DC Circulator bus in Washington, DC – Photo by mkopka

Everything You Need to Know about Using the DC Circulator with Kids

We’re answering the most important questions about how to ride the DC Circulator National Mall route as a family. It just might be the most important part of your transportation plan to save your legs and help make sure you actually see all the sites on the National Mall.

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DC Circulator buses are scheduled to arrive every 10 minutes. The DC Circulator National Mall route operates on a seasonal schedule below. There are sometimes delays during peak seasons, but you can check NextBus to see an estimate of when the next bus should arrive. Open our Ultimate Family Map of DC and find your stop. Our map tells you what to put in the NextBus fields to get the information you’re looking for.

Winter Hours (Oct -Mar): Weekdays 7 am – 7 pm; Weekends 9 am – 7 pm
Summer Hours (Apr-Sept): Weekdays 7 am – 8 pm; Weekends 9 am – 8pm

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All rides are only $1! Seniors/Disabled ride for 50 cents, and children under 5 years old ride free with a paying adult. (More information on free transfers from the Metro system and how to pay is below.)

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Strollers are welcome on the Circulator buses but are limited to two open strollers on one bus at the same time. You can ask the driver to “kneel” the bus, so it is easier to get on, but most drivers will do this automatically when they see a stroller or wheelchair needs to board. The maximum stroller size is 48″ long by 24″ wide. Please check out this link for even more information about using strollers on the Circulator Bus.

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Circulator buses are air-conditioned and can be a welcome reprieve from the summer heat!

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Service animals are allowed on the Circulator.

Where does the DC Circulator Stop?

The Circulator has six routes that can take you to places throughout Washington, DC. (Seven routes, if you count the Zoo Express Bus which runs during the summer months.)

Today, we’re going to focus on the National Mall route as that is the one most used by tourists and families visiting DC.

The DC Circulator National Mall route stops at 17 places (all are included on our Ultimate Family Map of the National Mall).

The most important thing to remember when planning to use the Circulator is to catch the bus that is heading in the direction you want to go, which is the same way that the Metro system works too. The route and final destination (the direction the bus is heading) is in LED lights on the front of every bus).

Starting at Union Station and Heading towards Lincoln Memorial

Union Station

National Gallery of Art

National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

National Museum of American History / National Museum of Natural History

Washington Monument / National Museum of African American History and Culture

Holocaust Memorial Museum / Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial / Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

Lincoln Memorial / Korean War Veterans Memorial

Starting at the Lincoln Memorial and Heading towards Union Station

Lincoln Memorial / Korean War Veterans Memorial

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

World War II Memorial / Constitution Gardens

Washington Monument / National Museum of African American History and Culture

Smithsonian Visitor Center

National Air and Space Museum / Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

United States Capitol / National Museum of the American Indian/U.S. Botanic Garden

Union Station

How Do You Pay for the Circulator Bus in Washington, DC?

What is the fare? Is the DC Circulator free? 

All rides are only $1! Seniors/Disabled ride for 50 cents, and children under 5 years old ride free with a paying adult.

Although the DC Circulator is not usually free, it can be IF you are transferring to the Circulator from the Metro AND using your Metro SmartTrip card to pay AND you’re making that transfer within 2 hours. This will be the case if you are exiting the Metro at the Smithsonian Mall Metro Station to catch the Circulator to visit the Lincoln Memorial for example.

How do you pay your fare?

You can pay with cash (must use exact change as bus drivers do not carry cash) or your Metro SmartTrip card.

If you are going to be touring DC for seven days, then you might want to look into the 7-day WMATA Regional Bus Pass that allows unlimited rides on the DC Circulator, MetroBus, and other bus systems.

What is the DC Circulator Schedule?

The Circulator is scheduled to come by every 10 minutes. The National Mall route operates according to the seasonal schedule below. We have found the absolute easiest way to get around DC using public transportation is by using the Citymapper app. It’s free and gives you step-by-step instructions and tracks the next bus/train/etc in real-time.

If you’d rather use the Circulator’s suggestion, you can track the next bus to come using the Nextbus App here. Our Ultimate Family Map of the National Mall tells you exactly what to put into the Nextbus App fields for each stop.

Winter Hours (October -March ): Weekdays 7 am – 7 pm; Weekends 9 am – 7 pm
Summer Hours (April-September): Weekdays 7 am – 8 pm; Weekends 9 am – 8pm