How to get to National Harbor from Washington, DC

Even though National is in the name, National Harbor isn’t actually in Washington, DC. In fact, it can be a trek to get to and from but there are a few options to get there via public transportation.

 

What is National Harbor?

Celebrating its tenth year, National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland just outside of Washington, DC has a lot to offer visitors! Choose from over 30 restaurants, ride the Capital Wheel, shop in a variety of stores, try your luck at the MGM National Harbor casino, or check out what’s happening at the Gaylord Convention Center, there’s always something on.

Getting to National Harbor can be a bit tricky if you don’t have a car so this post will explain all of the ways you can get there from DC.

HOW TO TAKE PUBLIC TRANSIT TO NATIONAL HARBOR

From Washington, DC there are a couple of ways you can take public transit to National Harbor. This will be the most cost effective way of getting there and also the most timely. Keep that in mind when you are planning ahead–especially on the weekends when the metro and bus systems run less frequently.

Use WMATA

Option one is to take the green line metro train to Southern Ave Metrorail Station and transfer to the NH1 bus line. From here, the NH1 bus line will service the Rivertowne Commons Shopping Center, Oxon Hill Park & Ride/Tanger Outlets, MGM National Harbor, and Downtown National Harbor. Use your SmartTrip card to ride both the metro train and bus. When using your card, your fare will be reduced upon entering the bus from the metro train.

Option two is to take the yellow line metro train to Huntington Metrorail Station (if coming from the south) or King Street-Old Town Metrorail Station if coming from DC. At either of these stations you can transfer to the NH2 bus line which will then service Carlyle, Oxon Hill Park & Ride/Tanger Outlets, MGM National Harbor, and Downtown National Harbor. Again, use your SmartTrip card to ride both the metro train and bus. When using your card, your fare will be reduced upon entering the bus from the metro train.


Take the Alexandria Water Taxi

If it’s a nice day, taking the water taxi from Old Town Alexandria (Virginia) to National Harbor can be an added bonus. Keep in mind that this is time consuming and involves multiple steps but will most likely be less expensive than driving and parking and a great alternative if you do not have access to a car.

From Washington, DC, take the yellow line metro to the King Street-Old Town Metrorail Station. From here, you can transfer to the free King Street Trolley that makes stops every 2-3 blocks along King Street in Old Town. The trolley runs daily every 10-15 minutes; Sunday-Wednesday from 10:30am-10:30pm and Thursday-Saturday from 10:30am-12am. Get off the trolley at the very last eastbound stop.

Walk the short distance to the Potomac Riverboat Company where you will purchase tickets for the water taxi.

Tickets

Roundtrip: $17/adult; $11/child

One-way: $10/adult; $7/child

Reservations can be made online ahead of time and are encouraged. If you need to change your return time you can do so at the ticket booth based on availability. The water taxi is about a 35 minute ride from Alexandria to National Harbor. The first stop is at the Gaylord after 30 minutes and then it’s an additional 5 minutes to National Harbor. The taxi runs numerous times throughout the day, though timing between ferries isn’t consistent and the schedules differ per day of the week. Click here for a full ferry schedule.


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OTHER TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS TO NATIONAL HARBOR

Drive and Park

Driving to National Harbor will most likely be the most convenient but also the most costly. National Harbor offers three covered parking garages; Fleet, Mariner, and St. George garages. The Fleet garage is the most suitable parking garage if you’re interested in visiting the Capital Wheel, Carousel, or Tanger Outlets, as the garage offers free shuttle service to the outlets. All garages offer the same pricing:

  • 0-2 hours $5
  • 2-4 hours $12
  • 4-24 hours $20
  • Flat rate from 8pm-4am $12

The simplest driving directions from DC are to take I-295 South for approximately 5.5 miles (~9 km) and then take exit 1B for National Harbor.


Metro and Taxi

Another option that might suit you is taking the yellow line metro train to the King Street-Old Town Metrorail station in Alexandria and then getting a taxi/Lyft/Uber. Depending on traffic and surge pricing, the drive should be roughly 15 minutes from the station and will cost approximately $12-$18.


Ride a Bike!

If it’s a beautiful day and you’re feeling fit, you can take a bike path to National Harbor! Take the Mount Vernon Trail and then take the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trail (near Jones Point Park) into National Harbor.

 


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HOW TO GET AROUND NATIONAL HARBOR ONCE YOU’RE THERE

National Harbor Circulator

The circulator at National Harbor runs between the areas hot spots every day of the year. It makes stops at the Waterfront District (shops, restaurants, Capital Wheel), Gaylord National, Tanger Outlets, and MGM Resort & Casino. Tickets are $5 for an all day pass; cash and credit card are accepted. The circulator runs from Sunday-Thursday from 11am-10:15pm and Friday-Saturday from 11am-1am.

For a complete circulator schedule, click here.


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About the author

Canden is a historian and tour guide in Washington DC with 3 published books about the city. She has written for HuffPost Travel and has been featured in the Washington Post, WTOP, and numerous other DC papers. She's also been interviewed by the Travel Channel and Discovery Family Channel. Canden is the host of our podcast, Tour Guide Tell All

With a M.A. in History from University College London and a B.A. in History from Elon University, she is an authority on D.C. history, and has led tours in the city for over 10 years. She currently resides in DC, but has also lived in London and South Korea, and has travelled to 25 countries. Her two children (both under the age of 3) have their passports and own frequent flier accounts.