Your inside source for family friendly D.C.
Is there anything I can do to convince you not to drive while you are visiting D.C.? I mean, if you are taking a road trip to get here then I understand you’ll be driving you car in. But, after that, just park it and forget about it. No really, I mean it. This picture is taken on a “light” traffic night from the Metro station near my house. Usually it would be even more bumper to bumper and there accidents ALL the time. The local NPR station once kept a count of how many times their traffic guy used the word “‘jammed” in a nightly report. Starting to get where I’m coming from?
And that is just in the suburbs on your way to downtown! Once you actually get into the city you are faced with one-way streets, confusing roundabouts, lots of traffic and pedestrians and really limited parking. I’ll say it again, get to where you are going and let your car gather dust until it is time to leave. The only time you’ll need a car is if you want to go out into the surrounding areas to see sites that are off the public transportation map. Other then that, take Metro, the bus or walk! If you are staying outside of the city, you can drive to a Metro station and park (for free on the weekend and $4.50 for the weekday) and avoid the hassle of parking downtown.
If you do insist on driving around downtown, be careful. The traffic is unpredictable and pedestrians will step out without notice. Be aware also that D.C. has a no hand-held cellphones policy!
When you go to park your options are either going to be a garage (usually a per hour rate although sometimes they have deals for early in or a flat day rate) or street parking. Garages are usually well marked and scattered liberally around the city. Street parking can be really hit or miss. You’ll have to keep a sharp out for a parallel parking spot and be quick about grabbing it. Once you are parked, read all of the parking signs VERY carefully. As you can see from this picture, the signs are confusing and can seem contradictory. I don’t want you to get out there and find you’ve been towed because of some small misread.
Once you’ve parked, don’t forget to pay the meter. D.C. has mostly moved away from meters right at the spot to green kiosks set along the row. You put in your money and get a little slip of paper that you display on your dashboard. They are also piloting a program where you can pay and re-up your meter by phone! Read the signs carefully to figure out how that one works. One final word of warning, not all meters turn off at 6:00pm. In some of the real “hot spots” they are in effect until 10:00pm and possibly throughout the weekend.
As you can tell I’m a little down on driving. It just doesn’t usually save any time and the stress of parking and navigating the traffic can ruin my excitement for what I’m going to the city for. Plus, you can feel smug and eco-friendly if you use public transportation!