- OUR Walking TOURS
- Tour Calendar
- Walking Tours
- Lincoln Assassination Tours
- Ghost Tours
- Self-Guided Tours
- Private Tours
- Travel Guide
- Things To Do
- Bus Tours
- Discount Pass
- Neighborhood Guides
- Arlington Cemetery
- National Mall
This post is a review of DC Trails, one of the leading charter and bus tour companies in the DC area. The family-operated business offers a variety of bus tours including hop-on, hop-off services that visit some of DC’s most popular landmarks.
Purchase your DC Trails Tickets Here to get 10% off ticket prices (discount applied automatically)
DC Trails has been rewarded with a Certificate of Excellence by TripAdvisor, whose community rated the company within the top 20 of 145 tours in Washington DC.
Overall, the company is rated highly by users. Many guests commented favorably on the extensive number of stops made during the hop-on-hop-off tour.
Other comments praise the tour guides on their ability to make the tour both educational and entertaining.
Their Twilight Tour is consistently regarded as one of their best tours. In addition, many users commented positively on the 48-hour pass which includes the night tour at no additional charge.
The Yelp community gives DC Trails an average rating. Complaints center mostly on long wait times. While there are many stops, users say wait times can reach up to an hour depending on traffic.
Keep in mind DC is a very popular tourist destination and the company can only do so much to account for high-traffic volumes.
DC Trails’ hop-on, hop-off bus operates daily between 9 am and 5 pm. There are 22 stops made along the route so that passengers can visit a large number of DC’s most popular attractions and sights.
Among the stops are the Lincoln Memorial, the White House and many of DC’s best museums. Tickets to enter museums and attractions are not included in the price of the tour and cannot be purchased on the bus.
It is recommended that you purchase any attraction or museum tickets in advance of starting your bus tour. Also, we suggest that you review the bus route mao (see below) and plan out your day prior to the start of the tour.
There is a 24-hour and 48-hour option for this tour. The 48-hour ticket can be combined with their popular Twilight Night Tour (described below) for just a few dollars more, which is a great deal!
You can also combine your 48-hour ticket with a tour to Mount Vernon for an additional fee. This tour is described in depth below.
Some nice features are that their double-decker buses are climate-controlled, wheelchair accessible, have a restroom and free Wi-Fi.
Reviews range from mixed to very good. Most TripAdvisor and Yelp reviews are positive. Many of the reviews are from families who say this tour is perfect for both kids and adults.
Many write that the bus tour was worth it as it saved them a lot of time they would have otherwise wasted on walking between locations.
Reviewers consistently describe the tour guides and drivers as very energetic, knowledgeable and entertaining.
Some reviews note that the wait times are too long, thus making it hard to see as many sites as they had wanted in one day.
Note that wait times are not entirely in control of the company. Traffic is highly congested at popular tourist destinations.
When: Daily, 9 am – 5 pm (Closed: July 4, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day)
Departure Point: 478 L’Enfant Plaza SW Washington, DC 20024
Purchase your DC Trails Tickets Here – Get 10% off prices above (discount applied automatically)
There are 21 stops for the Hop On-Hop Off DC Trails Bus Route. You can get on and off at any stop.
Not interested in something? Skip it and stay on the coach. Want to spend extra time somewhere? No worries! Stay as long as you want and catch the next bus.
Click on the map for a larger version
Purchase your DC Trails Tickets Here – Get 10% off the prices (discount applied automatically)
Stop 1: L’Enfant Plaza Pick up Location – 478 L’Enfant Plaza
See below for instructions on how to find the meeting spot.
If you want to explore the Capitol, Supreme Court and Library of Congress, expect to spend a few hours at this stop. We recommend saving “the Hill” for another day since all three sites are easily accessible from each other and Capitol South Metro Station.
Suggested time: If you don’t want to visit inside all three and just want some good photos of the Capitol, you’ll only need about 20 minutes here so you can plan on picking up the next bus.
Note that this stop and stop 3 are within walking distance of each other so you might prefer to walk instead of waiting for the bus.
