A solo trip to Washington DC gives you a ton of freedom to do whatever you want. Washington D.C. is a great place for solo travelers as long as you stick to the safe areas and stay in hotels that are friendly for solo travelers. In this article, we will look at the best ways to get to DC, the best hotels for solo travelers, and what you can do both during the day and at night to have the best time.
A Solo Trip To Washington DC: Getting Here
If you are traveling alone, taking a flight or a train to get to Washington DC is the best option. There are many airports that can get you into the DC area.
Why We Don’t Recommend Driving For Solo Travelers In DC
Parking overnight in downtown Washington DC is expensive and you won’t use your car much when you are here. Washington DC has a metro system, a bus system, is also quite walkable, and also has ride share services as well as taxis.
You really don’t need a car as a solo traveler. There are only a few major attractions outside the city and they accessible by public transportation or taxi. But, if you are planning to take a solo road trip, plan ahead to include parking in your budget and travel costs.
Flights To Washington DC & Getting To Downtown DC From Airports & Train Station
There are three international airports in Washington DC. The most important and closest to the center is the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, colloquially called the National Airport and abbreviated as DCA. The metro directly connects DCA with downtown DC. You can jump on the blue or yellow line of the metro, and you will reach the city center in just half an hour.
Washington-Dulles International Airport which is called IAD or just Dulles is approximately 40 km away from the center. There is a new metro that offers service from IAD to downtown DC. When you get to the baggage claim area of IAD, head to doors 2 or 6 (not baggage carousel 2 or 6). From there you will follow the signs to the metro. You will want to board the train going in the direction of Downtown Largo.
Finally, there is Baltimore-Washington International Airport, but very few international flights land there. From BWI, you can take the Amtrak to Washington DC or the Marc Rail. Alternatively you can also easily book a ride through a ride share app or take a taxi.
If you come into Newark in New Jersey, which is near New York, you can take the train from New York or Newark to Washington DC. For more detailed information on which airport to fly into check out this article.
Train To Washington DC – Arrive At Union Station
Union Station is the main railroad station in Washington DC. Not only do several Amtrak trains stop here, but there is also an extensive metro and local rail system that you can use to get into Washington DC. Once you get to Union Station you can either take a taxi or the metro to your hotel. If you have a lot of luggage it may be best to take a taxi the first time.
Best Hotels For Solo Travelers In Washington DC
We recommend staying in central areas of DC. They might be a little pricier up front, but the places listed below are centrally located. This means these areas are generally safer than other areas and they are walking distance to many sites or have easy metro access. Though you may pay a little bit more to stay here, you will save a lot by not having to take a taxi everywhere.
Also if you are looking to meet people, these hotels are lively and are likely to be buzzing with activity. Washington DC is one of the best cities to meet people. Many people in DC are transplants from other places and thus looking to meet people.
The Dupont Circle Hotel – Best Luxury Option
The Dupont Circle Hotel is in prime location. Not only is it located in the lively Dupont Circle neighborhood, it is also right next to the metro station, making it very convenient for sightseeing.
In the summer, the hotel has an outdoor seating area that is very lively. There are also two onsite restaurants where you can grab dinner or drinks after a day of sightseeing. There are also many popular restaurants nearby in the Dupont Circle area that you can try.
The Thompson – Best Hotel For Affordable Luxury & Close To Public Transport
The Thompson Hotel is located in the Navy Yard neighborhood in Washington DC. This area remains lively on the weekends and also has a bustling after work scene during the weekdays.
While it is not walking distance to the museums, there is a metro very close by that can give you easy access to the tourist areas of Washington DC. The DC Circulator also has a stop close to this boutique hotel giving you even more options to get around.
We love this hotel because it is located in a nice area with plenty of restaurants and things to do in the evening after a long day of sightseeing. And, although it is a 4.5 star hotel, it is usually more affordable than some of the other luxury hotels in Washington DC. There is an onsite restaurant as well as a popular rooftop bar onsite.
Citizen M Capitol Hill – Best Option To Meet Other People Traveling Solo
Citizen M caters towards singles and solo travelers. This is a great place if you want to meet other travelers and make some new friends. The bar here is located in the lobby area and is very lively. The rooms are all intended for singles or couples so you really won’t find many families here.
There are two Citizen M hotels in Washington DC. This location is more convenient for sightseeing than the other one. At night, this area can be a little quiet, so be sure to take a taxi home if you are out late. The hotel bar is also lively and can be a fun place to hang out after a day of sightseeing in the nation’s capital.
Hotel Washington – Best Location For Sightseeing
Hotel Washington is located adjacent to the National Mall. It is a short walk to nearly all the major attractions, museums and monuments. One of our favorite things about this hotel is the rooftop restaurant. This has an incredible view of Washington DC and specifically the Washington Monument.
