Washington D.C. is a location I’ve been to often throughout the years. I really like the town: there are folks from worldwide, there’s a huge amount of what to see an do, incredible bars, natural attractions, diversity, and world-class restaurants. Yet there’s one really big downside to the town: cost.
Washington D.C. isn’t an inexpensive city.
With those free-spending politicians, lobbyists, and diplomats going swimming the town driving up prices, costs listed below are pretty high. Meals, hotels, transportation, parking-they all soon add up to lots of money.
Luckily, there are numerous great free things you can do in the town for the budget traveler. Because of all of the national monuments, parks, and festivals in the town, you can find a whole lot of free things you can do in Washington D.C.
Here’s a listing of the best free things you can do in the city this season:
Go to the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court may be the highest court of the land. Its decisions are final. Court sessions are actually available to the public on an initial come, first served basis and there are free 30-minute lectures in the primary hall that explain the way the court functions. There are no guided tours of the buildings, nevertheless, you can take benefit of the educational lectures, a visitor film, and special exhibitions. (Definitely make an effort to attend among the lectures as it’s an extremely insightful way to understand about how exactly the court works.)
1 First St NE, supremecourt.gov/visiting. Open Monday-Friday from 9am-4:30pm. To sit in on a lecture, check the court’s calendar. Lectures happen several times during the day. Just arrive and stand in line.
Tour the Capitol Building
This building is where in fact the U.S. Congress meets to….well, they are likely to take action but lately, it feels as though they don’t do not complain! The Capitol offers free tours during the day. Tickets can be found at 8:30 am on an initial come, first served basis. Make it happen early as the tickets are often gone very quickly. You may also book your tour beforehand through your neighborhood senator or person in Congress. Tickets to sit in the galley watching Congress in session are also designed for free, on an initial come, first served basis.
East Capitol St NE & First St SE, visitthecapitol.gov. Open Monday-Friday from 8:30am-4:30pm. Tours happen Mon-Fri (8:40am-3:20pm). Advance reservation is preferred however, not required.
Go to the Smithsonian Museums
The Smithsonian Institution is several museums and research centers that are administered by the government. Founded in 1846, all Smithsonian museums are absolve to enter (plus they even offer free Wi-Fi!). In the event that you feel like indulging, two of the museums in Washington have massive IMAX movie theatres (that play regular movies). The museums and centers include:
- Air and Space Museum
- African American Museum
- American History Museum
- African Art Museum
- American Art Museum
- American Indian Museum
- Anacostia Community Museum
- Archives of American Art
- Arts and Industries Building
- Freer Gallery of Art
- National Zoo
- Natural History Museum
- Portrait Gallery
- Postal Museum
- Renwick Gallery
- S. Dillon Ripley Center
- Sackler Gallery
- Smithsonian Castle
- Smithsonian Gardens
+1 202-633-1000, si.edu. Each museum has their own operating hours so make sure to talk with that musuem.
Start to see the Monuments
The National Mall isn’t actually a “mall”. It’s a spacious landscaped, tree-lined park filled up with various walking paths and monuments. You could spend days trying to see all of them as you walk around and explore. Here’s a listing of the attractions and monuments on the National Mall:
- Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument – This building was home to the National Women’s Party for nearly 90 years and was designated a national monument in 2016 by President Barack Obama. The building highlights the annals and achievements of the suffrage movement, and is known as following the former party president Alva Belmont, along with the founder, Alice Paul.
- Constitution Gardens – 50 acres of landscaped gardens commemorate the framers of the Constitution and offer a beautiful spot to sit and relax, especially through the summer when everything is completely bloom. Tree-lined paths meander around a tranquil lake and through the gardens, where you will notice oak, maple, elm, and more.
- Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site – On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theatre throughout a theatrical performance. His killer was John Wilkes Booth, a favorite young actor and supremacist. Lincoln was carried across Tenth Street to the Petersen boarding house where he died another morning. The Theatre commemorates Lincoln’s legacy with a museum and special exhibits detailing his presidency and the aftermath of his death. And it’s still an operating theater!
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial – That is a lovely memorial which goes through Roosevelt’s four terms in office using quotes carved in stone and beautiful bronze artwork. It’s among the best memorials in the town and includes a beautiful Japanese Garden and also calming waterfalls.
- Korean War Veterans Memorial – The most famous memorial on the Mall, the Wall of Remembrance has 19 statues commemorating the millions who fought through the Korean War. The statues stand in Juniper bushes and so are separated by strips designed to resemble Korea’s rice paddies. There’s a calm, reflective pool by the end surrounding a Freedom ISN’T Free Wall and Alcove. It’s hauntingly beautiful and sad all at one time.
- The Lincoln Memorial – That is home to the famous, giant statue of Abraham Lincoln. It’s among the best…so good, I’ve an entire section about any of it below!
