Washington DC apps: must-have apps for visitors

Smartphones are a crucial part of travel these days. Where you use an iPhone or rock an Android, these are eight of our favorite Washington, DC apps to make sure you download before your trip.

Must Have Smartphone Apps for Your DC Trip

1. MetroHero: a must-have for riding DC Metro

At some point during your Washington, DC trip you will probably ride the Metro. There are many free Washington DC apps for the Metro. However, MetroHero is the best Metro app in our opinion. It shows the location of every single train in the Metro system. With MetroHero, you can also find your station and get live updates for the next trains. You will also be able to see any alerts and elevator or escalator outages.

Download MetroHero: Apple | Google Play

2. Ride hailing apps: Uber and Lyft

Ride hailing apps have become popular in recent years. Washington DC cabs have not always had the best reputation. So, Uber and Lyft have taken over. These apps are (often) a cheaper alternative to cabs and out of town visitors may feel comfortable using these apps from back home. Both apps offer options to carpool with other people. This helps reduce costs, but don’t carpool if you are in a hurry because it is slower.

Download Uber: Apple | Google Play
Download Lyft: Apple | Google Play

3. Smithsonian Mobile: museum information at your fingertips

Before Leaving for your trip to Washington DC, be sure to download Smithsonian Mobile. This is a crucial DC app if you plan on checking our our museums. Smithsonian Mobile includes information about every exhibit in every Smithsonian museum. This can help you plan in advance which exhibits to see without feeling overwhelmed once you get here. In the app, you can favorite different exhibits and figure out which exhibits sound most interesting. You can also see new and upcoming exhibits so, you know what is coming up during the dates of your trip.

Download Smithsonian Mobile: Apple | Google Play

4. Yelp: find the five star restaurants

For many travelers, “eating their way through the city” is an important part of the experience. Restaurant recommendations are hard. Everyone has a different price range and different tastes. The Michelin Guide lists about a dozen DC restaurants and is a great place to start. However, these restaurants are hard to get into without a reservation and they are expensive.

For lower-key restaurants, Yelp is your friend. The Yelp app uses your location to find restaurants around you. You can filter restaurants by type and price. Also, there is a map you can use to see the places closest to you. With the map, you can also get walking directions right to the restaurant.

Download Yelp: Apple | Google Play

5. Citymapper: navigate Washington, DC like a pro

Citymapper is huge in Europe, especially London and other big cities. It is available in U.S. cities but has not caught on quite as much. It works by using your phone’s GPS to figure out where you are. Then, you tell it where you want to go, and it will calculate a list of transportation options. Citymapper will give you the best suggestions based on price and time. There is also a Metro option which will tell you how to walk to your closest Metro station and how to walk to your final destination. In addition, Citymapper will tell you whether to sit in the front, middle, or back of the train for the fastest transfer, if necessary.

Download Citymapper: Apple | Google Play

6. NPS National Mall: explore America’s front lawn

Many national parks come with their own apps, including the National Mall in Washington DC. With this app, you can see a map of all the sites on the National Mall, including the big ones you know you want to see and some smaller sites you might not even know about! If you prefer a list instead of a map, you can browse the sites that way too.

Download NPS National Mall: Apple | Google Play

7. SpotCycle: a helpful sidekick to Capital Bikeshare

In Washington DC, riding a bike is a great way to get around! Capital Bikeshare is a cheap and easy way to access bikes in DC. However, the most stressful thing about using Capital Bikeshare is riding your bike to your destination and then realizing that you cannot end your trip because the dock is completely full of bikes! SpotCycle can help you avoid this because you can find out in advance if there are docks available at your destination.

Edit: After the video and post were created Capital Bikeshare launched their own official app. We now recommend this instead. SpotCycle still works fine, but the official Capital Bikeshare app has the same features plus it allows you to actually check out bikes. Pretty cool!

Download Spotcycle: Apple | Google Play
Download Capital Bikeshare: Apple | Google Play

8. TapIt: stay hydrated!

On a hot humid day in Washington DC, hydration is key. You can save money and get plenty of water with the app TapIt. TapIt is a project among our local water utility and local businesses. The goal is to promote tap water as an alternative to bottled water. If you are wondering if DC tap water is safe, yes. It has vastly improved in the last decade.  

Download TapIt: Apple | Google Play

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.

About Trip Hacks DC

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation's Capital.

Everyone wants to get the most out of travel experience; we know that planning a trip can be fun but sometimes stressful. The tips and travel hacks offered here will help you make the most of your trip and avoid missing out on the best things the city has to offer. Our trip planning e-book is the perfect resource for every first-time Washington, DC visitor.

If you're looking for a guided experience once you arrive, Trip Hacks DC specializes in private tours; but has public tours options as well. Visit the Guided Tours section to learn about some of the suggested tours and the trip planning resources section for help preparing for your trip. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions!

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