has no public restrooms. If there is a bathroom emergency, you will have to leave the White House grounds and go through the whole security process all over again. The closest public restroom is in the White House Visitor Center at 15th and Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
What you see during White House tours
Once you clear security, you will enter the East Wing. Once you enter, you will see a corridor of pictures of past presidents. You will also see some photos of first families and first pets.
After that, you will be able to peek into some of the ground floor rooms like the Library, the China Room, and Vermeil Room. Unfortunately, you will not be allowed to enter any of these rooms.
After that, you will go up a floor and you can walk through the rooms on the state floor. First, there is the East Room which is the biggest room in the East Wing. The East Room is used for ceremonies, receptions, and has hosted several weddings. The Green Room is next – it is a parlor often used to serve cocktails during the reception. Then, there is the Blue Room which is where the president and first lady often receives guests. The Blue Room is where the White House Christmas tree is located. The Red Room is a small parlor and a personal favorite of some former first ladies. Finally, you will then see the State Dining Room which can host up to 130 people. Then, you will exit through the north side of the building.
How long White House tours take
Since White House tours are unguided, you can take as much time as you need to see everything. However, the average person takes 30-45 minutes. There are no tour guides. But, the Secret Service are stationed in all of the rooms and people do ask them questions. They go through special training and do their best to answer everyone’s questions.
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When you start planning your trip to Washington, DC you will discover that every hotel offers parking. And yes, it’s expensive! Many consider the hotel rates completely outrageous. It is not uncommon to see rates for hotel parking in DC in the $40-$50 range per night. If you’re willing to consider another option, we have seven ideas for where you can park your car.
1. Union Station.
This is our top recommendation for out-of-town visitors. The Union Station garage is located about a half mile north of the Capitol. This is pretty convenient if you are staying anywhere downtown. Parking costs $24 per day. It’s not cheap. However, it is still a discount over what you would pay at a hotel.
The best thing about Union Station is that the garage is open 24/7 and the rate is the same all the time. So, you do not have to worry about whether the garage is going to be open when you are ready to come or go, or about the rate.
2. Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
This is a great option if you are coming in on the weekend. Weekend rates are only $15 on Saturday and Sunday. However, during the week that price jumps to $35 per day. One thing to note about this garage is that it is in a federal government building. So, when you pull in a security guard will ask you to pop the trunk and will take a look around. Some people do not like this. However, others really do because it makes it feel like their car is in a really safe spot.
The garage at CityCenterDC is very centrally located downtown. So, if you are staying at a hotel downtown, this could be a very convenient option. Overnight parking is $24, same as Union Station, with a few discounts for nights and weekends as well.
4. The Wharf
The Wharf is a brand new development in Southwest Washington, about a half mile south of the National Mall. The garage at the Wharf costs $26 per day and it’s located just off of Maine Avenue SW. There is also a real time garage tracker on the Wharf website. So, you can check to make sure that there is a spot available before you arrive.
SpotHero is an app and a website that lets you find and pay for parking in advance. It is pretty easy to use. You can enter your the location of your hotel, when you plan to arrive and leave, and click search. The results will come up on a map. Each pin on the map shows you the total price to park during your stay. After you check out, you will get a confirmation email. At some garages there’s a QR code that you’ll scan on a reader when you arrive. At other garages, you will show your confirmation email to the person working in the booth. They will get you set up.
The most important thing to know when you use SpotHero is that most garages in downtown DC are closed overnight and on the weekends. So it’s imperative that you check the hours to make sure that the garage is going to be open when you plan to arrive and when you need to leave. Garages will usually let you leave your car overnight or on the weekend when they’re closed. However, you will not be able to leave until they reopen on Monday morning.
6. Economy parking at the airport
The long-term economy lot at Reagan National Airport is $17 per day. It works just like parking at any airport. Although, here you can actually reserve your spot in advance online. The disadvantage to using this option is that you’ll need to take a shuttle to get from the parking lot to the airport terminal, then use the Metro to ride into DC. So, if you’re staying downtown, it’s not the most convenient option.