If sightseeing is a priority then this is the best place to stay for you. Be mindful that at night, this area has less casual dining options than Dupont Circle or Navy Yard (where the Thompson Hotel is located).
A Solo Trip To Washington DC: Getting Around Washington DC
Washington DC is easy to get around because there are so many options. Let’s take a look.
Walking Around DC
One of the best ways to get around the American capital is to walk. The National Mall is 3 km long, and you will find a huge number of points of interest there. You can take the metro or a taxi to this area, but once you are here, walking is the best way to see things efficiently.
Use Public Transportation
For the most remote attractions, take public transportation, which is very efficient and safe.
To travel by public transport, you must purchase a SmarTrip Card. It only costs $2 plus the initial balance, between $5 and $30. If you register it, even if you lose it by paying $2, you can replace it and recover your unused balance. In addition, they will refund your ticket if you are delayed more than 15 minutes on your trip. If you do not live in the District of Columbia, request a refund of the outstanding balance before leaving.
Washington DC Metro
There are metro stations all over the city and there are a total of 6 metro lines. The Washington DC Metrorail schedule on weekdays is from 5:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. (except Friday, when it ends at 1 a.m.). Saturday is from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. and Sundays from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. The last train leaves each terminal half an hour before closing. Metrorail fares range from $2 to $6 depending on the destination and time of day.
Washington DC Circulator
There is also the DC Circulator which only costs $1. This bus system takes you to the most popular places in Washington, DC. It has six different routes, even going to Rosslyn, Virginia. It is utilized by over 5 million people every year and it is popular with both tourists and locals. The bus stops at each place every 10 minutes, making it easy and cheap for everyone.
Washington DC Metrobus
There are a dozen lines and hundreds of routes of Metrobus that cover the entire city. Washington DC Metrobus hours are 5:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. on weekdays and 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. on weekends. The bus ticket costs $2, and its price does not vary depending on the route.
Taxis And Ride Share Apps
There are many red taxis available in downtown DC. You can also use ride share apps like Uber and Lyft to get around Washington DC. Female travelers may want to consider using ride share apps over the metro if coming home to your hotel late at night.
What Solo Travelers Should Do During The Day In Washington DC
As a solo traveler, there are so many things you can explore. Spend your time sightseeing during the day and exploring Washington DC’s food and nightlife scene at night.
See The White House (From The Outside)
We start our list with the great classic to see in Washington DC: the White House. It is one of the most famous buildings in the world and was built in 1790 by President George Washington. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, it is a photo that cannot be missing from your memories of your trip to the United States. The White House is the official residence of the President of the USA and his workplace.
Although American citizens can visit it after asking a congressman for permission, which usually takes months to be granted, entry is prohibited for tourists. The best place for you to see it from the outside is from the North side, on Pennsylvania Avenue, because from the South side, the trees will block your vision.
Don’t be scared if you see armed Secret Service agents or snipers on the roof every few meters. This is normal given that the Head of State lives here.
Visit The Capitol & The Supreme Court
Another symbol of the country that, yes or yes, you have to see in Washington DC during your trip is the Capitol of the United States of America. Its enormous and impressive dome presides over the more than 10 hectares of land that comprise it, and it has its own police department. Each of the two wings of this building corresponds to one of the two chambers of the Congress of the United States of America, the North wing being the Sanado and the South wing being the House of Representatives.
Visitors can take free guided tour of the Capitol. The tour is highly recommended, as it will take you to places such as the National Statuary Hall or the Rotunda, the wonderful circular room that is just below the Capitol Dome.
Right near the Capitol is the Supreme Court. You can view this impressive building from the outside. Don’t forget to take a picture of the iconic steps leading up to it.
The Library Of Congress
To enter the Capitol, you will have to pass a security check similar to that at airports; this is something that you will quickly get used to when you begin your visit to Washington DC, since it is the political capital of the United States of America, They take security very seriously. Therefore, if you have chosen to take the tour inside the Capitol, we recommend that before leaving the building, you look for the tunnel that leads to the Library of Congress; this way, you will avoid having to go through another checkpoint again.
Once at the Library of Congress, you will find yourself inside one of the largest libraries in the world, and one of the most beautiful. Visitors have access to a glass viewpoint from where you can be amazed by the stained glass windows, architecture, paintings, or sculptures of this fascinating place. One of the original Gutenberg Bibles is found here!
Lincoln Memorial And Reflecting Pool
The esplanade that brings together the main monuments to see in Washington is called the National Mall. This is main area in which the museums and monuments are centralized. If you only have a little time in the city, it is best to focus on this part.
