20 Free Things to Do in Washington, DC

You most likely heard that Washington DC can be a fairly expensive destination. As attractive as this city is, the best things tend to come at a substantial cost.

But does that mean that you can’t enjoy Washington DC for free? Not at all! This city is extremely diverse. You will find all types of people and there are several things you can do in Washington DC without spending a dollar!

Here are the best 20 free things to do in Washington DC and still have an amazing time:

1. Visit the Capitol Building

Capitol Building Washington DC Entrance View

One of the best free things to do while you are in Washington visits the Capitol Building. This is where Congress meets and, you can even witness a session of Congress as it is developing.

You will still have to book your ticket even if it is free. There is a limited number of tickets so you might not find any left if you go past noon. Getting there in the morning will guarantee you free entrance and a better experience altogether. 

Tours to the Capitol building are daily during the week, starting at 8.30 AM and ending at 3.20 PM.

2. Check out the Smithsonian Museums

Arts and Industries Building of the Smithsonian Museums Washington DC USA

If you like to visit museums, you will be happy to know that the Smithsonian museums are completely free. The Smithsonian is an institution that incorporates a group of different museums as well as research centers under the US Government administration.

All these museums are free to visit and they hold interesting pieces of American history since 1846 when they were founded. In all these museums you will also find free WiFi which is an extra benefit. 

Among the museums and centers you can find here are the Air and Space Museum, African American Museum, American History Museum, Archives of American Art, Portrait Gallery, Hirshhorn, American Indian Museum but also many others that might seem attractive to you.

3. Spend a few hours at the National Zoo

National Zoo Tigers in Washington DC

If you are traveling with kids or if you are an animal lover yourself, checking out the National Zoo is a must, especially since you can do that for free as well. This Zoo was opened in 1889 and you can find over 1,800 animals here, on a property of 160 acres of land.

You will find elephants, lions, different types of reptiles, pandas, lemurs, monkeys, and many others. The Zoo is also part of the Smithsonian Institution but if you are planning to visit it, this is a full-day trip. 

You can find the National Zoo open on a daily schedule from 8 AM to 7 PM at the address 3001 Connecticut Ave NW, and you can also call +1 202-633-4888, or check their website. 

4. Take a tour of the White House

White House Washington DC

When you are in Washington DC, a tour of the White House is a must. This is the most iconic building in the world and you will be very impressed by it. The White House was first built in 1792 and restored in 1812 after it got burned down by the British during the war. A tour of the White House will be one of the most interesting free experiences you will have in Washington DC but you need to book it in advance because tickets are gone fast. 

Check out the official website for additional information about the White House. To get a tour you will have to submit a booking between three months in advance and 21 days in advance. Make sure you have a government-issued ID when you attend your tour. 

5. Visit the Library of Congress

Library of Congress Washington DC

The Library of Congress in Washington DC is the largest in the world and it is worth checking it out at least once. Here you will find more than 16 million books and 120 million media items including research and historical data. Also in the same building, you can find the main office of the US Copyright Center. 

The library is closed on Sundays but you can visit it Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday between 8.30 AM and 9.30 PM as well as Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from 9.30 AM to 4.00 PM.

6. Go to the National Art Gallery

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Do you love art? If the answer is yes, you will be pleased to find the most complex National Art Gallery that you can visit for free too. In this gallery, you will find art pieces signed by Claude Monet, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other notorious artists and you can admire them as long as you want without spending anything.

In the east building, you will find recent artwork while on the west side, you will find older artwork, all of them impressive and eye-catching. Plus, during the summer, there is a free jazz concert in the garden of sculptures, every Friday evening. 

You can find this gallery on 3rd Street and 9th Street on Constitution Avenue NW and use the phone number +1 202-737-4215 as well as the website if you have any questions.

The National Art Gallery can be visited every day from Monday to Saturday from 10 AM to 5 PM. You can also visit it on Sundays from 11 AM to 6 PM.

7. Visit the Lincoln Memorial monument

Lincoln Memorial monument reflecting pool in Washington DC

Among the free things to see in Washington DC I have to list the Lincoln Memorial monument as it is truly impressive. The two famous speeches of Honest Abe are inscribed on the walls of the memorial and the reflection of Lincoln in the pool of the Capitol building is going to bring it even more admiration. 

You will find this memorial monument at 2 Lincoln Memorial Circle NW and you can read all about it on their website.

You can visit the monument 24/7 and if you check the website you might even catch a free tour going on during your visit to get even more information. 

8. Chill at the Tidal Basin

Cherry Blossoms at Tidal Basin, Washington DC

If you want to relax, Washington DC offers you plenty of free options for that as well. For instance, you can spend a day at the Tidal Basin, which is a local, man-made lake that you will love. If you happen to be in Washington during spring, you will want to hang out here and admire the cherry blossom trees. 

You can find the pond along the mall and it is two miles long and you can go to enjoy some time there with your friends whenever you want. 