7. End of the line Metro stations
Four of our Metro stations currently offer overnight parking where you can leave your car for up to ten days. Those stations are Greenbelt, Huntington, Franconia-Springfield and Wiehle-Reston East. These are the stations at the end of the green, yellow, blue, and silver lines respectively. Parking at each of these stations is about $5 per day and free on the weekends. So, it is definitely the cheapest of the options. But, these stations are really far from downtown. So, in addition to the inconvenience, you will need to factor in the price in Metro fare that it will take to get your family to and from the car.
Other Metro stations with parking lots officially do not allow overnight parking. So, if you do park in one of them you may come back to find a ticket on your windshield or even that your car was towed. Now, many people have told us they have parked overnight at these stations without any trouble. However, it is definitely an “at your own risk” situation.
What about DC street parking?
If you’re a Washington, DC visitor, do not park on the street.
Most street parking downtown is either metered or time restricted in some way. So you need to know when you need to pay, how much, and when you need to move your car. And if you get it wrong you will be ticketed and possibly towed.
If you’re thinking that you park in a residential neighborhood for free, think again. Street parking in many neighborhoods is free… but only for those who live there. Most neighborhoods in DC have permit parking, which means that you have to actually live in the neighborhood to get a permit.
Regardless, it’s still not a great idea to leave your car unattended for long periods on the street. Temporary no parking signs can pop up for all kinds of reasons. Lastly, while Washington DC is a very safe city for visitors generally, car break ins are still a problem. So stick to a garage, it’s worth it to keep your car safe.
Looking for a Washington, DC tour after you’ve parked your car?
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in September of 2016. It is an amazing museum that is worth a visit on on any trip to Washington, DC. That said, it’s still very new and very popular, so unlike other museums on the National Mall, you need a free ticket if you want to go. It’s not difficult to get one but you will have to wake up early.
When are these tickets available?
Same day online passes are released every morning on the museum website at approximately 6:30am. The good news is that they are fairly easy to get. The bad news is that you have to wake up early to do it. These tickets are in high demand and they go quickly. Log on at exactly at 6:30am to make sure you don’t miss out! This is the easiest and surest way that you can see the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Certain days don’t require tickets
The National Museum of African American museum has two seasons: peak and off-peak. Peak is from March-August. Off-peak is from September-February.
During off-peak dates, you can walk up after 10am Monday-Friday and head into the museum without tickets. On peak dates, you can walk up after 1pm Monday-Friday and head into the museum without tickets. Walk-up entry is not available on Saturdays or Sundays during either peak or off-peak dates due to the high demand.
How do you get NMAAHC tickets?
The easiest way for visitors to obtain free daily passes is with a smart phone, since almost everyone will have one when they are traveling. You can also use a computer if you have one. The process is exactly the same, but on a different screen.
When you reserve passes on your phone “print at home” will be the only delivery option. This is a little misleading, as you don’t actually have to print the tickets, you can show them on your phone when you arrive. After you check out, check your email and you’ll see the tickets. Just bring those with you on your phone at your assigned time and have fun!
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There are three Washington, DC Airports – which is the best? Well, it depends. Read on to learn more.
The three airports in the Washington DC area are: Ronald Reagan Washington National (DCA), Washington Dulles International (IAD) , and Baltimore-Washington International (BWI). There are pros and cons to each of these airports. Reagan National is by far the closest, just across the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial. Dulles is considerably farther, about 25 miles from the National Mall and BWI is the farthest, about 35 miles away.
Ronald Reagan Washington National (DCA)
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is the preferred DC airport by most locals. We love it because of the sheer convenience. In fact, this is probably one of the most convenient airports in the entire country. The airport is so close to the city that you can actually see Washington DC landmarks from your seat on the plane.
The airport is so close that you could potentially get from your gate to your hotel downtown in less than 20 minutes. Since the distance is so short cabs are really cheap. A ride downtown should cost you less than $20, even with tip. You can use Uber and Lyft here, which will probably cost around the same as a cab. However, be warned that you can spend more time just waiting for your Uber driver to pull around than the actual ride into the city. This is also the only airport with a Metro station right at the terminal and a ride downtown will cost less than $3 per person, even during rush hour.
