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
For general tourism, the garage at the Reagan Building is one of the most convenient in the entire city. It is about a block and a half from the White House. It is also across the street from the Smithsonian’s American History Museum.
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?
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.