I might not get around to posting about our entire short but packed weekend trip to Washington DC with all four kids. (I will try because it was actually fantastic in so many surprising ways.) What I want to talk about today, though, is the best last minute decision we made.
Touring the monuments via scooter. Yes. I said scooter.
If you live in a city that has not yet adopted the shared scooter trend, then you have not been subjected to downtown sidewalks virtually littered with these black and white, sometimes green, and sometimes pink, electric stand-up scooters. If you had been on the National Mall on Tuesday morning, however, and seen my entire family, doubled-up two-by-two, cruising around like freak tourists, you might have felt a pang of jealousy that this wasn’t you.
And rightly so, because it was exactly as fun as it looked. And because more than one person tried to ask us (as we whizzed by) where to get one, it seemed appropriate to write up a quick how-to on this whole thing.
The distance between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial is just under a mile. For an average adult, this is a brisk 15 minute walk. For a family with four kids, this is a nightmare. Even just walking the National Mall (with all the Smithsonian museums) is a hefty order for a 5 year old, who, by the way, handled it like a super hero.
No matter where you are in DC, you will have daily views of the giant pencil and maybe also Lincoln and Jefferson’s mansion-like monuments. Seeing them up close is pretty amazing, but John and I originally decided, not ultimately worth the work.
There are a couple different scooter companies you will see represented in and around DC, evidenced simply by the scooters themselves next to buildings, lying on sidewalks, shoved in doorways, or discarded on random patches of grass. How do they work? Well, locate a scooter, snag it, unlock and pay for it with an app, and then when you are done, leave it for someone else.
Had we planned it a little better, we could have saved quite a bit of time and a little bit of money by figuring all this out in advance. So here is my gift to you.
Step One: Download the Shared Scooter Apps
There were a couple different brands of scooters that we saw most often around the city. My advice is to have the app for as many scooter companies as possible, because you never know what will be available near you. Here are the most common:
- LYFT – use this link for $5 in ride credit upon sign up. Enter the promo code LYFTSTER18 for another $5 toward two more rides.
- BIRD – Use promo code VKQRAEO for a free ride.
- LIME – Use this link to get $3 off your first ride.
- SKIP – No promo codes.
For my local readers, Lime is all over North Carolina, including Winston-Salem, Greensboro, the Triangle, and Charlotte. Bird is also available in downtown Winston.
Also, there are some rules. When you first sign up, many of these apps will require you to put in your driver’s license (by scanning the barcode on the back). I assume this is both to prove you are 18 years old and because these are technically “vehicles” which drive on the road and are subjected to traffic laws. I think the enforcement of these laws will depend on the city in which you use the scooter, but in DC, shared scooter savvy seemed very relaxed. They might also say you must wear a helmet, but again, look around. No one is really wearing helmets on them.
Step Two: Find a Scooter & Scan to Unlock
If you see a scooter lying on the ground, as long as no one has locked it (to reserve it while they run inside somewhere) you can just snag it. Otherwise, every single app has a scooter locator built in to help you find available scooters. If the locator shows a scooter is somewhere close to a building but you don’t see it, odds are, someone has brought it inside the building to save it without paying. If it is evening, they might also be getting paid to charge it.
Once you’ve got a scooter, the app is pretty easy to use. Just follow the directions on your screen to unlock it. To ride, kick off and use the right handle bar to get the motor going. The brakes are on the left handle bar. The mechanics are a little different on each scooter but all are equally simple. My 9 year old figured it out on her own. When you are finished riding, you hit “end your ride” and take a picture of the scooter.
Some Nuts and Bolts
COST: all scooters are pretty much $1 to unlock and then $0.15 a minute to ride. To break it down for cost benefit analysis, just think, you are renting the thing for $9 an hour. Totally worth it for touring the monuments with 4 kids and avoiding the metro, Ubers, or walking so much.
WARNING: One thing we learned is that the scooter apps will drain your phone battery pretty quickly. We avoided this by doing a hard shut down of the app once we had unlocked the scooter.
Our Shared Scooter Monument Tour
We ended up getting three scooters and doubling up on them, which was as adorable as it was illegal. We had to use two different brands of scooters in order to reserve three. I rode with Carter in the back of the line, John had Avery up at the front, and Eliott doubled with Isaiah in the middle. It was hilarious. Lots of pointing, laughing, smiles, and questions of “Where do we get those?”
Nothing less than the circus we usually are in public, and so much fun. Doubling up. Kids on scooters. Maybe not entirely allowed, but hard to know. Will leave these questions for another day.
It was a brisk but sunny morning, and I’m glad I made all the kids grab their jackets. We left from our hotel (the Homewood Suites by Hilton, on “M” street) and cruised down by the Capitol, out to the Washington Monument, all the way past the Holocaust Memorial, and out to the Lincoln Memorial. Also, though a break from walking, electric scootering is a bit of a surprising work out. We were all pretty tired when we got in the car to leave.
As you can see on this map, it would have been nearly a 2 hour walk. Along the route, we had fantastic views of the Capitol and the Supreme Court, one amazing shot of the White House from a distance, and of course we rode through one part of the National Mall, with all the Smithsonian Museums, which we had walked the entire length of on our first day. One thing I will note is that I do not believe you are allowed to leave scooters on the National Mall. None can be found lying around there, and if you try to end your ride and lock your scooter on the Mall, it will say you are “outside the approved zone” and will charge you $25 extra.
This was our final morning in DC and we accomplished all of this before check-out. From start to finish it was a little more than a hour, and we spent about $10 per scooter. Maybe the best $30 we spent in DC all weekend. Seriously.
The shared-scooter craze is relatively new and many people have not jumped on it yet. If there is anything I can encourage you to do, it would be to plan part of your Washington DC sightseeing via scooter.
To get a more up close and personal experience of the ride itself, I, of course, took a couple videos. View them here. Quick note: I was riding with Carter who was panicking for most of the ride, just positive we were going to wreck or fall off. This, in and of itself, was half of my fun that morning. In the first video, when she discovered I was filming, she promptly grabbed the brake and brought us to an almost complete stop.
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