Cost to fly to DCA
Historically you paid for the convenience of DCA in the form of higher flight fares. A lot of locals used to brag that they would happily pay higher fares to fly out of DCA rather than make a long haul out to one of the other two airports.
However a few years ago something interesting happened. For most of the 2000s, U.S. Airways was the dominant carrier at DCA. Then in 2013, they merged with American Airlines. The Justice Department ruled that as part of the merger, they had to give up some of their slots at DCA. 3 airlines: Southwest, JetBlue and Virgin America (now Alaska Air) picked up those slots. The routes that they chose to operate on them often competed directly with the new American Airlines.
In the airline industry, there is nothing better for fares than a little healthy competition. So today if you’re lucky enough to live in a city that has two or more airlines competing for your business to DCAl, it might actually be the least expensive of all of the airports! Bottom line is that if the price and the times work out, prefer flying here over the other airports.
Washington Dulles International (IAD)
The second of the DC Airports is Washington Dulles International. While many people love Reagan National for its convenience, those same people often hate Dulles for its inconvenience. Dulles isn’t just far away from the city, it’s also hard to get to. The trip here from the National Mall is about five times as far as from Reagan National!
A taxi downtown will cost you about $60 – $70 plus tip. You can use Uber and Lyft at Dulles but the prices fluctuate. So, you can’t really know for sure until you arrive.
You can also consider SuperShuttle which right now costs $30 for the first person in your group and then $10 for each additional person. But make sure to do the math because if you’re a group of four you might not actually achieve any savings over a taxi.
Eventually, Metro’s Silver Line will have a direct connection to Dulles and that will be great, but unfortunately it’s still not ready.
You take the Silver Line Express bus, which connects between the airport terminal and the Wiehle–Reston East station, which is the current end of the Silver Line. That trip will take you about an hour and a half depending on how long you have to wait for your bus and for your train. It will cost between about $9 and $11 for the two fares depending on whether you ride during rush hour or not.
Another option is to take the 5A Metrobus which is a one-seat ride from the Dulles terminal to L’Enfant Plaza in downtown DC, and from there you can take the Metro to your final destination. For now the 5A runs at 40 minute intervals during weekdays and one-hour intervals on the weekend. The bus costs $7.50 to ride, plus the Metro fare to get to your final destination. And be careful because every year it seems like Metro proposes cutting this route, so make sure to double-check before your trip to make sure that it’s still running.
International Flights to IAD
United is the biggest domestic carrier at Dulles. There are also a handful of other domestic airlines and a good number of international airlines. The biggest benefit to Dulles is the number of international non-stop destinations. So if you are traveling internationally from Washington, DC you don’t have to make an extra stop before continuing on. If you do find a cheap flight to Dulles, double check and do the math. Make sure that with the ground transportation, it actually is a good deal.
Baltimore Washington International (BWI)
Baltimore Washington International or BWI is technically the airport for Baltimore. In 1973 they decided to rename it to Baltimore-Washington in order to attract people who live in or traveling to Washington, DC. It is the biggest of the three airports by passenger count, which makes sense since it is an airport that’s serving two major cities.
A cab ride from BWI will cost you about $90 plus tip. Uber and Lyft is available here as well. If you hire a ride, it will take you about 40 minutes to an hour to get downtown in ideal conditions. However, during rush hour it could take much longer because traffic on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway can be brutal. SuperShuttle is available here but to get to DC it costs $41 per person. So, it is really only economical if you’re a solo traveler.
One big benefit of BWI over Dulles is that even though they’re both far away, there’s a train station at BWI. There is a free shuttle to take you to the train. From the BWI train station, you can take the MARC commuter train into DC for about $8. You can also take an Amtrak train for about $16. There’s also a metro bus called The B30. This will take you to the Greenbelt station at the end of the Green Line. Then,you can ride Metro to get into the city. The B30 costs $7.50 plus your Metro fare, so the total cost will be somewhere between $11 and $13.
The B30 is more useful for airport employees than travelers. It winds up costing more than the MARC train. It is also slower and less convenient. However, if your final destination is somewhere on the Green Line then it could actually make more sense. Metro frequently proposes cutting this bus route. So, please double check before your trip to make sure that it’s still running.
