To get from place to place within an area, I highly suggest walking. Grab your most comfortable pair of walking shoes and hit the pavement. I made the mistake of wearing sandles and ended up hurting my right foot to the point I couldn't walk on Monday. But you know what they say, live and learn.
As in any city I visit, walking is my choice of transporation, DC is no exception. DC is a pretty compact city with most of the major attractions within short walking distance to each other. The Mall is the best place to start your walking tour as the major memorials, museums and important buildings are all located here.
We started our walk at the Capital building, making our way to the Botanic Gardens then to a few museums, like my favorites, the Natural History Museum and the National Archives.
Walking is a great way to explore a city, just get your map and plan a route and you are off!!
Bike The Sites
DC is a big place, you can do a lot of walking to get somehere, then a lot of walking once there. My feet hurt after the first day, so I rented a bike to get around and it was very useful. Expensive, but it was worth it and fun to ride around after not riding around for days.
There's a place right downtown off the mall, next to the old Post Office. They rent bikes by the day, or for multiple days. I took one for 1 day, cost as $35..pricey. I did find a coupon in one of the DC guidebooks/coupon books that you can find so that was $5 off. For 2 or 3 days it comes out more reasonably.
I took it about 10am, then rode straight out to Arlinton Cemetary and parked it(can't ride around out there), then over to Georgetown, then to Adams-Morgan for a steet festival, then to the White House, then back to the mall, up to Capitol Hill, past there to a market on the far side, and back to the mall and turned it in about 5pm.
In winter you have until 6pm, in summer until 9pm. In summer it's really worth it. The bikes are decent enough, fat tires, a bag wtih a spare tire, lock & key. You can also buy a big bottle of water right there from them for a buck.
Most of tourist attractions I have visited in Washington DC, are located in downtown which stretches from the Lincoln Memorial in the west to the Capitol Hill in the east (distance of approx. 2.5 miles) and from the Dupont Circle in the north to the Jefferson Memorial in the south (distance of approx. 2.3 miles). The best, the cheapest and most convenient way to get around this area is to walk. Only to get to for distant National Cathedral, and closer Georgetown, Adams Morgan and Arlington, Virginia use metro (or metro + metrobus).
A few tips for walking visitors:
- hmm... if you come in hot and humid summer bring a lot of water and wear that funny cap with a fan for batteries :-); If it doesn't help instead of walking use metro as often as you can
- green traffic light for pedestrians may be very short but usually the number of seconds (always only a few :-) remaining to the change of the light is displayed
- there are many closed sidewalks (due to both renovation works and security)
- there are direction signs to most points of tourist interest put along main touristy itineraries
- but usually there is no detailed information on numerous monuments and smaller memorials alongside federal buildings you pass by (detailed map is recommended)
- sidewalks in downtown are of American size, wide enough, no worries.
I do not recommend to visit downtown Washington by bicycle. But riding a bicycle to visit some tourist attractions outside downtown maybe a good option.
I haven't seen many visitors to Washington, DC riding a bicycle in downtown. I haven't seen bicycle routes in downtown as well. The reason is obvious. There are very few designated places (bicycle racks) to leave a bicycle in front of numerous museums and federal buildings. Well, there are bicycle racks in front of the National Air and Space Museum. In front of the Holocaust Museum I've seen two bicycles left on a street, leaned against an info sign. I've seen some visitors and locals riding a bicycle mainly in West Potomac Park though.
BICYCLES + METRO
There are bicycle racks in many metro stations and the Union Station. They are used by locals mainly as many metro parking lots shortly become full on business days (and it costs some $3.5 - $5 Mon - Fri). Bicycles are permitted on Metrorail (limited to two bicycles per car) weekdays except rush hours, from 7.00 am to 10.00 am and 4 pm to 7 pm. Bicycles are permitted all day Saturday and Sunday as well as most holidays (limited to four bicycles per car). Bicycles are not permitted on July 4th and other special events or holidays when large crowds use the system. Details here.
I've got to know that there are a few bicycle trails in DC area like Capital Crescent Trail (13 miles, Georgetown to Bethesda) and many trails across the adjacent states like Mount Vernon Trail from Arlington, Virginia (just across the Potomac River from downtown DC) to Mount Vernon. For more trails and details follow the links below, please.
On my most recent tourist visit downtown I saw something I hadn't seen before. Large racks of bikes near Metro stops. There is now a bike sharing program in DC, and if you have ever walked around from one memorial/monument to the next you know that you will be good and tired by the end of the day.
Part of the impulse for this has come from DC that has implemented bike lanes in order to try to decongest traffic in downtown DC.
To participate you have to join Capital Bikeshare. You can then use their bikes for a day, 3 days or longer.
Hmm...Many people either drive or take public transportation (bus, commuter bus, metro, taxi, etc.). I have found that, provided you have time, walking is the cheapest and best way of getting around. DC is relatively flat w/ a few tiny hills here and there. It's also easy to walk somewhere from the metro stop. Example: I live in Foggy Bottom. I have the option of using 3 different metro stops, depending on which line i need to take and how far i want to walk. But, I can also walk to most of the locations I want to get to. If I really wanted to walk all the way to Union Station (approx. 1.5-2 miles) in order to catch an Amtrak train, it's possible. I currently walk there - but for exercise. But, people use bikes. If you look at the picture I have added, I see this guy all the time. Although, he's not on his bike in the picture, he generally is on his bike flying past me in and around DC. It's very useful, fast, gets you where you want to go w/ very little effort, and can go pretty much anywhere w/ you.
There are great bicycle trails around the monuments, down to Mt Vernon, up through Rock Creek Park. The Mall is only a small part of DC. Get off the beaten track and see more. Rent a bike and check Washingtonpost.com for information about the trails.
The best way to get around Washington, D.C. is to walk. Traveling in a car takes much longer due to continuous traffic jams. Riding a bicycle may also be a good idea. Some places have buses available to take you where you want to go.
I would have to guess flying because we drove and it was awful.
Walking would have to be faster than most modes of transportation. Driving here is way worse than any driving in California that I've done.
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