I remember a New Yorker telling me that he had parked in front of the Washington Memorial for the 4th of July celebration. Anyone who has been in this town knows that is a tall tale (though it may have been true many,many years ago).
For the visitor- you will have to make a lot of quick exits from the highway. There is very limited on- street parking (particularly near tourist sites) and downtown DC has a multitude of one-way streets that seems to follow no logic. Parking in a garage will be quite expensive (especially during the week.)
Long and short of it, please take the Metro if you are going to see the common sights in DC. You will save yourself a lot of money and aggravation.
Reading some of the other posts on this forum I saw that parking in DC (especially for certain monuments/museums) seemed to be an issue for others like it was for me. I just wanted to share a resource I found that gave me more information about DC parking tips:
It's pretty good - hope you all find this helpful as well!
Driving is our usual mode of transportation to D.C. and the surrounding areas. Depending on the season, traffic and road conditions we can usually make it to D.C. proper in seven hours with a few stops for gas, bathrooms and food. D.C is usually a weekend getaway for us so we often leave right after work on a Friday afternoon so we often beat some of the rush hour traffic.
Personally I prefer driving down so I can explore areas that are harder to reach by bus or train. It also allows for some sightseeing along the way to and from the area.
Washington D C sits on the bank of the Potomac River and the Arlington Memorial Bridge--Memorial Bridge to the locals--is one of the more picturesque ways of entering the city. The first building you'll see coming across is the Lincoln Memorial Building.
Traveling to and around Washington D.C. by car is not necessary, but convenient, especially if day trips are in the plan.
Parking is sometimes hard to find and expensive. It is a busy city so there usually is heavy/chaotic traffic to deal with. The roads are not on a grid type pattern so it's easy to get lost and you really have to pay attention to the signs and watch out for oblivious pedestrians.
Still, I toured the city, in a private car, with a long time resident who knew the rules of the road, knew the best streets to use at the time and knew the nearest, least expensive places to park. So, I thought driving through the city was really a great experience. Plus we went on many day trips and the car was really the best way to do that.
Despite the driving troubles this great city presents, there are many ways to have a stress free time in getting around. There is the Metro, which you can cathc at union station, which provides a cheap crime-free way around the city. also, there are numerous parking spots around the National Mall, many are 3 hours spots, so find one and then metro it around for awhile. If you are going to go out and drive downtown on your own, come prepared with a very detailed map in which the directions of the streets arelisted, this will help you navigate your journeys. i have listed a website below that lists some of the better hotels and attractions.
We rented a car for a week from/to Dulles airport. the deal was sourced through a consolidator/search engine website - Argus. Dollar was the provider.
The shuttle bus service from/to the terminal is excellent. It is a bit of a distance to get to the car rental offices - not unusual for a large sprawling airport, but Dulles is relatively small and compact.
Pick-up was quick, friendly, helpful and efficient. Drop off just the same.
One thing which surprised us is that fuel is not included in the quoted price. You pay extra for a full tank, and then return the car empty. I don’t know if that is a Dollar thing, just a quirk of the deal we got, or the norm in the USA. I’d say it added $20 to our cost. Not much in relation to a 7 day rental for $300+, but not so good if you just have the car for a day and don’t drive far.
We had a Chevvy Malibu. Comfortable and spacious. Excellent on the freeways, but like driving a sofa on the back roads.
There are limited parking at the memorial. Other nearby with limited parking: Washington Monument and Tidal Basin at Jefferson Memorial (park near the pedal boat rental at the Tidal Basin) A better bet would be at National Mall near the museums. You are allowed 3 hours parking. Usually no problems if you arrive early. You can also put your your in a parking lot for $10 a day for cars (cheapest I found) at a lot right off 14th street bridge, across from the US Engraving & Printing Bureau. (You have to go around the block to get into the lot). Enjoy your visit!
If you drive in Washington, parking is an issue. We wanted to visit the Supreme Court and were looking for someplace to park when a helpful policeman told me that probably the closest was the parking deck at Union Station. It is not cheap (nothing in Washington seems to be) but quite convenient. It is in easy walking distance to the Supreme Court (about a mile). Also, the Capitol building is not much further and that puts you on the mall. I think we were gone between 3 and 4 hours and the fee was $9. It would have been more but there are parking validation machines as you approach the parking area and I used one. I don’t recommend driving in Washington it is a great place to walk and the public transportation is pretty good but this is a good place and Union Station is worth exploring while you are there. A grand great hall, lots of shops and restaurants.
DEPENDS on your point of arrival and also your itinerary. This tip was written for those who will be travelling inside the loop.
Inside the "loop" #1 and #2 Capital Beltway I-495 is 64 miles long. Many tourist destinations are accessible by metro subway system and many others are a short bus ride or a taxi ride.
#1 - best choice - if you are arriving at Union Station (by train, bus, metro or car) you are in luck, you are within walking distance of several destinations and tourist attractions. You can also walk to the red ine of the metro system, you can also walk to the DCCirculator, buses, shopping, dining etc. You can easily hail a cab or pick up a zip-car or a flexi car.
#2 choice - if you are arriving at National Reagan Airport you can walk to the yellow and blue lines of the metro system. Alternatively, take a taxi or take a zip-car or a super shuttle.
Outside the loop #3 and #4
#3 choice - If you are arriving at Baltimore Washington International Airport, then you will need to reach Greenbelt metro station (using metro bus or taxi or rental car) , alternatively, you could take the shuttle to Amtrak train to Union station, rent a car, take the super shuttle take a zip-car
#4 choice - From Dulles International Airport - you could take the Washington Flyer bus to West Falls Church metro station from whence you can take the orange line of the metro system. Alternatively you could take the super-shuttle or take a zip-car.
When to use a car - if you are not within walking distance of the metro system and if your destination is not accessible by metro system, you might consider using a car. Beware the traffic can be a nightmare and in some places parking is difficult. You might consider a car if you have a disbaled person in your group, parking is easier if you have a valid permit for handiapped parking.
Traversing across the city by car or taxi can take 3 hours if traffic is bad or 1 1/2 if there is no traffic. A taxi ride to the outskirts of the city can easily cost $60.00 or more
We decided to leave our car parked at the hotel and take a taxi to and from our events. This was our best option for two reason, we didn't want to worry about finding a place to park the car and we also wanted to enjoy ourselves with a few drinks.
The taxi was our only real option actually as we were going to be out later than the operating hours of the DC Metro.
There are plenty of ways to get to DC, but driving is easiest and fastest way for us. Our drive takes us about 4 hours (depending on time of day we leave home) on I-95 South until we get to MD-295S (via Exit 52) to US-50W/New York Avenue to DC.
If we are going to Arlington, we continue to I-395 (crossing to VA) and on to our location.
If you don't have a navigational system, check out mapquest.com or if you are a member of AAA you can get directions from them.
There was a big parking lot next to the Eisenhover Avenue Metro Station, it was next to an AMC theater, we used this to park our car through the day as we traveled by metro and it was free of charge! A helpful attendant at the Metro Station gave us this tip.