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial – A huge carving of Dr. King honors his legacy and search for freedom, equality, and justice. That is among the newer monuments, having opened in only 2011, and may be the first to honor a guy of color. Quotations from his famous “I’VE a Dream” speech are etched in to the stone, and addititionally there is an Inscription Wall with 14 quotes from his speeches and writings.
- Thomas Jefferson Memorial – This memorial to Thomas Jefferson is situated in the circular colonnade, opposite most of the main memorials and includes a great view of the complete mall and the Tidal Basin. It had been created by John Russell Pope in 1925, and resembles the Pantheon of Rome (Jefferson was apparently a big fan of Neoclassical architecture). It’s an incredible spot to be when the cherry blossoms are in bloom.
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial – This memorial actually includes three parts: the Three Soldiers statue, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall (The Wall That Heals). The wall is a striking chronological set of the names greater than 58,000 Americans who served and gave their lives in Vietnam.
- Washington Monument – Standing at 555-feet tall, this marble obelisk at the guts of the park was created to honor George Washington. It’s closed for repairs right now nevertheless, you can enjoy looking at it in addition to the green space around it, which is often filled up with festivals, people, and vendors.
- World War II Memorial – A lovely memorial focused on the 16 million individuals who served in the American military during WWII, like the 400,000 who gave their lives. There’s a whole lot going on here, including two walls when you initially enter the memorial (from the east) depicting scenes from the war in bronze relief. There’s also an extremely elegant fountain in the centre, and 56 granite columns symbolizing the nation’s unity.
+1 202-426-6841, nps.gov/nama. The National Mall is open a day and admission is free. Check ahead on the site to see if there exists a Ranger Walk (free tour) happening throughout your visit.
Go to the National Zoo
The zoo opened in 1889 and houses over 1,800 animals spread over 160 acres of land. Lemurs, great apes, elephants, reptiles, and pandas – and much more animals – all call the zoo home. The zoo was among the first on earth to produce a scientific research program. It’s an excellent stop if you’re traveling with kids (or if you’re just young in mind!). Within the Smithsonian, the zoo can be absolve to visit.
3001 Connecticut Ave NW, +1 202-633-4888, nationalzoo.si.edu. Open daily from 8am-7pm.
Go to the White House
That is just about the most iconic buildings on the globe. It had been built-in 1792, though the majority of it had been burned down by the British through the War of 1812 (before that, it wasn’t actually white!). While getting a tour could be tedious (you should book it weeks beforehand), it’s a great and educational experience.
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/tours-events. Self-guided tours can be found Tuesday-Thursday from 7:30am-11:30am and from 7:30am-1:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays. To request a tour, Americans have to contact their person in Congress, while foreign visitors have to contact their embassy in Washington. You can submit a obtain a tour up to 90 days beforehand, but a minimum of 21 days beforehand. If you’re an American citizen 18 years or older, you must present a government-issued photo ID. Foreign nationals have to present their passport.
Have a free walking tour
One of the better ways to ingest the town is on a free of charge walking tour. You’ll reach start to see the city’s main sights, find out about the city’s history, and also have an expert readily available to pepper with any questions you have. Two free walking tour companies in D.C. that I love are Free Tours on foot and Strawberry Tours. You can’t fail with either.
Explore the Library of Congress
The may be the largest library on the planet. There are over 16 million books here and over 120 million other historical and media items. Established in 1800, over 3,000 staff help to keep this place running! It’s the primary research center of the U.S. Congress and houses the U.S. Copyright Office. It’s where for bookworms on the planet!
101 Independence Ave SE, +1 202-707-5000, loc.gov. The library is open Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 8:30am-9:30pm and Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday from 9:30am-4pm. The library is closed on Sundays. Free tours of the Thomas Jefferson Building Public happen hourly Mon-Fri (10:30am-3:30pm), and hourly on Saturdays (10:30am-2:30pm). All you need to do is arrive. Check the website for just about any special tours happening throughout your visit (sometimes the Library will open the Music Division’s Whittall Pavilion for public viewing).
Start to see the Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial deserves its i’m all over this this list as it’s so beautiful, and it comes with an amazing view of the reflection pool and the Capitol building. Honest Abe’s two most well-known speeches – the next inaugural address and the Gettysburg Address – are inscribed on the walls around the memorial.
2 Lincoln Memorial Circle NW, nps.gov/linc/index.htm. Open 24/7. Check ahead on the site to see if you will find a Ranger Walk (free tour) happening throughout your visit.
Peruse the National Gallery of Art
There’s a remarkably large assortment of artwork, from Henri Matisse to Claude Monet to Leonardo da Vinci. The East Building houses the gallery’s newer art, as the West Building houses older artwork. You’ll often see art students through the entire building trying to paint. A number of them are really, excellent! Don’t forget to look at the sculpture garden while you’re there. In the summers, there is free Jazz in the Garden every Friday starting at 11 am.