When you finish visiting the Library of Congress, continue your walk to find the Abraham Lincoln Memorial or Lincoln Memorial. Waiting for you there, after climbing a few stairs, is a huge statue that you have also seen in many movies and series, that of Abraham Lincoln sitting with his big beard and serious look. Walk around him, where you will find two of his most famous speeches: the one he gave during the Civil War and the one at his second inauguration as president of the United States.
Then follow his gaze, and you will find the Reflecting Pool, a large pond in which the monolith of the Washington Monument is reflected in a very photogenic way. This same site is where Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech took place, in which he gave the legendary “I Have a Dream…” speech to more than 300,000 people.
You can hang out here for several hours taking in your surroundings. If you are more interested in a quick visit, then continue your walk to the museums.
Visit The Famous Smithsonian Museums
There are many free museums to explore in Washington DC, but amongst these, The Smithsonian Museums are what Washington DC is known for. These museums are incredible and very well known. Specifically, the National Air and Space Museum always wins many awards.
Here, you can see live spacecraft, the Apollo 11 module with which it was possible to reach the Moon, a Concorde supersonic plane, or even the Enola Gay with which the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.
In addition, there are other Smithsonian museums, and they are completely free as mentioned above. Millions of pieces await you at the National Museum of Natural History, ranging from meteorites to dinosaur fossils, while at the National Museum of American History, you can learn more about the country’s history and see important objects from it.
Explore Washington DC’s Art Scene
Washington DC has a thriving art scene. From the performing arts and live music to modern art, you can find a little bit of everything here. From exploring the many art museums to the art galleries you can easily spend a day immersing yourself in art culture and history.
Take The Water Taxi
Another safe and fun activity to explore Washington DC during the day is taking a ride on the water taxi especially during the warmer summer months of July and August.. You can pick up the water taxi from Georgetown or the DC Wharf and take it to several destinations. If you want to stay within the city limits, start in the DC Wharf and head to Georgetown.
If you want to explore other areas of DC, the water taxi can take you here also. There is a water taxi route that takes visitors to National Harbor as well as to Alexandria. Alexandria is a quaint town with plenty of history, great dining, and beautiful views.
What To Do In DC At Night As A Solo Traveler?
There are plenty of things to do in Washington DC at night, but as a solo traveler be sure to be mindful of the areas you are in. Here are our top recommendations to enjoy this beautiful place and also be comfortable as a solo traveler.
Dupont Circle has a very lively nightlife. It is catered towards people in their 20s and 30s. There are many nightclubs and bars here and this area stays lively until 2 or 3 in the morning on the weekends. If you are leaving this area to head back to your hotel, the best way at a late hour would be by taxi or ride share app like Uber or Lyft.
Visit The Kennedy Center
The Kennedy Center is a great option if you want to see a show. There are a variety of options when it comes to performances at the Kennedy Center. Not only will you get to enjoy a fun performance, but this iconic building is one of the best things to see in DC.
Night Tour Of The Monuments
Taking a night tour of the monuments is a fun way to explore the city. Not only do you avoid most of the crowds during the day but this tour also gives you the opportunity to meet other travelers while taking in the iconic landmarks of the city.
The Washington Monument is particularly impressive to see at night. With its 170 meters high, it will also be very difficult for you not to see the Washington Monument while visiting other parts of the city. Not in vain, when it was inaugurated in 1884, it became the tallest construction in the world until, in 1889, it was surpassed by the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Around this enormous monolith, you will see 50 American flags surrounding it, representing the 50 states of the country. The views from the top are truly incredible and something to see in Washington D.C., to get the idea of how big and monumental this city is.
Explore 14th Street
The 14th street area of Washington DC is very lively and is a great place to walk around. From fun happy hours to great restaurants and boutique shops, there’s plenty to do here. Start at Le Diplomate, a fun French restaurant, and then work your way down to Colada Shop. This area of 14th street is very lively most nights of the week.
Check Out The Anthem
The Anthem is a live entertainment venue that features many local as well as nationally known artists. It is located in the DC Wharf which is a newer part of DC that has many restaurants, boutiques as well as hotels.
Solo Trip To Washington DC: Summary
When traveling alone you want to make sure that you are in safe places and in areas where you won’t feel lonely or its easy to meet other travelers. If you’re open to trying it, a solo trip will give you a unique and enriching experience. The easiest way to get to DC is by train or flight. Driving is an option but you will pay heavily for overnight parking in a hotel or a parking lot. Stay in the hotels mentioned in the article as these cater towards solo travelers and are great places to meet new people. Remember to trust your intuition when it comes to safety.