Driving into--and parking--in Washington, DC.
May 20, 2016 7:51 AM   Subscribe

The driving part I can handle, the parking part not so much. Steer me in the right direction.

Next week, I'll be driving to Washington, D.C. for a short business trip and Smithsonian walk-around. Since I'll be coming from the NYC area, I'll be on I-95 before hitting the city.

Since four-wheeled vehicles are verboten in museums, I'll need to find a place to dump the car for the duration of the say. Is my best bet to get off of I-95, search for a park-and-ride, and head into town via the metro? Or would I be better off driving into the city and looking for a parking garage near the mall (ie, near where I'm staying)?

My budget for parking is $50 a day, and I'll be arriving in the late afternoon or early evening.
posted by Gordion Knott to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (14 answers total)
Are you able to come into the city and leave outside of rush hour? If so, I would think about driving into the city. Personally I think parking at Metro stops is a PITA, and because traffic in the suburbs can be just as bad as in town, not much of a time-saver.

If your budget is really $50/day, I would think about valet parking at your hotel.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 7:54 AM on May 20, 2016

If you can pay that much, I think you'll find parking. Metro parking in the burbs is notoriously difficult to find in some stations.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:58 AM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

The metro has been awful. If you can't valet at your hotel, I'd suggest using something like Parking Panda and finding a place you can leave your car for the whole day for cheap.
posted by inevitability at 8:00 AM on May 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

Which neighborhood are you staying in? Daily parking at a metro station may be an option for you. You can check the list of metro stops that have lots and/or daily parking here, and plan around that. Otherwise, there may be loosely restricted street-side parking nearby, but I wouldn't count on it.

Nthing the suggestion for valet parking, if available.
posted by Transmissions From Vrillon at 8:00 AM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Coming from the north, your only park and ride option for a multiday stay (If I'm reading the question right) is Greenbelt and there isn't a whole lot there anyway. If your budget for parking is $50/day you should be fine with valet at the hotel.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:00 AM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I mean the multiday parking at stations in Virginia is technically an "option" but I wouldn't recommend driving all the way around the city to leave your car in Springfield.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:02 AM on May 20, 2016

Driving into DC from points north is a PITA, but you have probably taken that into account.

It does matter, as others have said, where you are staying overnight, and where your meeting(s) is (are).

But assuming proximity to Smithsonian, and assuming that you don't mind walking or ubering or taxiing a bit, what about parking at Union Station (daily max $24 according to website)? I don't know whether there is always space there, or whether it is sometimes full, but seems like a good possibility.
posted by sheldman at 8:41 AM on May 20, 2016

There is a 24 hour Park America lot on 15th NW between L & M that I've used many times. About $25 per day. Another option, and much cheaper, although a bit out of your way is to park at a Reagan National hotel. Several of them sell reserved long term parking for less than $10 a day, I always use that option when I fly out of National. Just Google "Reagan National parking" and they'll be on the first page.
posted by COD at 8:51 AM on May 20, 2016

Another vote for valet parking; cost at hotels in DC runs $30-40 a day (at least it does at the Marriott and Omni in Woodley Park) so that might be your easiest option.
posted by kitkatcathy at 9:52 AM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Use this to find lots near your hotel. http://www.bestparking.com/ Input your times and you can see you can leave your car for your duration for $25 a day or so.
posted by sandmanwv at 10:37 AM on May 20, 2016

DC resident here. $50 a day is plenty to park in the District. You won't have any trouble finding a deck to park in, and as someone else noted a typical fee at a hotel is ~$40-$50, so that might even be in your range. (I had to park at the Washington Hilton for a day long event not long ago, and I think the all-day self park was $41 IIRC.)

Most parking decks are < $25 for the entire day. What you do have to watch out for is exit times. Depending on the deck it might close at 7 or 10 or 11 or 2 or not at all. Or it might close, but you can still exit anytime. Just check; you don't want your vehicle to get stuck in a garage overnight unintentionally.

Someone else recommended Union Station, and I second that. Parking is just over twenty bucks for 24 hours, it's right on top of Metro, walking distance to the Capitol and the east end of The Mall, and the easiest place in the city to catch a cab (but, really, just Uber -- DC cabs suck).
posted by gritter at 10:47 AM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Union Station is one of the easiest places to self park in DC. If your hotel is more convenient, do that...but otherwise, Union Station for sure. I always used to park there when I drove in to DC for business.
posted by another zebra at 6:24 PM on May 20, 2016

you do have to watch out for is exit times

Quoting for emphasis. There's a bunch of garages near the Smithsonian that close surprisingly early.

Nthing just using your lodging's garage if they have one. If the weather is nasty, you may want to just take a cab or uber to the museum if it's a longish walk rather than trying to drive closer.

Also, be aware that the city is festooned with speed and red light cameras and sometimes artificially low speed limits. Simply going with the flow of traffic may not prevent you from getting a ticket.
posted by Candleman at 8:51 PM on May 20, 2016

If you are still considering parking at a Metro station, be aware you can be ticketed for staying longer than 24 hours (yes, it's happened to me). Overnight parking is okay, but don't leave your car there for more than 24 hours.

There are four stations that do have very limited long-term parking, Greenbelt is the only one close to your route in from NY. It's very long odds to actually get a spot there: Between 15 and 17 spaces are allocated for multi-day use of up to 10 days. Availability is on a first-come, first-served basis. So you have much better options than a Metro lot with your budget.
posted by peeedro at 9:05 PM on May 21, 2016

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