3rd Street and 9th Street on Constitution Avenue NW, +1 202-737-4215, nga.gov/visit.html. The National Gallery is open Mon-Sat (10am-5pm), and Sun (11am-6pm). There are a variety of free docent-led tours of varying themes occurring daily, along with Gallery Talks hosted by museum curators and conservators. Dates and times change frequently. Check the web site to determine what’s happening throughout your visit..
Go out by the Tidal Basin
The Tidal Basin is a manmade pond stretching two miles long the mall. In addition, it serves as a favorite hangout spot for locals and visitors and may be the best spot to come start to see the cherry blossom trees each spring. In the spring and summertime, you can rent a paddle boat (around $18 each hour) and spend the afternoon relaxing on the pond.
Go to the National Archives Museum
The National Archives Museum houses the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution, and something of the few remaining copies of the Magna Carta left on earth. It’s an excellent place for history buffs and it’s filled up with really informative panels. If you’re traveling with children, there are several interactive exhibits inside too.
701 Constitution Avenue NW, museum.archives.gov. Open daily 10am-5:30pm. Self-guided timed entry reservations can be found every quarter-hour from 10:30am-4:00pm. Gleam docent-led guided tour Mon-Fri at 9:45am. The tour includes the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, the general public Vaults, and a particular exhibit gallery. It’s advised to reserve online beforehand, but you’ll need to pay a $1.50 reservation fee.
Go to the Holocaust Memorial Museum
That is among the best Holocaust museums on earth and includes a large permanent exhibit that occupies three whole levels and tells the story of the Holocaust through films, photos, artifacts, and first-person stories. Additionally, there are rotating exhibits designed to educate visitors about the ongoing risk of genocide and violence all over the world. It’s so powerful and moving. I strongly urge you to go to while you’re in the town!
National Mall, just south of Independence Avenue, SW, between 14th Street and Raoul Wallenberg Place (15th Street). +1 202-488-0406, ushmm.org. Open daily 10am-5:20pm, with long hours in the spring and summer. Due to high traffic, you will have to reserve a ticket online for visits between March 1-August 31.
Go out in historic Georgetown
This area used to be always a transit point for farmers selling tobacco in the 1700s. Actually, Georgetown was around before Washington, DC. While this area is well known because of its fantastic shopping, dining, and nightlife options, you can merely spend hours strolling through here consuming the well-preserved Georgian homes and architecture.
Tour the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
This center is a memorial to JFK and has nine theaters and stages focused on music, dance, and theater, together with international and children’s programs. There’s a free of charge guided tour here every ten minutes. There’s an incredible rooftop terrace with panoramic views of Washington, D.C.
2700 F St NW, +1 800-444-1324, kennedy-center.org. Tours happen Mon-Fri (10am-5pm), and Sat-Sun (10am-1pm). You will find a free shuttle to the guts from Foggy Bottom-GWU-Kennedy Center Metro station. Call in advance to make certain the tour is certainly going ahead.
Enjoy nature in Rock Creek Park
This 4.4 square mile park is a favorite spot for outdoor enthusiasts, with a great deal of trails for hiking and biking. There are picnic areas, tennis courts, and even riding stables too! It’s an incredible spot to enjoy nature in the town.
Start to see the National Arboretum
The 446-acre National Arboretum offers a quiet oasis in the center of a busy city, and houses the National Capitol Columns. Here, you can travel to the giant historic columns that once supported the East Portico of the U.S. Capitol from 1828-1958.
There are two entrances: one at 3501 NY Avenue, NE, and the other at 24th & R Streets, NE, from Bladensburg Road. +1-202-245-2726, usna.usda.gov. Open daily 8am-5pm.
Washington isn’t an inexpensive spot to visit, but with most of the city’s activities designed for free, you’ll manage to go to the city without breaking the lender. There will do here to keep you busy for lots of days!
Book Your Visit to Washington: Logistical Guidelines
Book Your Flight Look for a cheap flight to Washington through the use of Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite se’s. Focus on Momondo.
Book Your Accommodation You can book your hostel in Washington with Hostelworld. If you wish to remain elsewhere, use Booking.com because they consistently return the least expensive rates. (Here’s the proof.)
Don’t Forget TRAVEL COVER Travel cover will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. I never embark on a trip without it. I’ve been using World Nomads for a decade. You should too.
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Need helpful information? Washington has some very nice tours on offer. Exceed your basic free walking tour with a bike tour from Fat Tire Tours. They provide a great and insightful bike tour around the town that will demonstrate all of the main sights.
Want MORE INFO on Washington? Make sure to visit our robust destination guide on Washington, D.C. for a lot more planning tips!