There are so many free things to do in Washington DC. You have not been to a city that has as many quality museums, parks, monuments for free as there are in the nation’s capital.
Pro Washington DC tip: usually when traveling, one of the most unforeseen costs is for the things that you will do when you arrive. Luckily, Washington, DC is a largely free city to see.
Some of the free offerings of the city are based on certain dates. So you will want to decide when is the best time to visit Washington DC that aligns with what you would like to see.
60+ FREE Things to do in Washington DC
International Women’s Day this March means free entry into the National Museum of Women in the Arts. It’s the only museum in the world dedicated to only women in the arts. Enjoy live music, activities, and docent led conversations.
Take a break from the crowds and visit the United States Botanic Garden and enjoy being surrounded by exotic plants and flowers.
Tour the National Mall which is full of well-known monuments like the Lincoln Memorial and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
Pay your respects to the servicemen and servicewomen in Arlington National Cemetery.
Take a trip to the past by visiting the historical area of Georgetown which predates Washington DC.
Expand your horizons by viewing contemporary American art at the free to enter Renwick Gallery.
Visit the United States Capitol Building and take a free tour of the rotunda.
One of the lesser known free things to do in Washington DC is that you can take free tours of the monuments and memorials with the National Park Service.
See the famous portraits of Former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the National Portrait Gallery.
Around this time, there are also several free things to do in Washington DC associated with Cherry Blossoms such as parades and ceremonies!
Take your kids to Gravelly Point and watch planes take off. There is no Metro that goes here, so you will need to park or take an Uber or Taxi.
Prepare yourself for a journey as you explore the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture.
If you enjoy gothic architecture, visit the 6th largest cathedral in the world –Washington National Cathedral.
The Smithsonian National Zoo is a must for the whole family to learn about conservation biology. It is a great day trip for kids and parents alike.
Nearby to the Smithsonian National Zoo is Rock Creek Park. If you are in need of some green space, take a stroll through the family and dog-friendly trails in the center of DC.
In the Spring and Summer time the number of free things to do in Washington DC increases exponentially. A visit to the National Arboretum is a must. You’ll see everything from bonsai to dogwood trees. This is a great area for photo opportunities as well!
Learn all about money, money, money and take a free tour of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
Take a free tour at the National Gallery of Art led by a knowledgeable local docent.
Visit the Wharf area of DC and hang out by the docks and listen to free live music. You can stroll pass bars, restaurants, and the fish market.
From the Wharf area of downtown DC, you can take a little boat to East Potomac Park. Relax, look at the cherry blossoms, and have a picnic.
Check out the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights in the National Archives Building.
Take the kids to the National Theatre on Saturdays for free performances.
Spend more time in nature at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. You can view lotus flowers blooming, picnic, and each year they have a free Lotus Festival. Nature lovers will enjoy the all the green free things to do in Washington DC.
Catch a sunrise on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and then explore the World War Two Memorial and the other various Memorials around.
Visit one of the most poignant memorials – the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Entry is free, but during high season (March-August), you’ll need a timed ticket.
Kids need some time to run around? Hang out at Friendship Park in Northwest DC.
A great way to experience local produce and artisanal products is to visit DC Farmers Markets. There are weekly markets in Dupont Circle, Columbia Heights and Bloomingdale. Foodies will appreciate all the opportunities for food-themed free things to do in Washington DC.
Go to Meridian Hill Park on Sundays to enjoy a local area drum circle and have a picnic and read a book under the trees.
Take a trip to Dupont Circle and check out all the different embassies. In May, Passport DC is happening and many of the embassies will be having events and festivals inviting visitors through their doors.
Check out one of the most popular museums in DC, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
One of the most photographed locations in DC, are the Spanish Steps. Also located in Dupont, you take a quick detour with your honey and get some beautiful photos.
While you are on the National Mall, take a step inside the Smithsonian Castle to learn about the history of all the museums and James Smithson.
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture garden is a must for contemporary art lovers. With rotating exhibits and displays, this museum warrants a visit from locals and visitors alike.
