Daily Metro trip got you down? Getting around town is certainly much more fun if you’re a tourist. There’s the thrill of trying to figure out if the Orange Line train you’re on goes to the zoo (nope) and whether the “NW” really matters to your GPS (yep). But more than that, tourists get to travel around D.C. using methods many locals have never tried. We slapped on our fanny packs and tested some alternative modes of transport you might consider this summer to spice up your usual route to work.
Old Town Trolley: The guide on the Old Town Trolley tour is a live person, which makes you feel much more awkward about checking your iPhone during the slow parts. But this also means you get to see the guides perform some pretty amazing feats of trivia-nerddom, such as Tour Guide Duke rattling off every embassy as you fly down Embassy Row, or Teacher Fran (her self-bestowed title) reciting the states according to when they entered the union — starting at the end OR the beginning. You can jump on and off the tour as often as you want, and one- or two-day tickets are available. The seats aren’t as comfortable as the bus, but being dazzled by the skills of a driver who can pilot a very awkward, outdated mode of transport near Union Station duringrush hour without having a stroke makes for an interesting ride.
All Hail the Pedicabs: You can spot DC Pedicabs at lots of spots around town. These human-powered rickshawlike rides have no set stops nor prices, but they will pretty much take you anywhere you want to go in the city. (You can also rent them for special events.) For dignity’s sake, try to avoid yelling “WHEEEE!” as you hurtle downhill. And tip well on uphill trips in hot temps.
Potomac Riverboat Company Water Taxi: The Wilson Bridge has gotten a LOT better since its expansion, but it’s still sometimes a traffic nightmare. So, take to the water! Water taxis run regularly from National Harbor, Alexandria and Georgetown, and they all allow you to openly laugh at people stuck on various bridges while you pretend you’re on a private yacht with a bunch of people you don’t happen to know. There’s no tour, unless you count the “ALEXANDRIA IS AWESOME” pseudo-commercial on the National Harbor-Alexandria route (which you can escape by ducking outside). Water taxis are better than the other options presented here because they actually stick to a schedule; however, you can’t get off in the middle of this one.
Open Top Sightseeing Bus: On this London-inspired jaunt, experience the double excitement of getting stuck in gridlock traffic as well as possibly getting decapitated. Unless you work at the Smithsonian, you probably want to take the bus’s Yellow Line, which runs up to the National Cathedral and through Georgetown before coming back to the National Mall. The recorded tour is vague and hilariously stilted: Dupont Circle is “a chic and vibrant area,” and Connecticut Avenue is home to “many luxury apartment buildings.” Heed the warning to duck if you’re sitting up top when you go speeding through the tree-lined streets of Woodley Park and Georgetown — branches go whipping by at unnerving speeds. You can hop off at any point on the route (transfers to other lines are also included); tickets can be bought in one- or two-day increments.