Washington DC Metro and Parking
I am planning a road trip end of April to Washington DC and Raleigh. I will be in DC April 27-29 before heading down to Raleigh.
I dont feel like spending 300/night for a hotel room near the city center, so I have decided to stay outside the city and take the metro in.
What I am wondering is if I will be able to find a parking spot at any of the metro parking garages in the outer suburbs around 9am on a weekday? If need be, we can wake up very early and get to the garages by 6am for a spot, but being that I am NOT a morning person, I would like to avoid it. Does anyone have experience with these garages and availably of parking spaces?
Thanks for your help
When I was in DC a few years ago visiting a friend who lived on North Capital, I drove to the Metro station in the late mornings and I was able to find parking. Of course, your results may be different. You will have to feed the meter or pay an hourly rate (I forget what I had to do), but it's not all that expensive.
You may also consider asking your hotel if they have a free shuttle service. I would be surprised if the hotel wouldn't drop you off at any of the major attractions around the Mall.
Now that I think about it, we were even able to find parking a few blocks from the Mall, but that was on a Saturday or Sunday during the big kite festival they have there.
OK - the official website:
Note that they only recommend the Greenbelt (MD) station for daytrippers into the city, and that all-day parking at that station is $3.50. On the other hand, I checked with my sister who lives in suburban VA and here is her less official (but probably more useful) take:
"There is a metro stop on I-66 West of DC, the Vienna/Fairfax-GMU station. We parked there at 11 AM on Friday (top level) and there were several open spaces mid-day. Having said that, Friday is a light going to work day, but it is also generally lighter all summer every day of the week. I think you would be able to get parking there. If not, there is a shopping center not far from the Metro that takes overflow parking for the Metro. I do not recommend driving into the city and trying to find a parking place. The parking on Independence, around all the museums is three hour parking. The parking on Constitution doesn't open up until 9:30 and you have to be off the street by three. Limited parking at the monuments is one hour parking. The Smithsonian stops on the Metro put you right at the Mall."
I will also add my own experience(s) dealing with traffic around DC. The beltway (I-495) becomes the world's largest parking lot between the hours of 6:30 and 10:00 AM and 3:30 and 7:00 PM, especially in the Northwest between I-270 and I-95 and in the Southeast on either side of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge (a drawbridge on a major interstate!). Also it helps to be aware of the local custom of referring to the beltway as though it were actually two separate highways. The 'inner loop' is just the portion of the beltway that goes around DC in a clockwise direction, while the 'outer loop' is just the other lanes that go around DC in a counter-clockwise direction.
could you explain that again?
Um... I have driven around the beltway a number of times and I never have figured out what was meant by the inner and outer loops. So, the "loops" are just the travel lanes of the single highway (I-95/I-495)? Do you know how the naming of the loops started?
Originally Posted by AZBuck
I believe that it's just a way to avoid confusion (?!?!). With a completely circular beltway, one would have to specify, for example, which eastbound portion of I-495 one were referring to, the eastbound portion on the north side of the city or the eastbound portion on the south side of the city. But if you say the "inner loop eastbound", you've specified that you mean the northern (MD) portion of the beltway and which lanes are involved. However, that being said, I know of no other cities with complete beltways, such as Baltimore or Houston, that follow this convention.
It is a surprisingly simple solution (considering the source was from Washington DC) and I appreciate the explanation.
Thanks for the advice... I am going to try the greenbelt station. And keep the other suggestions as a backup.
Using the Metro
I would suggest following the earlier advice about looking into a hotel which is either on the line or not far from it. There are multiple places which are easily accessible to the Metro, many with shuttles or simply sitting on top of or across the street from a station. One of my favorites is the Crystal City Marriott, which sits directly on top of its own Metro station - you don't even have to walk outdoors to get into the hotel.
There are a couple of reasons for this, not the least of which is leaving your car unattended in a lot all day. Metro is easy and clean and safe, even with small children. The one-day unlimited pass used to be five bucks, but then I haven't bought one in over a year.
If you intend on visiting the zoo, keep in mind that you need to pass up the Woodley Park-Zoo station northbound and get off at Cleveland Park instead - the zoo is actually halfway between these two, but if you get off at Woodley you have to go uphill, whereas from Cleveland it's downhill to the entrance. Leaving, of course, you head down the hill to Woodley.
I also usually recommend that folks find a hotel on the Virginia side (Arlington, Crystal City, Alexandria) simply because the hotel tax (and tax in general) is lower in Virginia.
Another budget tip, on weekdays especially, is to do what we call 'Federal Eating.' You can eat in the cafeterias/food courts of several of the federal buildings near the National Mall for far, far less than you can on the street on in the museums. Occasionally a guard at the door will ask you for ID, but they will still let you in to:
The Dept of Agriculture on C street
The Dept of Energy Forrestel Building on 10th and Independence
The Dept of Commerce on 15th and Constitution
The Dept of the Interior on C street and 18th
The available cuisine is actually better than what you can get in the museums, subways and salads and hot food too.
If you need any other info, I'd be happy to help - I lived there for years and return fairly frequently.
Hope you enjoy your trip!
Are you in Texas now?
With that moniker, makes me wonder if Texas is home now?
Very interesting about that "Federal Eating" procedure.
And really good advice with respect to walking uphill to the zoo!
Texas was always home. I may have lived elsewhere, but I always come back.