9. Check out the Holocaust Memorial Museum

Although there are plenty of Holocaust Museums in the world, the one in Washington DC is one of the best. At this museum, you can see the entire chronology of the Holocaust through personal stories, movies, artifacts, and impressive pictures. The entire experience will touch you in more than one way and you will discover different educational materials along with your visit. 

Find the Holocaust Museum at the National Mall, south of Independence Avenue, or give them a call at +1 202-488-0406. The website that holds more information about this museum is. the place is open every day from 10 AM until 5.20 PM.

If you are planning to visit the Holocaust Memoriam museum between the 1st of March and the 31st of August, make sure to book a ticket online. 

10. Take a walk in the Historic Georgetown

Historic Georgetown Facades Buildings Washington DC

Georgetown is a very popular area in Washington DC for both locals and tourists. This place will take you to a different time, or so you will feel while you are exploring it anyway. It is here where farmers were trading tobacco products back in the 1700 and Georgetown existed even before Washington DC.

Here you will find plenty of restaurants, shopping centers and clubs so expects to spend some good hours discovering them. 

11. Tour the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts IN Washington DC

The JFK Center of Performing Arts was made in memory of John F. Kennedy and it holds different stages for music concerts, dance, theatre, and other types of performances. While the performances aren’t free, you will enjoy visiting this place and several free guided tours throughout the day will tell you everything you need to know. Plus, on top of the building, you will find an impressive terrace that offers you a unique view of Washington DC. 

The address of JFK Center for the Performance Arts is 2700 F St NW and the phone number you can use is +1 800-444-1324.

You can visit the building Monday to Friday from 10 AM until 5 PM and Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM until 1 PM. 

12. Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park in Washington DC

If you love nature, Rock Creek Park is the place for you in Washington DC. This park has plenty of hiking trails as well as biking trails and you will find several areas to enjoy a picnic with your friends too.

There are riding stables and tennis courts available for free and you can take an unforgettable walk around the 4.4 square mile park any time you want some fun time outdoors.

13. Visit the National Archives Museum

National Archives Building in Washington DC

If you are looking for some unique pieces of history during your time in Washington DC, the National Archives Museum is where you need to go. This place is ideal if you are traveling with children as well. You will find copies of the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence as well as the Bill of Rights, and of course, the Constitution. 

To visit this museum, go to 701 Constitution Avenue NW. The museum is open every day from 10 AM to 5.30 PM. 

14. Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC

Designed in 1925 by John Russell Pope you shouldn’t miss the Lincoln Memorial. You can find this memorial around the mall and the Tidal Basin area as it is standing tall and easy to notice.

15. Washington Monument

Washington Monument DC

Built in honor of George Washington and 555 ft tall the marble obelisk is located in the center area of the park. The green area around the monument is often occupied by festivals or vendors and it is an overall great spot to hang out for free. The monument is closed sometimes for repairs, but it is still standing tall, and you can visit it nevertheless. 

16. World War II Memorial

World War II Memorial, Washington USA

Among the incredibly long list of monuments that you can visit for free in Washington DC is the World War II memorial. This memorial is a bit more complex than others and it is built in memory of the 400 thousand people who lost their lives during the war as well as all the 16 million who served in the American Army during this important piece of history. There are scenes from the war, depicted in bronze, 56 granite columns representing unity, and a beautiful fountain right in the middle. 

17. Walk on the Palmer Alley

Seattle Washington - Famous Gum Wall in Post Alley

Palmer Alley is famous for its unique decorations that change every season. It is one of the main areas of the City Center and you will find it hard to resist snapping some beautiful pictures here. It is the best place to take a walk in the evening and celebrate the present moment among all those charming decorations. 

18. Take a tour of the Bureau of Engraving & Printing

Bureau of Engraving & Printing Building in Washington DC

Are you curious about how money is made? Well, you can see a lot of money, for free, if you check out the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington DC. A complete tour is 40 minutes long and you will need a ticket. But to catch a spot you will have to get your ticket early in the morning because they are limited and they run out fast. The ticket office opens at 8 AM.

The free public tours are available from 9 AM until 2 PM. Make sure to check out the website for more information.

19. Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site

Ford’s Theatre Abraham Lincoln Washington DC

The Ford’s Theatre is where Abraham Lincoln was shot on the 14th of April 1865 by the actor John Wilkes Booth. Inside the theatre, there is a museum in memory of Lincoln.

You can also check a play if you feel like splurging because the theatre is still functioning and has plenty of performances. 

20. Go to see the Supreme Court

United Sates Supreme Court in Washington, DC

The decisions of the Supreme Court are final and sessions are public for those who want to attend them. You will not find any guided tour of this building, but there are several materials you can check out if you want to be informed about its history and the way it functions today. 

If you want to join a lecture, you can check the calendar of the court and plan your visit accordingly. And all you have to do is show up.

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