Cost to fly to BWI
BWI historically had a reputation for being the cheapest airport in the area. That is because its primary carrier is Southwest. So there’s a lot of advice floating around on the internet that says to fly to BWI because you can get cheap Southwest flights. However, these days that advice might not hold anymore. Southwest has approximately 75% of the total domestic market share at BWI. That means that most of their routes are operating with zero competition.
Now, there are some routes like Boston, Atlanta, or Las Vegas where you can get some amazingly cheap fares. In other cases, it might actually be cheaper to fly on Southwest into DCA since they are competing directly with American Airlines. Bottom line is: always just check all three airports when you’re planning your trip. Make sure to confirm for yourself that you are getting the best deal. BWI might still be your best option, just don’t blindly assume that it is.
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Capital Bikeshare in Washington, DC is a great way to get around the city. However, if you’ve never used the system before there is a bit of a learning curve. Don’t worry! You will be riding like a pro in no time.
How much does it cost?
Unfortunately, the pricing is not entirely straightforward if you never used a bike sharing system like this before. The cost to ride is the membership fee plus the usage fee.
Let’s talk about the membership fee first, which you can think of as the fee you pay to get access to the bikes. There are a few membership options. Right now you can pay $2 for a single ride, $8 for twenty four-hour membership, $17 for a three-day membership, or $85 for a one-year membership. For a typical visitor any of the first three will work just fine.
Capital Bikeshare in Washington, DC also has a usage fee, which is what you pay based on how long you keep the bike checked out. This is where it starts to get confusing for some people. If you check out a bike, ride it around, and return it to a dock within thirty minutes, then you pay no additional fee. However, if you ride your bike for longer than 30 minutes, you pay $2 for the first half hour, then an additional $4 for the next half hour, Then an additional $8 for each half hour that you keep the bike checked out. So if you take a bike, ride around for three hours and ten minutes, and then return it, you’ll pay $38 in usage fees, plus the membership fee that you already paid when you started.
To avoid getting up charged it is imperative that you keep each of your rides to 30 minutes or less. Use Capital Bikeshare to get from point A to point B. Use a regular rental bike for joyriding around Washington DC.
How to check-out a Capital Bikeshare bike at a kiosk
When you’re ready to ride, approach the kiosk at any station and press the “rent a bike” button. The first thing it will ask you to do is swipe your credit card. After that, it’s going to show you a warning about the usage fees. You can click yes to accept since you’re now well versed now about how that works.
Then you pick what kind of membership you want to buy. You can take either one or two bikes per credit card, but if you select two you will pay double. If you have a gift certificate, you can enter it on this screen, but most visitors probably won’t.
It’s going to give you a summary of the transaction and the initial price. Press OK when you’re ready. The next two screens are where you enter the phone number and billing zip code associated with your credit card. After that you’ll confirm that you’re 18 years or older. Finally, you’ll have to read the terms of service, click OK when you’re finished.
Next you’ll be given the choice to either view the bike code on the screen or print a receipt with the code on it. If you have a good memory you can view it. Otherwise you can print it. Take your code to any bike, enter it on the keypad and once you get the green light you’re ready to go. It is easiest to pull the bike out if you lift up under the seat and then pull back.
When you’re done with your bike bring it back to the dock and push it hard to return it. If the return was successful you’ll get the green light and a pleasant beep. If you get a red light and a loud buzz you need to try again.
Are helmets required for Capital Bikeshare?
No. If you are an adult you do not legally need a helmet to ride a bike in the District of Columbia. But, helmets are strongly recommended. Remember that if you want to use a helmet you do need to bring your own.
Tip: avoid being penalized for a late return
If you arrive at a dock and it’s completely full, you can go to the kiosk and press the “time credit” button then swipe your credit card. This will give you an additional 15 minutes to find another dock without charging you for the time.
