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We (2 adults, 1 teen and 2 older folks) are visiting relatives in Washington, DC this summer (July 9, 10, 11). They reside in the Brookmont, Maryland area.

As far as I can understand, driving and parking in DC might be difficult.

Are people in Washington on vacation after the 4th of July? (will there be less people driving in?) We will mostly be in and around the National Mall and maybe Georgetown (not the same day).

How available are parking in those areas, and do some offer reservations?

Are there other transportation options? The closest Metro looks to be at Friendship Heights (not really close to Brookmont either).


Just got back from Washington DC: Parking is easy, there are parking everywhere, even 1 block from the White House or National Gallery. On our first afternoon, we even got a spot right on the Mall (parking meter). (personal opinion) I have to say that the road infrastructure is a mess, it didn't age well, Canal Road HW and Whitehurst are the worse)

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    Although you're going to be there during the week, rather than on a weekend, it's still summer and will be busy as almost all US schools are off. – mkennedy May 2 '18 at 16:11
  • What kind of driving are you used to? If you're coming from somewhere like NYC you'd find it pretty easy, whereas if you're only used to something like rural Ohio roads, you might find it uncomfortable. Traffic moves pretty slowly in downtown DC because of the volume, so be prepared for it a take a while to get to where you want to be. Other than that, the only real "difficulty" lies in your level of tolerance for sharing the road with (a lot!) of others. – CactusCake May 3 '18 at 16:02
  • @CactusCake We're all city dwellers (Montreal, Paris),so no problem handling traffic. – Max May 3 '18 at 18:56
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It was long conventional wisdom to avoid driving and to take the Metro everywhere; unfortunately, the Metro has been very unreliable, particularly on weekends, and as a local resident I can no longer endorse it in good faith. To give you an idea, Metro's current public relations campaign is literally called Back 2 Good.

That doesn't make driving necessarily better, of course. Since Independence Day is on a Wednesday this year, I would not expect any significant change in traffic the weekend of the 9th compared to any other summer weekend. April through August is peak season for family trips to the capital.

So with all that preamble, I would point out that you can take a taxi or a service like Uber or Lyft to the Tenleytown-AU station on the Red Line, which about the same travel time as Friendship Heights but a stop closer in. This will cost a little more round trip than driving to Bethesda and parking in one of the county garages (there are no Metro-operated garages in this part of Montgomery County), but it's also a little less hassle. The public garages in Bethesda or Friendship Heights are unlikely to fill up on a weekend morning. You could also price out a ride from Brookmont all the way into the city, but as Brookmont is a fairly suburban area, the supply of drivers is not likely to be high, and the rates commensurately higher.

On the flip side, for a group of five, the aggregate round trip weekend Metro fare from Tenleytown to Smithsonian would be over $25, so driving together and finding a garage or lot downtown or in the Federal Center SW or L'Enfant Plaza areas is far from unreasonable. A simple web search for DC parking should turn up any number of websites and mobile apps where you can search and compare hours, prices, and locations. Some locations do accept reservations, but it isn't usually necessary on weekends— as noted, parking demand is mostly driven by commuters. By the same token, many garages are closed on weekends. Parking will be significantly more expensive on weekdays.

There is street parking along the Mall, but it is extremely limited relative to the number of visitors, and I would not waste time on a three-day trip hunting for it. There are a handful of metered lots in East Potomac Park near the Jefferson Memorial. Street parking downtown is metered weekdays and on Saturday, the price and hours and availability depending on the neighborhood.

As for Georgetown, I have not attempted to find street parking in many years. There are several garages in Georgetown, mostly in the complexes along the Potomac waterfront, or you can take Metrobus 30/31/32/33/34/35/36/37 from Friendship Heights down Wisconsin Avenue. This route has relatively frequent and reliable service, the ride taking about a half hour. For yet another option, there is a DC Circulator shuttle to Georgetown that runs from the Dupont Circle Metro, or it is a long walk from Dupont Circle, Foggy Bottom, or Rosslyn.

  • I would add to your flip side that because it's so crowded, the traffic moves at a pretty safe speed and there's plenty of stopping for lights where you can recheck the GPS, etc. In that regard, driving around DC is not especially stressful, as long as you don't mind taking your time and have working AC. – CactusCake May 3 '18 at 15:55
  • I (or whoever will drive at that time) will have backseat drivers to check the GPS and give directions.. – Max May 3 '18 at 18:58
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Summers in the tourist parts of DC are very crowded, and the week of July 4th is pretty much the peak of the tourist season. I would advise against driving to the National Mall area; there's little parking in that part of town anyhow. Also, DC is not particularly driver-friendly if you're not used to it.

Driving to Friendship Heights or Tenlytown isn't going to save you much in terms of time or money - there are only commercial parking lots nearby, not like the big commuter lots in the suburbs, and in the time it takes to drive there, you'll be almost downtown anyhow.

One option to consider would be to take Metrobus. There are buses that use the MacArthur Blvd, Mass. Ave, and River Road corridors; most of them feed into the Friendship Heights station, but the D5 goes all the way downtown from MacArthur Blvd. The bus is a little more complicated if you're not used to taking them, it's but reasonably quick (unless you're traveling during rush hour, which I'd also discourage), and there is pretty frequent service. The buses are clean and safe, particularly in the part of town you'll be in.

There are also single-day and multi-day passes that are available, and are accepted on both Metrobus and Metrorail. You can take the bus into town, and travel around in town via the subway. As @choster mentioned in his comment, Metro has fallen on hard times lately, so you may end up on a bus on the weekend anyhow :-(

Another plus is that the D5 bus travels through Georgetown, where you said you're interested in spending some time as well.

Metro's route planner at https://www.wmata.com/ may be useful.

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All good answers. Given that this is my every day commute, and that you'd be visiting on weekdays, I'd recommend driving into the city from Brookmont via Canal Road. During the weekday mornings (6-10), Canal Road is one-way entering into the city, and in the evenings (3-7) its the other way exiting out of the city. This will work in your favor, both ways.

As you are visiting the National Mall area, consider parking at the Portals garage on 1250 Maryland Ave SW. It's a short 2 block walk to the mall and also walkable to the Monument and the Capitol on a good day. They have an early bird rate of $13 per day if you get in before 8 AM; $21 after that, if available - there are other garages too, and as mentioned in the other answers, it'll be cheaper than riding the train for 4 of you. If you are spending the entire day, be wary of street parking - which is usually allowed only for a max. of 2/3 hours - they are strictly enforced.

Enjoy DC!

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I'm a DC native who has moved, and I'm going back to visit family exactly then. And a lot of other people, too. July 4 is a very crowded time there.

The Bethesda Metro station has a dedicated parking lot (for $); Friendship Heights does not. If you are responsible for getting to the Metro, keep that in mind.

Alternatively, Clara Barton Parkway to Canal Road is a quick (30-40 minutes) driving route to downtown from Brookmont. For the Smithsonian, continue on the Whitehurst Freeway, I-66, and Independence Avenue. Parking will be difficult. I would be prepared to pay for a commercial garage.

  • Yeah, we will pay for commercial parking. – Max May 2 '18 at 17:42
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In addition to Andrew's answer, I have previously parked at the Fashion Center at Pentagon City. This is a shopping mall that connects directly with the Pentagon City metro station.

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