Washington DC is a green city in more ways than one. As well as having exceptional park areas for outdoor recreation, most people, whether they're visiting or living there, get around either on foot, by using the city's public transportation facilities or by bicycle. That doesn't apply to the president though, he has his own entourage for getting around Washington DC so don't expect to see him cycling along a DC bike lane on his way to the White House.
Just as you would expect in any nation's capital, although it isn't always so, all of the public transport systems operating in Washington DC are clean and highly efficient. Take your pick from first-class buses, Metrorail, streetcars, taxis, or even a water taxi, and not only will they get you swiftly from A to B, but you'll also find them convenient and relatively economical to use.
What you won't find convenient is getting on and off public transportation while carrying your bags. Make getting around the city easy and comfortable for yourself by depositing your baggage at a Bounce luggage storage facility in Washington DC.
You'll find the Bounce luggage lockers in Washington DC are in easily accessible locations, are economical to hire, and each one is locked with a security tag so you know your belongings will be safe no matter how long you leave them.
Best Ways Of Getting Around Washington DC
Forget going through the stress of driving around Washington DC and trying to park near the main attractions to see more than the back of the car in front of you. The best ways of getting around Washington DC are by train, bus, bicycle, and on foot.
Washington DC By Bus
The bus might not always be your first choice as a method of transport, but in Washington DC it should be.
The DC Circulator
Other than walking, the DC Circulator is the most economical and efficient way of going sightseeing in Washington DC. The DC Circulator operates over seven different routes between various districts, but the main one of interest to visitors is the route around the National Mall.
The National Mall route on the DC Circulator bus will get you to all of the main attractions and more than a dozen of the Smithsonian museums. Similar to a hop-on bus, the circulator passes by every ten minutes and you can jump off whenever you want. The only difference is that you pay for each individual journey, but as they only cost a dollar that's not too much of a hardship.
There are three ways to pay your fares on the DC Circulator buses. You can pay your bus fare in cash using the exact change, use a SmarTrip card, or a WMATA 7-day regional bus pass that's been added to a SmarTrip card.
SmarTrip cards are available at a variety of outlets, at all Metrorail stations, or commuter stores. You can also use the SmarTrip app for mobile phones. The cards are rechargeable at the same outlets.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, WMATA, operates an extensive network of routes with their ecologically fueled Metrobuses. There are Metrobus stations in all of the DC districts and stops distributed throughout each neighborhood.
The best way to make the most of the Metrobus bus system is to use the trip planning tools on the WMATA website which generate your personal itinerary for you. It will also calculate the fare for you. If you want to pay cash it must be the exact amount as the drivers don't give change.
The best way to pay is by using a SmarTrip card as they're valid on all methods of transportation controlled by the WMATA and allow you to swap from bus to train often with no extra charge.
Old Town Trolley Tours
While a trolley tour of Washington DC works out to be quite a lot more expensive than using the DC Circulator or the Metrobus, the one thing extra you get is a detailed narration on the history of the sites you're seeing.
An Old Town Trolley tour lasts for an hour and a half and passes by over 100 points of interest, but makes only one stop which is at the Abraham Lincoln Memorial.
Tours start from one point only which is the designated trolley stop outside the Washington Welcome Center on East Street Northwest. Prior reservations are required as seating is limited. Reservations can be made online via the official website.
The DC Streetcar
There is currently only one DC streetcar service operating in Washington DC and that's a short two-mile-long line running on H Street and Benning Road that starts by Union Station.
There are eight stops in total and you can ride as far and as many times as you like for free. H Street Northeast is an up-and-coming area that's a great place to go shopping in DC. The free trolley service operates most days until two in the morning so ideal if you're doing a bit of bar-hopping as it saves on taxi fares.
Washington DC By Train
While you may not need to use Washington DC's Metro system to get around for sightseeing, if you're staying outside of the city center or are planning on going further afield you may need to. The Metrorail system doesn’t just run in Washington DC but extends into Maryland and Virginia too.
