Off topic---commute help

Taking the youngest to the Smithsonian next week.

We’re staying in Stafford,Va…46 miles from DC…what is the best way to get to the Mall from Stafford…we have 3 nights in Stafford and want to go into the city each day.

Thanks for any clues!

Not a lot of options …
I live in the DC suburbs, west of town.

In spite of the fact that we’re the capital of the nation, we really don’t have much of a public transit system unless you work right downtown. The Metro system doesn’t extend very far into the suburbs, except up into Maryland north of the city. In Virginia the subway lines end just outside the beltway.

I try to avoid driving into DC just because I don’t like the hassle of trying to find parking, dealing with traffic, yada, yada. Sure, you can get lucky and maybe find something close to your destination but I’d rather leave the “driving” to someone else and be dropped off close to where I’m going. Problem is - from where you’re staying by the time you get to the closest Metro station you’re probably only 10-12 miles away from being right in DC. On the weekend, it might make sense to just go ahead and drive on in to the city and try to find parking there. You may be able to find parking in a commercial parking garage close to the Mall but I have no idea what they’ll charge - could be as much as $10 for a day but it might be well worth it. And you might have to get there early. Weekday parking - whether on the street or in a garage - will be difficult.

Your closest Metro station is the Franconia-Springfield station, just south of the beltway and just east of I-95. The station is probably a half-mile or less from I-95 but it’s about a 30-35 mile drive from Stafford. You’ll have to buy a SmarTrip card for each member of the family - that’s $5 each without ANY fare on them! Parking will cost you $4.50 each day and can only be paid for with the SmarTrip card. Peak-time fare to the Smithsonian station is $4.15 each way and off-peak fare is $2.35 each way … per person, of course. And the Metro map says it’s a 38 minute ride each way. Peak-time hours are 5:00 am to 9:30 am and again from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm on the weekdays; weekends are all off-peak. The SmarTrip card can be used for fares, too. The SmarTrip cards are reusable and can be recharged with additional money, if necessary. By the time you’ve done this for three days you’re likely to have spent $50-$60 on parking and fares (assuming only three people). And keep in mind the rush hour crush - whether driving or riding Metro - if today or Monday is one of the days you’re going in.

Just some things to consider!

Although I live in Richmond now, I grew up in Northern Virginia.

My suggestion: Take I95 to the Springfield Metro and take that into DC. Try to avoid rush hours (before 9AM and after about 3:30 PM) if you’re going into DC on a weekday. Although I’m still very familiar with Northern Virginia and occasionally drive in the area and into DC, using the Metro from Springfield is the easiest way to go.

Metro, Other

– Last Updated: Jul-11-08 8:55 AM EST –

We vacationed in the area 2 or 3 years ago and had a similar situation. We were staying with relatives out in Herndon (Fairfax County). They dropped us off at the nearest Metro station (for us I believe it was at Vienna) every morning and picked us up in the afternoons. If you're driving yourself to the stations, get there early as parking is usually pretty limited. Another option would be parking a little farther out (at a mall or shopping center) and catching a Metro bus to the nearest rail station. Metro has a website with stops and lines well marked for your reference.

Check into VRE
There is a commuter train that runs into DC from stafford. It is the Virginia Railway Express. I know little about it other than that you can offload near L’Enfant Plaza and Union Station. L’Enfant Plaza is your stop for the Smithsonian, and is also a good spot to transfer to the Metro. Google up VRE for more info.

Not sure, but it is a commuter train, so I expect they don’t run on weekends. But on weekends, you can just drive in.

There is free parking along the mall–wait, maybe there are meters, I don’t recall. However, there is a two-hour time limit, so you have to go back to the car and move it every two hours. Yes, a PITA, but, OTOH, it also assures that spaces open. Cheap-ass Government workers abuse these spaces and their duties by parking and moving every two hours. So there is competition for the spaces that open up.

You can also find free parking on Haines Point (East Potomac Park), but it is a long haul from their to the museums. I used to bring a bike and park there.


If you are looking to pay about $10
per day on the weekend for parking, then there are quite a few garages in the rectangle made b/w 15th and 3rd street (North West!) and K street and Constitution Avenue. Get early (before about 9:30-10:00 am on the weekends and you will see very little traffic. If you are willing to circle around for a short while, you will relatively easy find free parking space on Sundays as well just around the mall and more lilkely in the direction near the Capitol/Botanic Garden (the latter is worth visiting anyway).

To me this is a more convenient option than taking the Metro trains or a buss off the suburbs + parking before that. And it is cheaper with a full car/van of people due to the metro fare.

Or you can park in Rosslyn just across from Key Bridge and take metro from there or walk across the bridges if you are into longer walks…

Or, park at Jack’s Boat House under Key Bridge, leave your car there, rent a boat and paddle the potomac towards the monuments -:wink:

awesome anwers and much effort!
Thanks to all,looks like there are options to study. Key Bridge and renting a boat would work if it was the oldest daughter-you all know how kids are different.

I like the suffestion of the VRE, will study that one tonight, esp. since it hubs in Stafford.

Thanks again.

I live in MD so cannot 100% positive, but all the metro parking lots that I have used have reserved prepaid parking spaces for people coming in later in the morning on weekdays. They open to everyone after 10:00 a.m., so if you get to the lot about 9:30 you should be able to get a spot. Otherwise you need to get there before 7:00. You only need to buy one smartcard to use at the parking lot exit, everyone else can get a regular fare card. I work at the Smithsonian and will be glad to help in any way I can, but I do not work in DC any more, I work at a facility near Annapolis, MD. Send me an email if you have any questions…Steve

easier on rainy weekends
I’m in southern MD, about 60 miles east of DC & used to go to the Smithsonian museums much more when the kids were small. I don’t know if it was just my dumb luck or not, but I always had great luck on rainy days with free parking at the mall, or at the Washington Monument (signs said parking for 2 hours max, but I never got a ticket). There’s also parking in front of the Capitol Bldg.

Driving in NoVA is probably worse than parking in DC.