All politics aside, DC has our vote for one of the most friendly urban camping cities in the northeast region.
What traveler can contest the free museums, more of them that one could see in a single visit? Or the presidential monuments and array of ancient Egyptian, Greek, Romanesque, medieval, and modern architecture that span the city blocks?
Every nook of the city is bursting with visual stimuli. From Stikman underfoot to the cylindrical Hirshhorn museum. Massive street murals in the local neighborhoods, and avenues of brick row houses and Edwardian style homes around the vibrant traffic circles. Even Union Station is decorated with Roman columns and statues fit for…err, parking.
So, if you’ve put off seeing DC because you’re not sure that it’s a spot you’d like to wrangle your home on wheels around, then read on. We’ve put together some helpful tips for our fellow RVing friends and those found art lovers in search of the U.S. capital city, Washington, DC.
Union Station Downtown DC
This is an over-sized vehicle and RV parking garage used mainly for tourist buses, however they also allow motorhomes to park here as well. Camping inside your RV is not permitted, however we did it anyway. There’s 24 hour security and you’re steps from the inside of Union Station, bathrooms, coffee, and free WiFi.
This RV Parking spot puts you directly in the heart of the city, across the street from the capital right on a Metro line. Location is everything, so you’ll pay. Great for a day trip parking space or if you have hotel reservations, you can park your big rig here safely and easily.
Option 1 (What we did):
Day: 7am-7pm = $20.00
Night: 7pm-7am = $10.00
Space is NOT guaranteed.
Option 2: 24 hour Reservation = $50.00
Guaranteed slip with in and out privileges.
In our opinion, it’s too much for not really allowing you to sleep there.
RV Street Camping Plan Gets Scrapped
We ended up at Union Station because our first plan to street camp, took an unexpected turn. That afternoon, we drove around, scoping out street camp spots and found a cozy neighborhood in the Northwest side of the city (shown in the above photo). The area was clean, we could walk easily to a metro station and we found a parking spot under a tree and near a community park. Yup, looked good.
However, while still inside, taking five to relax, a group of curious kids started hanging around the motorhome. It was no big until we overheard two of them plotting to ‘get’ our bikes. Bummer. As we sat and watched them through our tinted house windows, a small group of them ventured around to the front, to the un-tinted cab window. They spotted us inside.
Not to appear threatened, I waved. That gesture turned into an invite and in seconds we were giving a tour of the Cheddar Yeti to fifteen rambunctious kids. Not sure why but, we let them peek inside and answered dozens of personal questions. Most of the kids thought it was rad that we lived in this ‘thing’ and traveled all over the place. But, a most were a bit skeptical, still. They couldn’t believe there was a bathroom inside and that we traveled with a cat!
So, after the Q&A tour, we nicely waved good-by and watched them mozy down the street until they disappeared. We hoped that somehow we might have inspired those kids to set out on an adventure of their own someday… but, we didn’t stick around to find out. We decided to scrap our street camping plan and head down to the Union Station parking garage.
Campgrounds Near DC
Pohick Bay Regional RV Park and Campground
This is a nicely wooded campground in Virgina about 30 miles from the city where we stayed before going into DC. It has beautiful hiking trails, boating and fishing, laundry, fire pits, tables, WiFi… well, all the good camp stuff. However, it was not close enough to the train to make it a good urban camp spot for us. You’d need a car to get to the nearest station or the city, from this park.
So, for $31.50 per night, go if you want to enjoy the park offerings or if you have a car to take you into the city.
6501 Pohick Bay Drive Lorton, VA 22079
(703) 339-8585 More Information
Greenbelt RV Park
Greenbelt park is OUR FAVORITE camp spot for seeing DC. It’s close to the University of Maryland metro stop, it’s inexpensive, and has hiking trails. We stayed here on our last Washington, DC trip, and loved it. But, on this trip we needed to check out the other options available in the area, and we did and this is still the best choice. Next time, we’ll be back here again, without a doubt.
Park hours: Open seven days a week, 8 a.m. to dusk. Year-round.
Park Headquarters: (301) 344-3948 Ranger Station: (301) 344-3944
Space type/surroundings: Back in and pull through spaces.
Facilities: NONE on site. Pull through water and dump facilities available.
Cost: $16.00 per night
About Those Free Museums.. and Beyond
When we hit DC, we usually pick just two or three of the free museums to see. Call us unambitious but, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Plus, there is so much outside of the national mall area and outside of the buildings, you need to leave yourself time to stumble across some of these gems.
Eating near the National Mall: All those free museums are rad, but don’t expect to find many places to grab a good bite near by. The museum cafe’s are expensive and the plentiful hot dog carts aren’t that great. Plan to hit the museums after lunch or bring your own and eat in one of the many gardens near by.
Did you know that Pulaski Park (Freedom Plaza) is a giant street map of the capital city downtown region? From above, you can see it’s a replica of the streets in downtown DC. Complete with a grass patch marking the national mall and a marker for the capital and the White House. Go ahead, check it out in Google maps.
On this visit we spent a fair amount of time in the Hirshhorn Museum, the Suprasensorial exhibit with neon lights drew us in. Interactive art is always a plus in our book, intentional or not. You can see, Dennis enjoyed channeling Francis Bacon’s work.
We also stumbled upon a natural spring outside the capital building. The Summerhouse Grotto was mysterious to us, there were no plaques telling of its origin and it seemed out-of-place. Regardless, we drank from the spring fountains and peaked through the iron fence at what looked like an ancient, undisturbed secret well. Could this be the secret “light” spring that appeared in the TV show, “Lost?”
If you need a little help, you can check out this cool DC Art App, ArtAround. ArtAround is an interactive, inside-out museum for public art in DC. Get the scoop on everything from murals, monuments, and street art to galleries, museums, and events…
So, we hope you enjoy our nations capital as much as we have. Enjoy your travels!