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Our nation’s capital can be an expensive place! You will have to pay for lodging and food when you go, so the best way to save money is to do some of the amazing free things to do in Washington DC. From the zoo to the Smithsonian to the various gardens, you can spend a week there and spend very little on fun activities.
25 Free Things to Do in Washington DC
Visit the Smithsonians
You can visit over a dozen including the National Gallery of Art, the National Museum of American History, and the National Portrait Gallery. Note that some museums, like the National Museum of African American History, require ticket reservations ahead of time (but it’s still free!).
Walk the National Mall
See the monuments, take your pictures, and enjoy feeling like you’re in the pages of your history textbooks!
Politics & Prose
This local bookstore and coffeehouse hosts events with authors, all free and open to the public.
National Zoological Park
Check out the only pandas on the East Coast with a free visit to the National Zoo.
Rock Creek Park
Hike on over 30 trails or take part in a free, ranger-led astronomy program at the only planetarium in any National Park.
National Shrine of Immaculate Conception
Head to the Brookland neighborhood and check out this enormous Catholic basilica. You can go inside as well, to see the beautiful interior.
Kennedy Center Free Performances
Every 6 p.m. performance is free. At the Kennedy Center, you can enjoy symphonic orchestras, poetry readings and more.
See John Hancock’s “John Hancock” on the Declaration of Independence.
Friendship Park/Turtle Park
The most popular kid-friendly park in the city with a huge playground, basketball courts, a soccer field and more!
Take a picture with the likeness of FDR and his dog Fala. The memorial is an outdoor gallery comprised of a series of bronze sculptures depicting FDR’s presidency.
Walk around a FreshFarm Market
A local nonprofit hosts farmers’ markets all around DC. Hit the market for fresh coffee, baked goods and pick up some food for your midday picnic.
Georgetown Waterfront Park
Escape the city with a stroll, bike ride or picnic in the park. A local gallery, Zone Zero, is nearby and shows off up and coming DC artists’ work. Plus, it’s near one of the best shopping districts in the city: Georgetown.
North of Georgetown is a great park with cobblestone paths and well-groomed gardens.
The Eastern Market
Take the metro to the Eastern Market spot and check out what vendors have set up! The stuff here is not necessarily free, but you can take a look at what artists are showing off their work and possibly find a few souvenirs to take home.
Neighborhood Heritage Trails
Take a self-guided walking tour through one of DC’s neighborhoods.
Capitol Hill Baptist Church
If you’re in DC on a Sunday morning, consider visiting CHBC, a church on Capitol Hill that was established in 1878.
United States Arboretum
If the weather is nice, take a long stroll or bike ride around the US Arboretum. The landscape is beautiful and gardeners will love all the different trees, plants, and flowers.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
The US Holocaust Memorial Museum is free, though you’ll have to pay $1 to reserve tickets online. You’ll want to reserve a whole morning to slowly make your way through this stunning presentation of history.
In and around the National Mall are various gardens and outdoor botanical exhibits. There are benches to sit and reflect as well as dozens of native and exotic plants to see.
Daughters of the American Revolution Museum
This is one of the most underrated museums in DC. It never shows up on big lists, but it’s definitely worth a visit for history buffs!
Visit Union Station
You’ll have to pay to ride the metro, but you can go inside Union Station for free and feel like you’re in a movie!
Library of Congress
You will have to reserve tickets ahead of time, but they’re still free. It’s totally worth planning head to see this extraordinary library.
This museum is newer to DC and is a kid-friendly, interactive museum that explores the wonders of human language.
Capitol Riverfront Splash Pad
If the weather is warm, kids can cool off in this splash pad. But even on a chillier day, the scenery is beautiful!
Visit the historic theater where President Lincoln was shot. You can get free tickets at the box office on the same day, or pay $3 per ticket to reserve them ahead of time.