Jefferson Memorial Lake

Unforgettable Self-Guided Bike Tour in Washington DC at Night

Washington DC has some of the weirdest perceptions, like “everything is free”. Truly, you will be amazed and the number of things you can just walk into without being charged. But then when you try to eat, sleep or get around, everything costs double what it normally would.

Tours are a perfect example. There are plenty around the city. You can take a Bus, Bike, Scooter or Segway to see all the historical sights.

But what if you could do it yourself? Oh yeah, you can! Here is how I took at Self-Guided Bike Tour in Washington DC of Monuments at Night for less than $8 per person.

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The Self-Guided Bike Tour in Washington DC of the Monuments at Night

Start by finding a reputable but inexpensive bike rental company. Biking is a great way to see just about everything! My preferred rental company and by far the cheapest is Capital Bikeshare.

They have a 30-minute time limit but you can’t beat their price of $8 pass for 24hrs. You can rent scooters too, but they cost a little more.

Washington DC is so much fun to see, especially at night when everything is lit up. That’s why I recommend starting at dusk to see it all. The other benefit of going at night is that you’ll have the sidewalks to yourself. The other alternative is to do it at daybreak.

You can start just about anywhere on the t Self-Guided Bike Tour in Washington DC, depending on what you want to see, but here is the route we did. It ended up getting some of the most amazing light.

Capital Bikeshare is just one of the great public transportation programs running downtown. It’s a great way to see more of the city! Check out more great ways to get around Washington DC.

Stop 1: Get Your Bike

First things first, pick up a bike at the station right out front of the Washington Monument. Don’t worry, we’ll end our tour here too so you can get pictures before or after. Go west toward the WWII Memorial.

I started my journey around 7 pm in May and found the light to be perfect.

Capitol Bikes on the Washington DC Mall

Stop 2: WWII Memorial

The WWII Memorial is one of the most recent additions to the Mall. Between the Washington Monument and the reflecting pool, the monument was not as accessible by bike.

During dusk, with its proximity to water, it was a little buggier. But still impressive to see.

The area will still be busy, so hang on to your bikes and walk them over.

WWII Memorial in Self-Guided Bike Tour in Washington DC
Image Source: Pixbay

Stop 3: Korean War and Vietnam Memorial

The Vietnam Memorial is right next to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Dock your bikes at the nearby stations and wander around the memorial.

At the time of my visit, the Rolling Thunder bike rally was holding a candlelight visual, so I wasn’t able to get too close to it. Normally, the memorial is lit up at night.

At around 7 pm, you’ll have some great reflective light.

Vietnam Memorial wall at night
Image by HarmonyRae licensed under Creative Commons.

Stop 4: Lincoln Memorial (just after sunset)

Try to time your visit to the Lincoln Memorial as the sun is going down. This way, you’ll get the full effects of the reflecting pond. After that, go around the Lincoln Memorial.

It’s something that most people don’t realize you can do. Walking around the columns, you’ll be able to get a view of the entire capital.

Lincoln Memorial
Reflecting Pond at the Washington Monument
Lincoln Memorial Abe
Sunset at the Lincoln Memorial

Stop 5: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Pick up a bike again at the bike station just south of the Lincoln Memorial off of Donald French Drive and head east on Independence Avenue.

At this time of night, most people are going back to their hotels for the night, so you’ll have the sidewalks to yourself.

It’s the best part of the Self-Guided Bike Tour in Washington DC Cross the street at West Drive and walk your bikes to the Martin Luther King Memorial.

It’s feet from the sidewalk, so you won’t have to walk far.

Martin Luther King Memorial
Image Source: Pixbay

Stop 6: FDR Memorial

This is where things get tricky. Follow the next sidewalk around the Tidal Basin. There are a series of sidewalks you can bike on through the trees. And another set right up next to the lake.

The lake trail is not intended for bikes, so pick the one to the right. You’ll wander right into the Japanese Pagoda area and the FDR Memorial.

