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Travel Directions To/From the U.S. Naval Observatory

General Information

The entrance to the U.S. Naval Observatory is located off Massachusetts Avenue at the end of Observatory Circle, NW, Washington, DC, directly across the street from the Embassy of New Zealand.  The Observatory grounds are perfectly circular and are easily recognizable on a Washington DC street map.

Try MapQuest, Google Maps, or any other mapping service to help you find your way. Use the street address for the New Zealand Embassy: 37 Observatory Circle NW, Washington, DC, 20008, for your search destination.


Traveling to the Naval Observatory From:

  • Washington Dulles International Airport.  Take the Dulles Access Road to the Capital Beltway (I-495), exit 9 north toward Rockville, MD. Take I-495 north three exits to the first exit immediately after going over the American Legion Bridge. Bear right, and follow the signs to the Clara Barton Parkway. Once on the Clara Barton Parkway, get into the right lane and stay on the Clara Barton until you come to a stop light. At this light, the street becomes Canal Road. Continue going straight for one more light to Arizona Avenue. There is a railroad trestle there. Turn left onto Arizona from Canal. Follow Arizona up a steep hill, crossing MacArthur Blvd., until the road ends in a "T" at Loughboro Road. Turn right onto Loughboro Road. Follow Loughboro Road (which becomes Nebraska Avenue) to Ward Circle (American University will be on your left) and bear right onto Massachusetts Ave. Stay on Massachusetts Ave. past the USNO Main Gate at 34th Street and turn right onto Observatory Circle at the next light, just before the British Embassy. Do not enter the gate at the intersection, but proceed to the end of the street to the South Gate opposite the New Zealand Embassy. Stop at the gate and show the guards a valid photo ID with your name and date-of-birth, and inform them whom you are coming to see.
  • Washington Ronald Reagan National Airport.  Take the George Washington Memorial Parkway north to the Arlington Memorial Bridge exit. This exit is on the left side about three quarters of a mile past the exit for I-395 and immediately after the sign for the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove. Merge with another road coming in from the left. Stay left. The right lane will take you under the bridge. (NOTE - IF YOU ARE GOING THIS WAY BEFORE 9:30 AM, SEE ALTERNATE DIRECTIONS BELOW.) At the circle (in about 500 feet) make a sharp right and cross the bridge. Stay in the right-most lane and take the first exit on the right for the Rock Creek Parkway. The exit comes up very fast at the end of the bridge. Get into the left lane of the Rock Creek Parkway and stay to the left whenever you have a choice to go in another direction. Keep bearing left. You will pass under the Kennedy Center on your right. About one-quarter mile later, the median in the road disappears. Move to the right lane as soon as possible. The Massachusetts Ave exit sign will be on your right. The exit is only a short distance beyond the sign. Take this exit. Follow the exit ramp up the hill to Massachusetts Ave and make a left. Follow Massachusetts Ave (staying in the left lane) to Observatory Circle (the British Embassy is on the left just before you come to this street). Make a left into Observatory Circle at the light. Do not enter the gate at the intersection, but proceed to the end of the street to the South Gate opposite the New Zealand Embassy. Stop at the gate and show the guards a valid photo ID with your name and date-of-birth, and inform them whom you are coming to see.
  • The Pentagon.  Leave the Pentagon and proceed to Virginia Route 27. Follow the signs for Washington via Memorial Bridge. Stay on this road past the merging lane to Route 50, but don't get on Route 50. Stay left. (NOTE - IF YOU ARE GOING THIS WAY BEFORE 9:30 AM, SEE ALTERNATE DIRECTIONS BELOW.) At the circle (in about 500 feet) make a sharp right and cross the bridge. Stay in the right-most lane and take the first exit on the right for the Rock Creek Parkway. The exit comes up very fast at the end of the bridge. Get into the left lane of the Rock Creek Parkway and stay to the left whenever you have a choice to go in another direction. Keep bearing left. You will pass under the Kennedy Center on your right. About one-quarter mile later, the median in the road disappears. Move to the right lane as soon as possible. The Massachusetts Ave exit sign will be on your right. The exit is only a short distance beyond the sign. Take this exit. Follow the exit ramp up the hill to Massachusetts Ave and make a left. Follow Massachusetts Ave (staying in the left lane) to Observatory Circle (the British Embassy is on the left just before you come to this street). Make a left into Observatory Circle at the light. Do not enter the gate at the intersection, but proceed to the end of the street to the South Gate opposite the New Zealand Embassy. Stop at the gate and show the guards a valid photo ID with your name and date-of-birth, and inform them of who you are coming to see.