The Metro has six interconnecting lines that are color-coded Red, Blue, Orange, Green, Yellow, and Silver. Stations can have trains arriving and departing on different lines, but each train is marked with the color of the route it's making and the name of the last station on the route.
There are Metro trains running from six in the morning until around midnight. Cash payments are not accepted. Payment can only be made with a SmarTrip card or the SmarTrip app for mobiles. Fares vary depending on how many stops you travel through and are charged to your card when passing through the Metrorail station gate as you exit.
Charges also depend on whether you're traveling on the rush hour or off-peak trains. For a comfortable and stress-free journey, the WMATA recommends that visitors use the Metro during off-peak hours.
To plan all aspects of a Metro trip, find out the times of the services, and how much a trip will cost you, use the trip planner on the Metrorail official website.
Washington DC On Two Wheels
There are several ways of getting around Washington DC on two wheels and the one you choose depends on your energy levels, fitness, and driving skills.
Getting around DC by renting bikes is definitely one of the more popular ways to explore DC. There are bike rental companies in the city with a network of stations throughout the districts where you can collect and drop off bikes.
A bike can be picked up and dropped off at the stations twenty-four hours of the day, though cycling isn't one of the best things to do at night in Washington DC if you're planning on visiting a few bars.
DC has a superb network of cycle paths you can ride on so you don't need to deal with road traffic. You can hire a bike for a day or longer. The first half an hour is free of charge. Companies like Unlimited Biking also offer guided cycling tours around all the main sites and monuments as well as around the National Mall.
Segways and Scooters
If you don't feel like pedaling your way around Washington DC why not consider either a segway or an electric scooter?
Segways take a little bit more practice to ride than a scooter, but can still be mastered after a few minutes of instruction. Most people take a guided segway tour in a group rather than going it alone. The tours usually last for around two and a half hours and there are frequent stops at all of the main sights.
E- scooter hire operates the same way bicycle hire does. You download an app onto your phone which, after you've paid the required fee, provides you with a digital key to unlock the scooter. Most companies charge a nominal $1 unlocking fee and around thirty cents per minute after that.
Where can you find e-scooters? Basically anywhere and everywhere as they're dockless and you can pick one up and drop it off wherever you want. If you do jump on an e-scooter remember to ride in the cycle lanes and not on the sidewalk or you could catch a hefty fine.
Washington DC On Foot
One of the best ways to appreciate the grandeur of Washington DC is by exploring it on foot. Sidewalks are wide and mostly level so you don't have crowds or hills to deal with.
The two miles of the National Mall is one of the more popular walks and doesn't take too long unless you stop off at any of the Smithsonian museums while you're doing it.
The Capital Crescent Trail is a must-do too. The seven-mile-long trail extends from the Georgetown neighborhood where it starts on Water Street Northwest to Bethesda in Maryland. It's not a loop trail so make sure to wear comfortable shoes if you're going to do it all or you could end up with more than a few blisters.
To view some outdoor art while walking, head for the MBT trail in the NoMa district. All along the side of the Metropolitan Branch Trail there are colorful murals to look at which is great as the scenery on the trail isn't.
If you want to take your Washington DC walking experience out of the city limits, the 18-mile Mount Vernon Trail, which is part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, is one of the best hikes you can do.
Washington DC By Car
Getting around Washington DC by car can break your nerves and ruin your stay in this beautiful city especially if you try it during rush hour traffic. Traffic on the roads can often be gridlocked so taking taxis or ride-sharing can turn out to be costly. Parking fees can seriously bump up your expenses too and parking spots can be hard to find unless you pre-book them.
Now you know the pros and cons of how to get around Washington DC by train, bus, on two wheels, and on foot. In truth, DC is a city ideal for walking and cycling which also has top-notch, hyper-efficient, and very cheap public transportation. The best way to get from district to district in DC is by using it.