Getting Around Washington DC

Because Washington DC's Smithsonian Institution consists of 19 museums, galleries, the National Zoo and a number of research facilities, visitors will typically have to use several different modes of transportation to see the various sites.

Washington, DC's metro system is the best way to get to the majority of the Smithsonian's tourist sites, such as the museums and the zoo. The metro system is extensive and reasonably inexpensive and easy for visitors to use. The metro system will not, however, take you to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, which is located near Dulles Airport in Virginia, approximately 30 minutes to the west. This location will require a visitor to have a car or use a bus.

Most of the Smithsonian Institute's museums, though, are located in the city's mall area and are within easy walking distance of one another. Visitors should plan on wearing comfortable shoes and dress appropriately for D.C.'s weather, as a majority of the walking will occur out in the elements. DC's weather in the summer is very hot and humid, and in the winter, it can be quite cold, with occasionally snowy periods.

Visitors to DC can also opt to drive to the Smithsonian Institute's various locations if they have a car or want to rent a car. However, both street and garage parking can be difficult to find around the various museums and galleries. In addition, parking fees for the garages are, as typical of most major cities, expensive. Most hotels in Washington, DC also charge for parking, so fees can add up quickly.

Negotiating DC's traffic can also be a problem for out-of-towners, as roads can be crowded and there are numerous one-way streets. In addition, DC is notorious for having hoards of sightseeing, often oblivious pedestrians who jaywalk and tourist drivers who will suddenly brake when they spy a parking spot or something interesting.

Travelers who don't want to drive themselves can opt to take taxicabs, which are fairly common, to reach the various Smithsonian Institute sites. A traveler can also choose to use a bus, instead. Both local and tourist buses are available in DC. Of course, the local buses are cheaper to use, but the tourist hop-on and hop-off type buses hit all of the main tourist destinations.

Washington, DC also offers a bike-sharing program called Capital Bikeshare. For a small fee, a person can borrow a bike from one of the Capital Bikeshare locations and use it to get around the city.