Use common sense when using Capital Bikeshare
Treat the bikes like you would treat your own bike. Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t do back home. For example, don’t ditch your Capital Bikeshare bike when you’re going to run into a store or a coffee shop or to go look at the Lincoln Memorial. You might not think that anyone would want to steal one of these bikes but if they do you’re going to be on the hook for $1,200. That is not worth the risk.
Use the Capital Bikeshare App
The Capital Bikeshare app lets you control your entire Capital Bikeshare experience. You can use the app to buy a pass, check out a bike, and do everything else on Capital Bikeshare without ever having to visit a kiosk.
What happens when you use Capital Bikeshare app for the first time?
When you launch the Capital Bikeshare app for the first time, it pulls up a splash screen and gives you two options. These are “get a pass” or “login”. If this is your first time you’ll click “get a pass”. Then the app will give you a choice of which type of pass you want. You can do the single trip, 24-hour pass, three-day pass, 30 day or annual membership. After you decide it gives you some basic information about how the system works.
Create a Capital Bikeshare Account
Once you’ve selected your pass options you will need to create your account and enter your phone number. Then you’ll have to create a password. Now you have to enter your name, birth date, and gender. After that it will give you a summary of your purchase. Then you will see the liability waiver. Make sure you read the entire thing and then click agree. Finally we get to the rental agreement, read it and agree.
You have to pay for your Capital Bikeshare rides so this is where you need to enter your credit card information.
Use the Capital Bikeshare app to unlock your bike
Once you start using the app you will never need to visit a Capital Bikeshare kiosk again. Use the map in the app the select the station where you are located, click the little pin, and then “unlock bike”. Just like the kiosk, the app will give you a numeric code that you can enter on the keypad to unlock a bike. When you’re ready to return the bike just push back into the dock. The app will actually give you a push notification to confirm that it worked.
Do we recommend Bikeshare?
For many visitors, the answer is yes. Biking is a great way to get around the city. That said, Capital Bikeshare isn’t always the best option. If you have kids in your group, Capital Bikeshare isn’t an option. If you want to keep the bike checked out for a long period of time, Capital Bikeshare would get very expensive. And if you need a lock, helmet or other accessories, you will have to bring your own, because Capital Bikeshare doesn’t provide them.
However, don’t worry. There are rental bike companies in DC that cater to families with kids, have daily pricing and rent helmets and all the other accessories. Don’t think you can’t ride a bike in DC just because Capital Bikeshare isn’t for you.
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You are planning to visit Washington, DC. Awesome! How many days do you need to see everything in DC? Well, the truth is, it’s impossible to see everything. But don’t worry, you can still do a ton of fun stuff, whether you’re here for a week or a weekend.
Let’s get this out of the way first: a single day is not enough. One day is simply not enough time and likely you’ll leave exhausted and disappointed by all the things that you missed out on. Don’t try to see Washington, DC on a layover between flights, or because it’s you’re on the east coast visiting another city. Plan a proper trip here. It’s worth it!
How much time it takes to see the monuments and memorials
When you come here for the first time you will want to see the monuments: Lincoln, Jefferson, World War II, and all the others. The monuments tours that Trip Hacks DC offer covers all the major monuments the National Mall. It takes about three total hours. If you’re self guiding your own monuments tour, plan to spend between three and five hours.
How much time it takes to see Smithsonian and other museums
When it comes to museums, the thing that you have to understand is that Smithsonian museums are huge. They are massive. If you are a history buff or an art lover you could spend an entire day in just a single museum. The Smithsonian has said that the average “dwell time” is about two hours at each of their museums. If you spent two hours at each of our museums it would take literally days just to hit them all.
If it’s your first time in DC, you will want to see the Capitol and take a tour. Hopefully, you can get a gallery pass or a floor pass. The Capitol tour takes about an hour and then you can budget another hour on top of that for the other stuff. If you’re traveling with kids, you’ll probably want to take them up to the National Zoo. This can last between anywhere from a few hours to an entire day.
If you want to go to Arlington National Cemetery and do a proper tour you’re looking at another three hours at least. A lot of visitors also want to go to Georgetown, which could be another half a day.
How many days do you really need to see all of this stuff?
