Picture this: you’re doing the touristy thing and are taking pictures on the National Mall. You’ve had a lot of water because it’s summer in the city and you want to stay hydrated. Then all of the sudden it hits you: you need to go to the bathroom…now. We’ve all been there. Sure you could run into the nearest Starbucks or Pret, buy another bottle of water or quick snack just so you can use their bathroom. But what if you could you dip in somewhere and use their bathroom for free? That’d be better, right? Well sit tight because we’ve got some great (and not so great) free bathrooms to share.
National Gallery of Art
All of the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall are free as you probably know. You just have to go through security and you’re golden. However, we suggest heading for the National Gallery of Art. It is right in the middle of the mall so the location is perfect for this emergency. The lines are never very long and the bathrooms are a straight shot once you get in the door. They have several bathrooms if you find yourself stuck in a line for the one on the main floor. We’ve done this numerous times and security never bats an eye. Avoid the busier Smithsonians if you’re trying to get in and pee quickly… you’ll end up waiting in a line just to get in and what’s the point of that?
Not too far from the Capitol building, you’ll find free bathroom heaven. The bathrooms aren’t just for Amtrak riders, so use them to your hearts content. Sure they’re not the cleanest but what else could you expect for bathrooms that service all of America’s high school tour groups? The bonus of these bathrooms is that once you’re done you could grab lunch in the food court or go on a mini shopping spree.
National Portrait Gallery
If you find yourself in Chinatown and have an urge to go, head to the National Portrait Gallery. Similar to the National Gallery of Art, the lines are almost never long and the bathrooms are great. Nice and clean, near the door and only a couple security guards to notice you. If you want to stick around, they’ve got a great indoor atrium and this is also where you’d find all the presidential portraits (plus one of Frank Underwood!).
Senate and House Office Buildings
Want to see the ‘real DC’ while going to the bathroom? Or maybe run the chance of running into Bernie Sanders (like one of Shannon’s good friends seems to do every time she’s at work…looking at you, Melanie.)? Try your hand at the public bathrooms in the Senate and House Office Buildings. We’re not sure that this is totally ‘allowed’ to suggest this but you don’t need an appointment to get into the buildings so why not? All you have to do is go through security and unless you’re attending a popular congressional hearing, lines are negligible. The bathrooms are beautiful but a tad bit hard to find. Have no shame in your game and ask the security guard once you get through and they’ll point in the right direction (hopefully).
Any Metro Station
It is a little known secret that every Metro station has a public bathroom. To access these bathrooms, all you have to do is ask the station manager if you can use the bathroom and they’ll show you where it is and unlock it for you. They’re not the most glamorous bathrooms, but an emergency is an emergency, right? The caveat is that you technically need to be getting on the Metro (aka paying) after using the bathroom, but you could always ‘enter’ the station and then exit the other side (which wouldn’t cost you anything) and the station manager would be none the wiser.
Worst scenario, hopefully you have the Sit or Squat App. This app lets you search for public restrooms near you and you can filter for ‘free’, ‘handicap accessible’, or even for ‘changing table’. It has been quite the lifesaver for us, so this isn’t sponsored. We just believe in a good app that helps you avoid any accidents (literally).
If you still want more options, this post by the Washingtonian rates some of the public bathrooms on the National Mall.
Still planning your trip to DC? Check out our must know tips for the best trip possible!