Washington, D.C., is unlike any other city in the country. Not only is it the nation’s capital, but there are complicated rules and laws about representation and it is full of amazing pieces of culture, history and knowledge.
Put aside your partisan expectations and charge up your smartphone. We’ve got a list of apps for your next visit to D.C. that will help you navigate the region’s quirks, monuments, and local secrets.
D.C. Metro and Bus
One thing that everyone in D.C. can agree upon is that there is more than one kind of gridlock and nobody is a fan of either. Thankfully, D.C. has an expansive and accessible train and bus system that covers the city and the surrounding metro area (both southern Maryland and northern Virginia). D.C. Metro and Bus offers complete maps, predictions for bus arrivals and a real-time countdown of train arrivals based on Metro’s own system. There’s a lot to do and see in the D.C. metro area via walking (more on that in a moment), but at the end of the day you’re going to need some help navigating the slightly arcane rules of the D.C. train system (where you pay for how far you travel as opposed to a flat fare).
Here are two things you’ll need to understand about visiting D.C.: One, the Smithsonian refers to the entire network of museums, exhibits and gardens in the nation’s capital, including the Air and Space museum, the Natural History museum and many more; and two, there is so much to see and learn at these locations that it can both boggle and invigorate the mind. Fortunately, the Smithsonian Mobile app can help streamline the experience. The app includes maps to help you find each location, floor plans for each site, updates on exhibits, tours and everything you’ll need during your visit. And if you can’t get enough, you’ll be able to access video tours and podcasts about different exhibits and displays even after your trip is over.
You may not know this, but the D.C. metro area is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the US. In addition to hundreds of bike trails in the surrounding area, one of the best parts of the cycling culture is the Capital Bike share program. You can rent and ride these red and black touring bikes (complete with basket) all around the city. Spotcycle is an app that can help you find the nearest bike share location, tell you how many bikes are available and offers maps and information on attractions so you can plan your route. You can drop off a bike where you rented it or plan an epic ride across the region. Available in D.C., Virginia and Maryland, it’s a great experience for visitors.
Platforms: iOS and Android
National Mall App
Remember all that walking we talked about? You and thousands of other visitors from across the nation and around the world will likely run into each other on the National Mall. This amazing green space holds everything from organized political rallies to organized disc golf tournaments to some of the nation’s most iconic monuments. So grab the free National Mall app provided by the National Parks service to help you with maps, tours, schedules and all the information you need to experience this national treasure.
RELATED: America’s Most Iconic Monuments
It may not be exciting, but the ParkMobile app can be a lifesaver. If you think the politics in D.C. is a mess, you should try to find street parking. The ParkMobile app lets you set up and extend your parking sessions from wherever you are without having to navigate your way back to your car. Usable in hundreds of locations across the US—including Los Angeles, Miami, NYC and D.C.—this app is worth more than one term on your device.
Platforms: iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows, and Amazon
If you want to experience what is local and awesome about a city like D.C., ScoutMob’s app is for you. Focusing on locally made and owned shops, bars, restaurants and venues, it helps you seek out new experiences on and off the beaten path. Focusing on over a dozen cities, including D.C., with vibrant and tech savvy communities of craftspeople, ScoutMob will help you find all the local goodies.
If you’re looking for a specific mood for your dining enjoyment, grab Hoppit for your trip. There are plenty of apps that help you find a good spot in a new city, but most don’t talk about what kind of atmosphere the restaurant offers. Are you looking for laid-back family style or quiet and romantic? Hoppit will show you options across the city for whatever type of D.C. experience you want.
Platforms: iOS and Android
A humbling and beautiful tribute to thousands of American servicemen and women, Arlington National Cemetery receives millions of visitors each year. The ANC Explorer app can help you find specific memorials and individual grave sites to help you learn more about and honor those who have fallen in defense of the United States.
Platforms: iOS and Android
Washington DC Undercover
Secrets and hidden agendas are woven in the fabric of D.C.. Are you ready to learn more about scandals, intrigue and spies? Washington DC Undercover provides stories, maps, and locations to complete your “spy” experience. Follow in the footsteps of players on both sides of international intrigue.
For both ease of use and for the chance to feel like a D.C. VIP, grab Uber. Have a car show up to pick you up and whisk you to any destination around the D.C. Metro area. Just be wary of potential price multipliers. Like amendments attached to bills in Congress, they can make things very expensive very quickly.
More From SmarterTravel:
- 10 Indispensable Apps for Last-Minute Travel
- 9 New Travel Apps and Updates You Need Right Now
- 5 Apps the Airlines Don’t Want You to Use
Jason Flynn is a freelance writer, editor, and geek of all trades. Follow him on Twitter @flynntendo.
(Photo: thisisbossi via flickr/CC Attribution)