Note: Some tour providers on this list may have limited or ceased operations due to COVID-19. Check with your tour operator about availability before you book.
With a bustling food and arts scene and a rich history that spans both the city and its surrounding neighborhoods, Washington, D.C., boasts plenty of attractions to keep visitors entertained throughout their stay. With so much to do and see, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. A bus tour of the nation’s capital may be just the ticket to get your bearings. These companies, identified by U.S. News as the top operators using both traveler sentiment and expert input, offer a variety of tour options. No matter which outfitter you choose, you’ll visit the famous government buildings, monuments, war memorials, museums and other sights for which the city is known.
Old Town Trolley offers a 90-minute tour to view the city’s top sights, such as the White House, the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the Smithsonian museums, among others. There is one 30-minute stop at the Lincoln Memorial so travelers can explore on their own. The tour also includes live narration by a guide, which is generally deemed interesting and informative by reviewers.
Tours typically run daily except for major holidays and events (such as the Marine Corps Marathon). Buses depart hourly between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily from the downtown Washington Welcome Center. Old Town Trolley offers two ticket tiers. The silver pass (which costs around $50 per person) grants visitors one tour on the trolley. For around $65, the gold pass supplements the silver pass service with an additional tour loop through Virginia’s Arlington National Cemetery. Discounted tickets for children are available for all tiers.
Old Town Trolley Tours – Monuments by Moonlight Tour
In addition to its daytime tours, Old Town Trolley Tours offers visitors the option of exploring the nation’s capital at night. As you travel through the city streets, you’ll view memorials and monuments aglow while hearing stories of Washington’s past. There are several stops along the 2 1/2-hour tour for travelers to stretch their legs, snap photos and see the monuments up close. Tour-takers rave about this excursion, saying they had a great time and appreciate the friendly guide’s commentary. Tours depart nightly year-round at 7:30 p.m. from the Washington Welcome Center in downtown. Prices start at $45 for adults and $33 for children 4 to 12; you may be able to get discounted tickets by buying them online.
USA Guided Tours – Best of DC VIP Tour
Tour-takers tend to appreciate trips with USA Guided Tours for their knowledgeable guides and the frequent stops for photos at D.C.’s must-see sights. The company’s Best of DC VIP Tour includes guided stops at multiple D.C. attractions, including the White House exterior and the National World War II Memorial. Tours last approximately 8 1/2 hours and run daily. Tickets cost around $125 per person and include lunch and entry to the International Spy Museum From April through mid-October, this tour also features a boat ride on the Potomac. The shorter (5 1/2-hour) DC Deluxe Tour also features a tour of the Capitol and a bus tour around the National Mall, but excludes lunch. Tickets start at $89 for adults and $69 for children.
USA Guided Tours – DC at Dusk
USA Guided tours also runs a popular nighttime tour of the city. Along the three-hour journey, guides provide insight about the history of the area and take you off the bus at each stop to see the sights. Along the way, you’ll see the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, among other sights. Seeing the city at night is an exceptional treat, according to reviewers. They add that the guides are informative and make the experience fun. Tickets start at $58 for adults and $44 for children. Rides depart nightly at 7:30 p.m. from the U.S. Navy Memorial.