Stop 3: Garfield Memorial and Botanic Gardens – the Botanic Gardens are a beautiful stop – especially if the weather outside isn’t cooperating, as its basically a large greenhouse!
Suggested time: If you’re just stopping for the Botanical Gardens, you only need about 30 minutes, but since Stops 3 and 4 are in walking distance of each other, you can save some time waiting for a bus and just walk to the Air and Space Museum.
Plan on at least an hour or more, especially if you want to eat in the area as well.
TIP: If you are planning on going to many of the DC museums, take a look at our Washington DC Attractions Guide that includes information on many of the museums you can visit.
Since all the most popular Smithsonian Museums are centrally located and easily walkable, we recommend saving museums for a day without a bus pass.
Stop 4: National Air and Space Museum – another stop that is in walking distance of the ones before it.
From here you can also visit the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Gallery of Art.
Suggested time: With the monument closed, you only need a short time to walk up and around the monument. Allow more time if you’ve arranged tickets to the Holocaust Museum or BEP.
Stop 6: American History Museum – another of the must-see Smithsonian Institutions. The stop is on the Constitution Ave side of the museum.
Suggested time: We recommend making sure you at least hit the highlights. Ten save time by walking to the next museum which is very close.
Stop 7: Natural History Museum – A must see. This museum is the MOST visited natural history museum in the world! And the most visited museum of any type in the U.S. Clearly they are doing something right!
Stop 8: National Gallery of Art – A highly rated museum. This stop used to be for the Newseum before it closed. From here, you can also cross the street to visit the National Gallery of Art.
Stop 9: Chinatown and Verizon Center – it’s hard to say what is “downtown” in DC, but Chinatown is one of the contenders. Don’t expect the same experience as New York’s Chinatown. You’ll find just as many hamburger joints and Italian restaurants as well as Chinese eateries.
If you hop off here, make sure you go to the National Portrait Gallery (Smithsonian). If you want to go to the International Spy Museum, this is your stop.
Suggested time: This is a good stop for lunch if you don’t want to eat at a museum cafe or a refreshment stand at the memorials.
Stop 9 & 10 are in walking distance so don’t wait for the next bus, just mosey on over to 10th Street NW.
Stop 10: Ford’s Theatre – the site of Lincoln’s Assassination, Ford’s Theatre is open as a working theatre but also a museum.
We highly recommend this as a stop, but we also discuss this (from outside) on our Lincoln Assassination walking tour.
Suggested time: A visit to Ford’s requires tickets and it depends on what kind of tour you get how long you’ll be there – give yourself an hour and half time if you have a Ranger Talk and Museum, and Peterson’s Boarding House. Less time if you only get one or two of the above.
Stop 10 & 11 are in walking distance so don’t wait for the next bus, just mosey on over to 10th Street NW.
Stop 11: Hotel Harrington – NOTE: The map lists this as a stop for Madame Tussauds, but that is actually much closer to Stop 10.
Stop 12: The White House – Now, don’t expect a driveway drop off. For obvious security reasons, you’ll still have to walk to get to the White House from the stop, but it isn’t far. Interested in touring the White House?
Suggested time: If your plan is to hop off and see the White House and then get right back on, you can do this in 30 minutes!
Stop 14: Jefferson Memorial – This stop is a great one to use the bus for as it is far from most other sites. Our All in One walking tour ends at the Jefferson Memorial, so you can just hop on the bus to get to your next stop.
Suggested time: Most guests spend about 30 minutes here, which includes a little walk from the bus drop off to the actual memorial.
To do it best, skip Stop 13 Jefferson Memorial and hop off at this stop to visit FDR Memorial and MLK Memorial, then continue walking to get to Jefferson. Once you’re finished, hop on at Stop 13 and stay on past Stop 14 since you’ve already been there.
Suggested time: Since there are two memorials here and one is rather large (FDR), you’ll likely need about 45 minutes. If you take our advice above, give yourself 1.5 hours to see all three memorials and walk between them.
Suggested time: We suggest doing all three stops together in about an hour.