One of the best free things to do in Washington DC for Instagram lovers is to visit Blagden Alley in the Shaw Neighborhood. You’ll see vibrant murals painted by local artists – the perfect spot to get the ‘gram.
For book lovers, you might enjoy a free reading at the Politics & Prose bookstore. There’s lots of free events throughout the year to embrace the literary spirit of DC.
Visit the Kennedy Center and take a free guided tour. Upon entering you’ll see flags from all the United States, Territories, and the District. There’s also a free performance at 6pm.
DC has an amazing art scene. Hang out with the art crowd all night at Art All Night: Made in DC which you can see throughout multiple DC neighborhoods.
When planning your trip, if you decide to arrive on the first Friday of the month, you can check out First Friday Dupont where local art houses have free entry with refreshments during the winter months.
Visit the public area of the White House – this is free but will need to be organized in advance. You will need to contact your local congressman as early as three months before your arrival and as late as 21 days before arrival.
Continuing with the literary theme of free things to do in Washington, DC, Shakespeare fans can rejoice and visit the Folger Shakespeare Library in Capitol Hill which is home to the largest collection of printed works of William Shakespeare. On Fridays, you can enjoy free lectures and performances.
Take a trip to Eastern Market on Sundays for local food, international crafts, and live music.
There are many educational free things to do in Washington DC like visit the public libraries. There are events for songs and stories available for children most of the week.
The Freer/Sackler galleries are home to a variety of art from Asia and Middle East and tend to host rolling art activities. Many of the museums offer a variety of free things to do in Washington DC for families.
Read a book by the Potomac at Georgetown Waterfront Park as the boats roll on by.
There are many film focused free things to do in Washington DC. Watch an outdoor movie during the summer at the National Harbor’s Movies on the Potomac.
Visit the Lunder Conservation Center to learn about how art is preserved.
Take a free guided tour of the United States Supreme Court.
Also, during the summertime, enjoy weekly jazz artists in the Sculpture Garden in the warm evenings.
Visit Dumbarton Oaks which operates as a research library and museum. You can take docent led tours and learn about the history of the house which focuses on Byzantine and Pre-Colombian era studies.
Take a tour of the Pentagon. You must make reservations a couple of weeks in advance, but a visit to this impressive building is well worth it.
Local neighborhoods offer a variety of free things to do in Washington DC. U Street, for example, is a historical center of African American culture. Take a stroll through this historic area known for its Jazz roots.
While in Georgetown, take a free tour of the Old Stone House and garden. This building has stood the test of time and remains unaltered.
Go to Frederick Douglass National Historic site for tours by the National Park Service and learn about the famous abolitionist.
Enjoy a free photo op at the Albert Einstein Memorial.
Take a stroll from the George Washington Memorial Parkway to Theodore Roosevelt Island to explore trails alongside the Potomac River.
The free C&O Canal path leads into the center of DC and has an excellent easy cycling path.
Watch free outdoor movies in the DC area. Whether you’re in Virginia, Maryland or the District, you’ll find free outdoor movie screenings in 2020 beginning in April when the weather warms up.
Visit Ford’s Theatre and take a free tour led by the National Park Service. You’ll learn about the events surrounding Lincoln’s assassination.
Throughout the year you’ll find opportunities for free fitness events like Yoga at the Waterfront.
Just a half-hour from DC is Great Falls Park, be on the look-out for admission free days to enjoy this popular spot to enjoy hiking and waterfalls.
For those interested in the law, you can sit in on a Supreme Court ruling for free.
Explore the Historic Congressional Cemetery. This cemetery is 37 acres and is home to famous figures of American history like J. Edgar Hoover.
One of the best free things to do at night in Washington DC is a monument tour. They are all lit up and the crowds have gone away.
When planning your Washington DC itinerary, make sure to leave plenty of time for all the free things to see and do in the city. Some museums you could spend a day in if you wanted to!
It is well advised to have a loose vision of your travel plans before arriving and to have planned in advance what you will see and do, especially if a ticket for entry is required.
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