You need to consider whether this is going to be the only chance you’ll have in your lifetime to visit Washington, DC or if you might come back for a future trip. If you’re only going to visit here once, either because you’re from out of the country and don’t think you’ll ever be back, you should plan to spend five to seven days here. That amount of time will give you a chance to see and do most of what you really want and not feel like you missed out.
If you live nearby or you think that you might come back to DC again in the future then a weekend trip of three days long should be fine. That will let you see all of your top choices and it will let you save a few things for your next trip.
Tip: Don’t overplan your trip
A good Washington, DC itinerary should leave some slack and should not be planned down to the minute. Sometimes, things take longer than you expect or you discover something really cool after you’ve gotten here.
One of the biggest mistakes that tourists make is that they overplan their trip or try to pack too much into a really small amount of time. At some point it’s more exhausting than enjoyable. Of course overplanning is not a unique problem to DC. However, we have so many free things to do that people do try to plan in more things than they would if they had to pay. Spending more time here and planning less into your trip will give you a better experience.
Coming to Washington, DC and want us to show you around?
When you visit Washington, DC you will probably get around the city differently than you do back home. Many visitors are accustomed to hopping in the car and driving to where they need to go. For visitors, don’t get that rental car at the airport! These are six Washington DC transportation options to get you around the city without one.
Washington, DC is a walking city. Many visitors set personal records on their Fitbits and Apple Watches because of how much they walk while they are here. The most important thing to pack for your trip to Washington is your the most comfortable pair of walking shoes. A lot of sites are quite close together. Also, it is such a cool experience to just walk around the city and see everything right in front of you. Rather than traveling around in a tube underground or from the backseat of a cab or an Uber. And the best thing about this Washington, DC transportation option is that it will never cost you anything!
2. Capital Bikeshare
If you’re more of a cyclist than a pedestrian, Capital Bikeshare is for you. Capital Bikeshare was one of the first bike sharing systems in North America. The pricing is set up in a way that the longer you keep the bike out the more it’s going to cost you. If you want a bike for going on a long distance ride or just a long joy ride around the city, It is recommend to use a regular rental bike from a place like Bike and Roll instead. Make sure to download the Capital Bikeshare app to check out bikes and find out where Capital Bikeshare stations are located.
Metro is one of the first things visitors think of when they think about Washington, DC transportation. Metro is often a great way to get around, but not always! The metro map is not to scale it sometimes looks like you need to hop on Metro to get from one place to another. In fact, for many spots downtown, walking would be quicker, simpler, cheaper, and easier. Make sure to check Citymapper or Google Maps before you get on Metro to make sure that it is actually the best option.
An often forgotten form of the DC transportation system is the bus. Most tourists at some point will get on a train and ride Metro, but far fewer will ever ride a bus. That’s too bad because often it’s a better option. In downtown DC, you’ll probably notice two types of buses: the Metrobus and Circulator.
Metrobus has longer routes that tend to be useful to locals. Circulator has shorter routes that serve popular tourist destinations like the National Mall, Georgetown, and Dupont Circle. The great thing about the Circulator right now is it costs less to ride than Metro or Metrobus.
5. Uber and Lyft
The process of hailing a ride has changed drastically over the past few years. Not long ago, the only way you could hire a ride was by going out in the street and hailing a cab. Tourists appreciated the convenience of taxis; however, at that time it was cash only and it was expensive. DC cabs also had a reputation of trying to rip people off.
Now with ride hailing apps like Uber and Lyft people are much more confident and comfortable hiring a ride because many have already done it back home. Using these apps or using a cab is a fine way to get around. Just do not assume that it’s the only way to get around. Over-reliance on Uber and Lyft is a phenomenon we have notice lately.
6. Water Taxi
This is probably the least known Washington, DC transportation option. When the Wharf opened in Southwest Washington in 2017 it included a major water taxi expansion. There are actually quite a few places located right on the water, including Georgetown, the National Mall, Southwest Waterfront, and the Navy Yard, and that’s just in DC. You can also take a boat south on the Potomac to get to Alexandria. The water taxi is a fun way to get down to Alexandria. If you want to make a short little day trip there.
Coming to town and want to sign up for a Washington, DC tour?