As with most cities, when you’re visiting for the first time you could very likely feel a bit overwhelmed. We’re no New York City or Tokyo, but DC definitely has it’s headaches. To mitigate those stresses as best as possible, whip out your smartphone and download these apps. You’ll have a much better time in the city, we promise.
Ask anyone in DC and they will likely give you a different suggestion on which transit app to download. Shannon spent a couple semesters commuting to work via a bus, which don’t come as regularly as the metro, so having an app that worked became vital. Both the Transit app and the DC Circulator app will give you what you’re looking for, at least sometimes. Transit will show you every form of transportation within the city (think: metro AND bus) while DC Circulator only does bus routes. Neither app is perfect, but it will track your location and tell you what routes are closest to you or you can plan a trip with a specific destination in mind. I can’t find a link for either of these, but if you search them in the App Store, they are the first to come up.
This was the very first app Shannon downloaded when she came to the city because it is an interactive Metro map. This allowed her to check the map without looking like a total tourist (which was important at the time). You can access it offline, which is great if you’re stuck in a tunnel. If you have service, it is a bit interactive and you can select individual metro stations to see scheduled and real time arrivals. It also has alerts within the app so you can easily check if there is a delay.
If you’re not a public transportation person, you probably already have Uber on your phone. You could also download Lyft, but after some bad experiences with drivers who seem unable to follow directions, we’re avoiding it.
If you’re doing a lot of walking you’ll likely get thirsty. Instead of buying a new bottle every time (which is down right bad for the environment), bring a reusable bottle and use TapIt! It shows you businesses that are willing to refill your bottle or give you a cup of tap water for free. There are no catches to this…just great businesses trying to promote a healthy and sustainable world!
You have to eat so might as well check out some new places while you’re in town. You can also use this for any other service you could want while you’re in town, but it definitely is best known for its ability to give you some insight on your next dinner pick. If you’re feeling like spinning a wheel for a random dinner choice, you could also check out Spotluck.
If you’re anti-bus and anti-metro, why not try the Capital Bikeshare? It’s all over the metro area and has pretty great rates. Spotcycle lets you find the nearest docking station so you don’t have to wander aimlessly looking for a place to return your bike!
This app is your digital guide to the Smithsonian institutions and trust us…these museums get overwhelming fast. You can plan your visit, dive deeper into the collections and get access to some behind the scenes clips. It sounds sort of cheesy, but when we downloaded this, we spent hours just browsing on our phone. Does that make us nerds? Maybe.
If you are going to bring your car to the city and are totally sure you want to, you will need to download ParkMobile. You can pay for parking with a credit card which is great because we know nobody carries cash or change these days. Apparently, Parking Panda lets you reserve spots in garages if that’s more your speed or you’re anti-street parking. We’ve never used this one, but felt like sharing just in case.
This should be pretty self explanatory. If you are looking for a place that will give you some free wifi so you can post that sick Instagram post of you next to the Washington Monument without using data, this app is a must. You don’t want to aimlessly wander when you could be sharing your trip with all your friends back home. Pro tip: some of the Smithsonian museums have free wifi and there is a Starbucks on basically every corner so we suppose this app isn’t 100% necessary.
Similar to the Smithsonian Mobile app, this lets you dive a bit deeper into the collections at the National Gallery of Art. You can zoom in on photos, get the history behind each painting and generally just learn more than if you went it alone.
Everyone needs to go every once in a while. The Sit or Squat app will point you in the direction of the nearest bathroom and has filters you can use to search for ‘free’ bathrooms, ones that have changing tables or even ones that are handicap accessible.
Hope these suggestions make your next trip to DC better! Let us know if what your favorite DC apps in the comments below. If you want more suggestions, check out Rob over at TripHacksDC and his video on what his must have apps are for visiting DC!