Washington, D.C. has many options for public transportation, and you can usually take Metro to get where you need to go. Even if you’re coming from out of town, most Metro stations in the suburbs have lots or garages where you can leave your car all day. All Metro parking is free on weekends or holidays, and a few stations even have lots where you can leave your car for up to 10 days. Check out WMATA’s site for details on your nearest station.
But let’s say you must drive into the city, for whatever reason. Then you basically have two options (assuming the business or attraction you visit doesn’t have its own garage): street parking or a pay garage. Where can I park in Washington DC? Let’s answer that question.
Option 1: Street parking.
If you choose to park on the street, you might be lucky enough to find a free spot, especially if you’re nowhere near a commercial area, but in most residential neighborhoods where those spaces exist, there is a strict two-hour time limit for non-residents. Usually those limits are in effect Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
More likely you’ll find one of the city’s 17,000 metered spaces. In most areas these cost $2.30/hour from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. In the following busy areas of the city, though, it costs $2.30/hour from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday:
- Adams Morgan
- Penn Quarter/Chinatown
- U Street, NW Corridor
- Downtown Central Business District
- Maine Avenue and Water Streets, SW
- The National Mall
- Wisconsin Avenue, NW (from Van Ness Street to Western Avenue)
Fortunately, you no longer have to lug around rolls of quarters to use meters in the district. While they all still accept coins, they also all accept credit cards. Or, for an additional transaction fee you can use a mobile app and pay with your phone.
Unfortunately, most have a maximum time limit of two hours, so however you pay you will have to go outside and refill the meter periodically. For more information on parking meters in Washington, DC, visit ddot.dc.gov/service/parking-meters.
Option 2: Garages
Most likely of all, if you drive into the city you’re going to end up paying to park in a garage. Most of these have steeply declining rates where you pay heavily for the first hour and then pay only about double that first hour amount to stay for the rest of the day. That means your best value is almost always to find one place and leave your car there all day.
Rates vary by neighborhood, but generally in neighborhoods with visitor attractions they hover between about $17 and about $22 for the full day. You’ll notice the same company names in multiple neighborhoods: Colonial, LAZ, SP+ Parking. You can compare the prices on their websites, but the simplest one-stop way to find the best price is the Best Parking app, available for free for iPhone and Android. You can search it by neighborhood, address, or attraction.
Even garages fill up, though, especially on parade or festival days. You really are better off on the Metro.
BowieMaryland residend says
The worst ever to drive in DC then the parking meters are confusing and the streets are zoned poorly.
Yes, The signage is hard to understand even for a native English speaker. . It is certainly understandable for Washington DC to make money on parking for a multitude of reasons But the signage is purposefully confusing in order to make large amounts of money on fines.
Barbara Klestzick says
Where is the closest free parking on Saturday near Dupont Circle
Jim Oak says
“Washington, D.C. has one of the best public transportation systems in the country.”
Clearly, the writer does not use public transportation in D.C.
You take your life in your hands anytime you ride the the Metro subway.
The District says
Agreed. This was written before all of the Metro issues. We have updated the description, and we do hope that Metro will someday be as good as it once was.
Yi Geng says
Can I get in the metro parking lot on Saturday and get out on Sunday?
D light says
I think this is just a way for DC to make money the parking meters are not easy to understand and I tried to get a parking spot and ended up being charged 4 times because I could not understand the meter what is a person from a foreign language going to do how are they going to understand this I still think that this is just one way that DC is trying to make more money
RE Almanace says
You have my sympathy– the signage is Very confusing.
I am sorry I cannot agree “Washington, D.C. has one of the best public transportation systems in the country”. It stinks inside the station and inside the car, high-frequent of running into trouble/delay/single-track, expensive with peak price, no express trains.
Please consider to revise “best public transportation systems” description of DC Metro. WMATA would think they have done a great job by seeing this post.
As a person work in DC, the part I hated the most is the metro.
The District says
You are right, DC Metro has been a mess lately, and will hopefully improve things soon.
RE Almanace says
Yep– DARK stations, Poor PA system. CROWDED trains, people pushing and shoving. Sucks
I will be visiting my sister in law in Hamburg, PA. So we are just visiting the monuments for 1 day. And I was wondering where is the best/ closest station to park at near the monuments. And what is better traveling by bus or metrorail?
I live in DC and I was born and raised here. I have seen too many people get their cars towed or receive tickets because those two hours can go by really quickly when your having fun and exploring the sites. Unless it’s a Sunday then I would recommend the metro that way you can enjoy yourself and not worry about what time you need to move your car or wasting time driving around trying to find a parking spot.
is weekend parking free in garages? my boyfriend and I are going on a weekend trip and are already spending a lot. I am visiting him and he’s never been to DC before. Where can I find cheap/convenient parking near the Embassy Suites convention center from a friday to monday. So many sites say different things!!!
The District says
I do not believe that weekend parking is free in garages. For parking information near your hotel, I would contact the hotel first and ask them. They should have the best knowledge of parking around their facility. Second, you can go to the Best Parking web site (http://washingtondc.bestparking.com) and type in your date and location information. It will list prices of nearby garages.
J JONES says
We are thinking about visiting DC in late August. We are coming from South Jersey–any suggestions for parking our vehicle and walking around the city? It has been about 35 years since my hubby & I have visited and our kids have never been. Any and all suggestions for a day trip would be greatly appreciated.
If the meter says Mon-Fri, will the two-hour limit be enforced on Saturday?
Caution. Feeding a parking meter past the 2-hour limit may still get you ticketed. The 2 hour limit is to promote turnover. So if your tag is photographed in the spot for more than 2 hours you can technically still be ticketed even if you paid. In theory, you could argue that you left and returned thus resetting the 2 hour clock, but logic does not always prevail with DC Parking Adjudication.
Leaving and coming back does not reset the clock. If you are in a 2 hour zone, you can only park in the entire zone for 2 hours for that day.