Alternate Directions if Traveling Before 9:30 AM. The Rock Creek Parkway is one way heading south (you want to go north) until 9:30 am. If traveling before that time: Stay right at the merge and follow the signs to Route 50 and Rosslyn. You will go under the entrance to the Arlington Memorial Bridge, and then will have to start cutting over to your left. Your destination is Rosslyn and the Key Bridge. After cutting left across two merging roads, you will have to get into the right lane. Exit right off Rt 50 at Lynn Street (following signs to Rosslyn and the Key Bridge) and follow Lynn Street straight to the Key Bridge. Cross the Key Bridge, staying in the lane just right of center. At the end of the bridge, the left two lanes go left, the right two lanes go right. You'll want to go right. Make a right onto M Street. Go about 2 blocks to light at 33rd Street, and turn left. Stay on 33rd Street until it intersects at a 45 degree angle with Wisconsin Ave. Make left onto Wisconsin. Follow Wisconsin Ave about one and a quarter miles to Calvert Street and make a right onto Calvert. If you miss Calvert, go another block to Davis Street and turn right. Follow the street (Calvert or Davis) to Observatory Circle and turn left. Follow Observatory Circle to Massachusetts Ave and turn right onto Massachusetts Ave. Stay on Massachusetts Ave past the USNO Main Gate at 34th Street and turn right onto Observatory Circle at the next light, just before the British Embassy. Do not enter the gate at the intersection, but proceed to the end of the street to the South Gate opposite the New Zealand Embassy. Stop at the gate and show the guards a valid photo ID with your name and DoB, and inform them whom you are coming to see.


Departing the Naval Observatory

  • Departing the Naval Observatory AFTER 3:30 PM but BEFORE 6:30 PM: Go out the South Gate and take a left on Massachusetts Ave. Make a right at light on 34th Street, then a left at the next light onto Garfield Street, then a left at light onto Wisconsin Ave. Stay on Wisconsin and angle right onto 34th Street. Stay on 34th all the way to M Street (you will cross numerous intersecting streets in Georgetown). Turn right onto M Street and stay in left lane to go across Key Bridge. (Note: Rock Creek Parkway cannot be used to go "inbound" to downtown Washington between 3:30 and 6:30 PM).
  • Departing the Naval Observatory BEFORE 3:30 PM and AFTER 6:30 PM. Go out the South Gate and take a right on Massachusetts Ave. Cross over Rock Creek bridge and take a right at light onto Waterside Drive (to Rock Creek Parkway).  To I-66: Once on Rock Creek stay in your left lane. At first light you will make a left onto Virginia Ave then you will make an immediate left onto 27th Street. Then make a right at the I-66 West signs. Alternatively, from USNO, make your way through Georgetown, and then over Key Bridge. Take second right and follow signs to I-66.  To I-395: Once on Rock Creek stay in your right lane. You will pass the Kennedy Center on left then the road will split; stay in the right lane and you will end up at the Lincoln Memorial Circle. Yield to the right and cross the Memorial Bridge staying in the middle lane. Cross bridge and veer to your right; take the first left, and then get in your right lane and follow signs to I-395 south or north.

Public Transit

The Washington Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is a convenient way to get around Washington, DC.  The Naval Observatory is accessible via the N2, N4, and N6 MetroBus routes.  All of these bus routes connect to the MetroRail ("subway") system at the following rail stations: Friendship Heights, Tenleytown-AU, Dupont Circle, and Farragut North on the Red Line, and the Farragut West  station on the Orange and Blue Lines.  Exit the bus on Massachusetts Avenue at Observatory Circle (the British Embassy is on the corner) and walk up Observatory Circle about 0.3 mile to the Observatory's South Gate opposite the New Zealand Embassy.  Bus and rail schedules and current fares are available from the Metro Web site.