**Disclosure: My family received tickets for the Old Town Trolley Tour at no charge in order to facilitate this post. All opinions expressed here are strictly my own and were not influenced in any way*
Washington DC is a big city. It may not look like it on tv, but trust me, there is a lot of walking involved when you visit DC. I spent a lot of time down there growing up because I have family in Bethesda, MD, so I am very familiar with the area, but to give you an example: if you want to walk from the Capitol building to the Lincoln Memorial, plan on at least a 30 minute walk. It may not sound like a lot, but it all adds up. Especially if you’re planning on stopping at some of the monuments & memorials (or even museums) along the way.
So when I had a chance to go on the Old Town Trolley Tour, which is a hop-on hop-off trolley with more than 20 stops all over the city – it was kind of a no-brainer.
The Old Town Trolley Tour is a guided tour in which you can sit back and enjoy a fun trolley ride as well as historical information provided by the driver. All of the drivers we had the day we toured were phenomenal by the way. They shared so much history, trivia and lots of behind-the-scenes details about presidential inaugurations and how they are celebrated in DC. My boys, who are 7 & 10, were never bored once. My oldest was truly interested in listening to the guides and learning about what he was seeing.
So, like I mentioned, this is a hop-on hop-off trolley tour, which means you can get on and off at your leisure throughout the day at any of the 20 locations they stop at. That way you can get off of the trolley and explore whatever it is you want to see – for as long as you want. When you’re ready to move to the next attraction, you can re-board the next trolley, which will come by every 30 minutes or so, and off you’ll go.
Each Loop takes about 90 minutes if you do not get off the trolley. The trolley route has 3 convenient and continuous loops – Orange, Red & Green*.
1. The National Mall and Downtown – Orange Loop
The Orange line traverses the National Mall with stops at all the Smithsonian Museum buildings, as well as the National Monuments and Memorials – Lincoln, FDR, Washington, Jefferson and the United States Capitol and Supreme Court buildings.
2. The Arlington National Cemetery Shuttle** – Red Loop (10-15 minute ride)
The Arlington Cemetery line shuttles between the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington Cemetery.
3. The National Cathedral, Uptown and Georgetown – Green* Loop
The Green* line travels uptown to visit the National Zoo and Washington National Cathedral; then it takes you through “Embassy Row” on its way to historic Georgetown – Washington’s oldest neighborhood and a mecca for shopping and dining. Finally the green* line stops at the White House and then makes its way to our Welcome Center.
Your tour ticket includes all day on and off privileges on the orange and red loops; And for only $6 more, you can take the extended trolley tour which also includes the green* loop. You can easily transfer from one loop to another at one of the transfer stops.
Our family only rode the orange loop this time. We originally boarded at Union Station and then exited at the Jefferson Memorial. Once we were done there, we then got back onto the trolley to our next stop. We didn’t exit the trolley at each stop -only the ones that had places we were interested in seeing that day. Since it was our 4th day into our vacation, we had already seen a lot, so we just sat back and relaxed on the trolley for a while and listened to the tour guides stories, jokes and fun facts.
Their primary ticketing locations are at the Washington Welcome Center (stop #1), at the corner of 10th St. and E. St., NW, and at Union Station, where the booth is located INSIDE in the front of the Main Hall. You can also purchase your tickets online at a 10% discount. In addition, many hotels in the city sell tickets, so check with the concierge if you are planning on going on a tour before you leave the hotel. Tickets are $39 (adult) and $29 (kids 0-12) at Union Station, but if you get your tickets online, they are $35.10 (adults) and $26.10 (kids).
Day Tours begin at 9:00 am and run approximately every half-hour until 5:00 pm. The last Re-Boarding Time is at 5:00 pm. Tours run seven days a week throughout the year. As long as you have a ticket, you may board the trolley and begin your tour at any one of their stops.
At 9 am, the Orange and Green Loop leave from stop #1: The Washington Welcome Center and the Orange Loop departs from stop #4: Union Station.
At 9:30 am, the Green Loop starts boarding at stop #18: Georgetown.
Again, trolleys board approximately every 30 minutes and the last re-boarding is at 5:00 pm.
Don’t worry, the spots where you catch the trolleys are clearly marked – and if they’re not, the driver will tell you where to go to find the next trolley before you disembark.
Throughout the day, I saw a lot of families with little ones in strollers on the trolleys. There was room for folding strollers and folding wheelchairs up at the front of the trolleys, so don’t hesitate about taking the tour if you have littles in tow.