Stop 16: Shuttle Bus Stop to Arlington National Cemetery – This is a great way to get to and from the cemetery.
Suggested time: You’ll need at least 1.5 hours at Arlington, probably longer now that they’ve started security. You can always take our Arlington Cemetery Walking Tour, though! Our tour of Arlington lasts 2.5 hours.
Stop 18: Vietnam Veterans Memorial – hopefully, you visited this memorial while at the Lincoln Memorial.
Suggested time: If you don’t have plans to go to Arlington National Cemetery, save some time and just use this as a hop on stop after you’ve finished “The Big Three” Memorials.
Stop 19: WWII Memorial – if its a nice day, similar to Jefferson, we’d suggest just walking here from Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It’s about a 10-minute walk but through the park.
Suggested time: With just one stop and a short walk from the bus drop off, you can easily visit this in 30 minutes and get back for the next bus.
Stop 20: White House Visitors Center – if you can’t get inside the White House, the Visitor Center is a great alternative!
Suggested time: Only hop off here if you want to go inside the Visitor Center. Most people spend about 30-40 minutes inside.
Stop 21: National Archives and US Navy Memorial – as long as you don’t follow Nicholas Cage’s suit and try to steal it, here you can view the Deceleration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights, among other great documents.
Suggested time: The National Archives is a popular stop. You can spend up to an hour in line if you don’t have advanced reservations and its a busy day. And once inside, there is so much to see.
You can see the main documents in 30 minutes but you ought to spend a little more time to see the exhibits.
How long do I have to wait for a bus?
This will depend on how busy they are, it seems. They advertise 20-30 minutes between buses but based on reviews, during busier times of year (holiday weekends), the wait may be longer.
How long of a pass should I get?
That depends on how many stops you want to explore. Reviews make it seem that 3-4 stops could be done with a 24-hour pass.
Keep in mind, that the buses only run until 5:30 pm, even on weekends. If you want to visit more, get a 48-hour pass. However, be sure to confirm with the company that they are running buses on the two days you want to use.
Past guests have complained that there are certain days they don’t run tours, usually on holidays. See how site list above for how long we recommend at each stop.
How do I know where the pickup spots are?
This is a concern is some of the reviews. Not all the spots are well signed so it is recommended to be observant when getting off the coach but also ask the driver about the pickup.
How long should I plan for the bus tour?
If you were to stay on and never get off, it would take about 2 hours – but we don’t recommend that. At some of the sites, you just cannot see them from the road.
Most of the reviewers suggest around 4 hours to get off at the sites most important to you. If you want to get off at each site and explore, you’ll likely need more than a day!
Which stops should I get off at?
That will vary from each person. However, if you plan on doing the hop on tour during the day and taking their night tour, you can plan it so you don’t do the same things!
The night tour visits the White House, WWII Memorial, FDR & MLK Memorials, Lincoln Vietnam Korea, and the Iwo Jima Memorial. With this tour, you’re on the same bus and guide the entire time and you’ll get off the coach with your guide.
Do you have to start your hop on hop off the tour at Stop One?
No. If you purchased your tickets online you can present your ticket to the driver at any of the 21 stops around the city.
However, if you’re taking the Guided City Tour or the Twilight Bus Tour – this is where you’ll begin. You cannot hop on at any other stop on these two guided tours, only the hop on hop off tour.
Purchase your DC Trails Tickets Here – Get 10% off the prices (discount applied automatically)
Unlike the hop-on, hop-off bus tours, this is a 6-hour bus tour that makes select stops where you will leave the bus and visit sights with a live guide who provides commentary.
There is a lunch stop at the Pentagon City Mall where you can purchase food.
While the length at each stop and the route may vary depending on conditions in the city, your coach and guide will take you to visit:
Reviews are mostly positive on TripAdvisor. Tour guides are generally complimented for their energetic manner, their clear speaking voice and their interesting commentary.
There are many fewer negative reviews for this tour as there are no wait times for the bus. Each stop has a departing time which typically runs on schedule and participants know when to be back at the bus.
