Review of the Big Bus Night Tour of Washington D.C.

Posted By Allison on Jan 24, 2018

This post may contain affiliate and sponsored links. We donate 10% of our sales commissions to charity.


Last fall, I had the opportunity to take a trip to Washington D.C. with my husband. He is a principal and his school received a national award, which was very exciting! We left the kids at home for this trip, and took the opportunity to try a few new activities.

My husband and a teacher from his school were in meetings during the day, so evening was the best time for them to explore the city. The teacher and her husband joined us on the Big Bus Night Tour of Washington D.C. and it was a fun group activity. We enjoyed dinner together in one of the restaurants at Union Station afterward, and agreed that the Big Bus Night Tour was one of the highlights of the trip.

You can see pretty much everything from the Big Bus Night Tour on foot for free. The National Mall remains open to the public after dark. We have found Washington D.C.’s Metro system to be reliable and affordable. However, there are a few good reasons we chose a Big Bus Night Tour over the DIY approach.

Here’s why we liked the Big Bus Night Tour of Washington D.C. and my tips for making the most of it.

Review of the Big Bus Night Tour of Washington D.C. | | family travel | vacation ideas

Why take a Big Bus Night Tour?

Washington D.C. looks different at night. All the famous monuments like the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial are lit. Well-known buildings like the U.S. Capitol Building and the White House are as well.

Nighttime temperatures are a lot nicer in the summer, and fairly mild the rest of the year. We took our tour in early November.

The Big Bus Night Tour of Washington D.C. helped us cover a lot of ground in less time. All the major monuments and buildings on the tour are within walking distance of each other, but it’s miles of walking to see them all.

I usually like to walk, and covered 5-10 miles per day at monuments and museums on this trip. After all that walking during the day, it was nice to see the famous landmarks beautifully lit at night without adding extra miles to my tired legs and feet.

The monuments are pretty safe at night because they are still crowded with visitors. We have walked downtown and in other parts of Washington D.C. after dark with no problems. Nevertheless, it’s always good to be cautious when visiting an unfamiliar city at night. The Big Bus Night Tour is a safe way to explore the city after dark.

Finally, it’s fun to have a live tour guide. Our Big Bus guide was informative and entertaining. If you enjoy the tour, your guide will appreciate a cash tip at the end.

Review of the Big Bus Night Tour of Washington D.C. | | family travel | vacation ideas

Day Tour vs. Night Tour

Big Bus offers day tours and night tours in Washington D.C. and one big difference is that the Night Tour does not let you hop-on/hop-off. During the day, you can get off one Big Bus, spend as much time sightseeing as you like and then board another Big Bus.

On the Night Tour, you board the bus at a scheduled time, drive around the city with a guide, and return to Union Station two hours later. The Night Tour includes a stop at Lincoln Memorial where we had the chance to get out and see Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Memorial up close.

Review of the Big Bus Night Tour of Washington D.C. | | family travel | vacation ideas

What you get

The Big Bus Night Tour leaves from two locations each evening. We left from Union Station, which is a sightseeing opportunity on its own. It’s a beautiful building and great place for shopping and dining. It’s a Metro stop too. The other location is the Willard Hotel, near the White House.

Rain ponchos and ear buds are complimentary. The weather was rainy during our trip, but we wanted to sit on the top of our double-decker Big Bus. The rain poncho was nice to have, just in case.

We were sitting just a few seats from our guide, but couldn’t hear him well without the ear buds. His microphone and the ear buds ensured that everyone on the bus could hear the tour. The tour is available in several different languages.

Review of the Big Bus Night Tour of Washington D.C. | | family travel | vacation ideas

Tour highlights

Big Bus uses bright red double-decker buses, and we loved sitting on top in the open air. The weather was rainy and chilly that night, so some passengers were glad to sit below. The bus stops frequently so passengers can take photos from their seats.

We drove all around the National Mall and the Tidal Basin. We saw the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, National WWII Memorial,  White House, Capitol Building, several Smithsonian Museums and many others. Near the end of the tour, we disembarked to visit the Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Memorial on foot.

Our guide shared lots of interesting facts about all the most famous landmarks, as well as a number of sites that were new to me. He also had a sense of humor and teased us about snakes and bats in the trees of the National Mall (there aren’t any.)


There are several good ways to buy tickets for the Big Bus Night Tour of Washington D.C. Night Tour tickets can be purchased on their own, or bundled with the Hop-on, Hop-off Day Tour and other D.C. activities.


You can buy tickets for all Big Bus tours at Save 10% on the Deluxe Ticket when you buy online. Click the button to see all your options on the Big Bus Tours website.

Explorer Pass

The Washington D.C. Explorer Pass is a great way to save up to 40% on activities like Big Bus Tours, Mount Vernon, International Spy Museum, Newseum, Madame Tussaud’s and more. I bought the 3-Choices Explorer Pass before my trip. Between Explorer Pass and all the free activities in Washington D.C., I had lots of fun things to do.

We didn’t know my husband’s itinerary before the trip, and he ended up doing the Newseum and Big Bus Night Tour with me. He paid $65 at the door for two activities, while I paid $54 for those two, plus one more with Explorer Pass. Visit or click the button below for more information about Explorer Pass.


I bought my Explorer Pass before the trip, but I bought same-day tickets for the rest of my group. There are a couple of Big Bus booths inside the lobby of Union Station where you can purchase tickets anytime.

Got a question about the Big Bus Night Tour of Washington D.C. that’s not answered in the post? Ask in the comments or email me at [email protected]

Allison on EmailAllison on FacebookAllison on InstagramAllison on Pinterest
Hi there! I am the founder of Tips for Family Trips. I am a married mom of two children, ages 10 and 12, living near Salt Lake City, Utah. We took our first child on a two-week road trip when she was four weeks old and we have been traveling as a family ever since. We love to get out of the house to see and do fun things, both far away and in our own neighborhood.


  1. Do the night bus tours sell out quickly or is it easy to buy tickets at Union Station the night you want to ride? Do you know the start time?

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Kerry. I rode in November, which was the off-season. I reserved our tour just a few hours in advance, and there were empty seats on our bus. Tours may fill more quickly in the spring and summer, but more tours are available during those months. Typical tour time is 7 pm from Union Station, but it can change when Daylight Savings Time ends in November (that’s what happened to us.)

      Post a Reply

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.