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Favorite Washington DC Attraction: Old Town Trolley Tours

Geoff Wood

Image from EclecticBlogs on Flickr

As I wrote in my last post, we’re heading to Washington DC next month. This trek is an annual event for us and part of the tradition includes a tour around the city on the famed trolleys of Old Town Trolley Tours. The “trolley tour” (as we simply call it) is one of our favorite parts of visiting Washington and we recommend it to friends, family, and pretty much anyone who mentions an upcoming visit that direction.

We took our first trolley tour in 2004 when a friend of my wife’s recommended it. Her advice was that since there is so much to see in Washington the only way to see it all is to take a guided trolley tour. She suggested we do it first so that we get an overview of all the sites as well as the opportunity to scout out the places that we wanted to visit in person later on the trip. We took her advice and enjoyed it so much that we took a second tour on that first trip, this time viewing the monuments in particular by moonlight.

To clarify, Old Town Trolley Tours has a “hop-on, hop-off” model so you can ride the trolley between locations as well. However, we prefer to do the entire loop all at once. It takes a little while but we love listening to the live tour guides who narrate the tour with historical fact and personal anecdotes. Many of them are quite amusing, to boot.

There are several tours in Washington so make sure you choose Old Town Trolley. Our experiences with them have inspired us to take tours in other cities we visit, as well. Specifically, we’ve done the tours in London and Bath in the UK, Dublin, Ireland, and Rome, Italy. Each was with a different tour company and Old Town Trolley in Washington was the best, though the Big Bus Company of London is a close second thanks to the dry humor of the Brit tour guides.

If you’re headed to Washington and ready to take my advice, here are a couple things to note: 

  1. Buy your tickets online ahead of time. The tour is tremendously valuable but the tickets are not cheap. If you buy online you get a discount. Buy tickets here.
  2. If you’re visiting friends who live in Washington, have them sign up for the Hometown Pass. Residents within 50 miles of Washington can register for a free tour pass! So long as they’re riding with a paid-tour guest (you, the visitor) they get to ride for free (brilliant marketing). Register here.

Enjoy your trip!