Highlighting 5 major sites in the city, DC Trails Twilight Tour takes participants on a night excursion that allows the city’s monuments to light up the trail.
This 3.5-hour tour is narrated by an onboard guide who shares the stories that brought together the nation’s capital.
The tour is held on one of the company’s double-decker buses that feature panoramic windows allowing guests to maximize their viewing opportunities.
These buses are wheelchair accessible and feature an onboard restroom as well as free wi-fi.
This tour is consistently rated very high and is considered a standout experience for anyone visiting the city.
This evening bus tour is very similar to the City Guided Tour, except you will not have a lunch break or visit Arlington National Cemetery.
Their evening tour is undoubtedly the higher-rated of the tours the company has available.
Of the many reviews gathered from both TripAdvisor and Yelp, the Twilight Tour has drawn consistent favor for the guides and general comfort of the tour.
Again, generally, families and couples are the most common embarking on this tour. Parents report bringing children as young as 10 along who also found the trip enjoyable.
Guides are said to be very enthusiastic about the city and even comical. It is noted that each stop is about 20 – 40 minutes wherein the guide will give a detailed account of the destination.
There are a very limited number of negative comments about the night tour. These generally seem to focus on weather conditions which are of course outside of the control of the company.
It should be noted it appears the night tour runs rain or shine, so keep this in mind when scheduling your booking.
Mount Vernon is one of the highlights of the DC area, especially for Presidential history buffs, but it is hard to get to without a car (but not impossible!).
DC Trails offers a great alternative with their Mount Vernon by Bus Tour. In addition to getting a ride, you won’t have to worry about getting tickets or the timed entry visit to the mansion as that is taken care of for you!
You’ll meet the coach at the tour start for a driving tour of Old Town Alexandria (and all its George Washington connections) on the way to Mount Vernon.
Once there, you’ll have time for a self-guided exploratory tour of the grounds, museums and of course, the house.
Read our guide to Mount Vernon as a compliment to this tour.
This unique tour takes participants to the hometown of one of America’s founding fathers, George Washington.
By bus, users will be transported to the fascinating grounds where they will embark on a 5-hour adventure.
Explore Washington’s mansion, surrounding plantation outbuildings, Marsha Washington’s Garden’s, and an excellent gift shop featuring unique treasures.
This living museum features period-dressed actors who bring history to life. Participants will be thrilled to watch as the colonial ways of America’s past are re-enacted.
While there are a limited number of reviews for this tour it comes well recommended.
Reviewers on TripAdvisor share positive experiences about both the driver and staff on the Mount Vernon grounds.
The ride over is said to be relatively short and highlights many landmarks along the way.
There is an option to tour the mansion and outbuildings on a guided or self-guided tour which allows guests to maximize their time.
The tour is said to provide an abundance of knowledge about Washington, some citing the mansion as the better of presidential home tours.
Users describe the re-enactments as both tasteful and entertaining enough to bring along the kids.
DC Trails is located at 478 L’Enfant Plaza SW Washington, DC 20024
L’Enfant Plaza can be a confusing area because that one name “L’Enfant Plaza” can refer to so many things – the Metro station, the mall/food court, the neighborhood, or the actual plaza!
You can use this Google Map to get exact directions from your departure point.
To meet your DC Trails bus and guide, you’ll go to the actual Plaza (note: this area is currently under construction).
This is an easy walk just off Independence Ave SW between 9th and 12th St SW – just opposite the Smithsonian Castle. (see map to the right.)
So if you plan to start your bus tour later in the day, you can easily walk here from the museums on the mall.
If you want to start your day off with the bus tours – and we usually recommend this (see below) – the entrance to L’Enfant Plaza is a 5-minute walk from the 9th and D St SW exit of the L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station (Green/Yellow/Blue/Orange/Silver) –
This exit from the Metro station takes you straight into the concourse of the “plaza mall” – so it’s an indoor walk! You’ll want to exit the Mall through the large glass ceiling!
If when exiting the Metro, you find yourself outside – just turn left around the corner.