20 Free and Cheap Things to Do in Washington, D.C.
Our nation's capital is one of the most travel-friendly cities in the United States. Not only is it packed with historical monuments and museums, but many of the best tourist attractions are free. Cheapism.com rounded up a variety of free and low-cost activities to enjoy while visiting Washington, D.C.
The National Mall is home to many of the city's iconic monuments and it doesn't cost a dime to visit. From the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, you can soak up our nation's history, all within a two-mile span.
You can see giant pandas and play at the kids' farm for free at the National Zoo. Open 364 days a year, the zoo can easily entertain young and old alike for an entire day.
Learn more about our nation's political system at the center of the action. Free hour-long tours of the Capitol give you access to the Senate and House chambers as well as the dome and the unique art it houses. This is a popular site, though, so it's best to reserve your spot ahead of time.
Home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame, the cemetery offers enormous historical value beyond its free admission. The 300,000 American soldiers buried across the Potomac River in Arlington, Va., are a good reminder of the sacrifices made throughout American history.
Who wouldn't want to sneak a peek at where the president lays his head? And it's free! It does take some planning, though. Contact your congressional representative for White House tour tickets at least three weeks before your trip. Reservations can be made up to six months ahead of time, so book this one early.
The most hands-on of the Smithsonian Institution museums, the Air and Space Museum is a must-see for both adults and kids. Admission is free to the enormous collection of historical planes and rockets, and all kinds of educational activities and events.
The Millennium Stage was designed to make the performing arts accessible to everyone. The stage supports the dance community with the Millennium Stage Local Dance Commissioning Project (LDCP), which offers a daily free performance.
You can wander the gallery on your own, taking in such pieces as Leonardo da Vinci's Ginevra de' Benci, or take a free tour with one of the gallery's many docents. Family guides can assist young families with games and highlights aimed at children six and older.
Millions of dollars are printed right before your eyes at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. A short film explains U.S. currency and a free gallery tour explores the production process.
The exhibits are always changing at this living plant museum. For no cost, explorers can take advantage of the beautiful landscape of the Conservatory, the National Garden, and Bartholdi Park every day of the year.
The Nature Center is the first stop for visitors to Rock Creek Park, a natural area in northwest D.C. Ranger-led programs and some of the park's shorter trails begin at the center, where visitors can find trail maps, a planetarium, and a children's discovery room.
The National Portrait Gallery is home to paintings of all the U.S. presidents, as well as famous poets, activists, athletes, and a long list of others who have had an influence on American history. At no cost, visitors can explore at their own pace.
Anyone who is interested in American history should take the opportunity to see the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence. They are all under one roof at the National Archives and access is free.
In addition to the vast book collection, some of the most interesting pieces of American culture are at the Library of Congress, which has no entry fee. The historical exhibits on display at the library include Bob Hope's 85,000-page joke file and a first edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The home of the famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass is in Anacostia, an historic neighborhood in southeast D.C. Douglass's fight for equality continues to motivate and inspire people even today. His home is open to the public for $1.50 for each reserved ticket and $5.00 for an entire school group.
The Arboretum was established in 1927 and is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service. The grounds are designed to meet the needs for scientific research, education, and public gardens that conserve and showcase plants to enhance the environment. The grounds are free to the public.
Saturday mornings at the National Theatre are dedicated to kids aged four and up with performances at 9:30 and 11. Get there early for the limited number of free tickets distributed 30 minutes before each show.
The museum hosts permanent and special exhibits about the horrific events surrounding the Holocaust. There is no entry fee and hours are extended in the spring, when timed tickets are given out on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Also known as Turtle Park, Friendship Park is located near American University in northwest D.C. This urban play space is known for its large sandbox, which is stocked with toys. Kids and adults can enjoy basketball and tennis courts, baseball diamonds, and play structures.