Watch out for the signs telling you to walk your bikes. It sneaks up on you when it’s dark. Thankfully, the bikes have headlights.

There is a bike dock near Ohio Drive and West Basin Drive if you want to spend more time there. Otherwise, you should be able to walk your bike through the monument.

The FDR Memorial at night

Stop 7: Thomas Jefferson Memorial

The crown jewel of the entire ride is Thomas Jefferson Memorial. There is a bike dock outside of the monument. If you are getting close to your 30-minute time limit, this is a good place to dock.

I enjoyed this memorial more than Lincoln because there are little to no crowds here. It was beautifully done and gave some of the best views of the city.

After that, you’ll be passing by the Borough of Engraving and Printing. It’s an amazing tour to take during the day.

Jefferson Memorial
Inside Jefferson Memorial

Stop 8: Washington Monument

Grab a bike again from the same place you dropped them off and continue around the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. We got lost in the construction and picked up bikes at the next location. BIG MISTAKE.

The next bike station is in the heart of the Mall and at this time of night, almost impossible to find a bike.

By this time, you’ll be able to see the Washington Monument again all lit up. You can either conclude your tour here as you’ve made the full loop or continue on a few blocks north to the White House.

Washington Monument Daylight

Stop 9: The White House

The White House can be biked around completely for a look at both the front and the back. Stay on 15th Street and turn right onto Pennsylvania Ave.

Then back south on 17th street and around to see the back. At this time of night, there will not be many people on the street.

White House at Night

Image by The White House licensed under Creative Commons.

Capital Bike Share Tips at Night

Before you leave a dock on your Self-Guided Bike Tour in Washington DC, note the time you left. You’ll have 30 minutes per ride, then you’ll have to doc the bike, and take another one out after 1 minute.

Unless you are familiar with the area, I recommend planning on getting to your next dock within 20-25 minutes in case you have trouble finding it. You can download the Capital Bikeshare app to help you navigate.

In DC, they limit light pollution and rely on memorials to light up the streets. That means there are little to no sidewalk lights. This makes things a little harder around the Tidal Basin area.

Take things slow and make sure you have a flashlight, just in case. The Capital Bikeshare bikes have a flashing light on the front that helps, but it is more so people and sees you.

There were times we ended up using our phone’s flashlight to help us navigate around.

Do not let go of your bike around the Washington Monument. This time of night is when everyone is tired after a long day, there are little to no bikes available. Even if you end up having to spend a few extra dollars to keep the bikes, it’s worth it.

Traditional Tours Options

If you are really not into biking or directions are challenging, you can check out these tours:

Washington DC Moonlit Tour of the National Mall is a great alternative for those who don’t want to mess with the bike. They narrate the trip and give you plenty of time to take in all the attractions.

Washington DC Monuments by Moonlight Electric Cart Tour is a smaller private affair. It’s a two-hour tour with a small group.

See the City Segway Tour of DC. These are just too fun to not do.

If you are unsure of doing it on your own or don’t want to mess around with the Capital Bike Share’s 30-minute limit, sign up for a traditional daylight tour. Washington DC Monuments Bike Tour has the lowest prices guaranteed.

Bike tours will sell out. Make sure to reserve one with Washington DC Monuments Bike Tour before you leave!

Only have an hour

If you don’t want to do a full-blown t Self-Guided Bike Tour in Washington DC at Night, just do a miniature version. Hit up the 4. Start at the Washington Monument and work your way to the Lincoln Memorial.

Stopping at the WWII Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial Wall. Have fun and enjoy some more of the best parts of Washington DC. To see all the monuments it took closer to 2 hrs.

Taking a t Self-Guided Bike Tour in Washington DC is a great way to save a few dollars and see the things that are important to you. For more tips on budget-friendly public transportation options check out: Getting Around Washington DC on a Budget with Public Transportation.

There is no rush unless you are trying to get your bike docked, and you can keep going if things don’t interest you. But in DC, it’s hard to go wrong. If all else fails, you always can always UBER back at any point.

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