Free Things To Do In Washington DC

Traveling can be an expensive hobby, not only because of the accommodation or flight ticket, but all those small extra costs such as admission fees and tickets to attractions that you never planned before your trip really add up over time.

A great way to explore a city and make the most of your time while still keeping to your budget is to visit the free attractions and things to do instead.

While in many cities this can be almost impossible to find, travelers planning to do some sightseeing and attractions in Washington DC are spoiled for choice.

Here are just a handful of hundreds of free things to do in Washington DC…

National Mall & Memorial Parks

Of all things to do in Washington, the most famous is by far a tour of the National Mall and Memorial Parks.

Most monuments and attractions are free, and there are numerous interesting museums, monuments and historic sites to see.

Some of the top sights include the Capitol Building (tours run from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. – free of charge), the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, National WWII Memorial and FDR Memorial.

A good tip is to visit in the evening as it won’t be as crowded then, and most monuments are open until midnight.

Watch Free Performances

Washington has plenty of free performances year-round, from theater plays to music events and puppet shows.

The Kennedy center’s Millenium stage has free performances every evening at 6pm, from Jazz musicians to classical music to dance groups.

Every monday the National Theater features local actors, comedians, musicians, singers, and dancers in free performances.

During summer this program switches and instead they show free movies on a large cinema screen.

Summer is a great time for free events and performances; the National Zoo also host musical performances every thursday evening, Capitol Riverfront holds a variety of free concerts every Friday and you can enjoy free music shows at the Washington harbour on Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

These are just a few of many free concerts and events held in the city, for more free concerts and events check out the city’s official event page.

Relax in Rock Creek Park

A great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the busy capital is to escape to the urban Rock Creek Park. There are many activities possible in the park, from an 18-hole public golf course to hiking trails, kayaking, biking or visiting the National Zoo (which is also free).

Bring a pic nic and spend a few hours relaxing in the green park and gardens of the 1754 acre park.

Visit National Zoo

The National Zoo is one of the most child-friendly attractions in the city, and it’s free, making it a popular place for families.

Among its 400 something different species of animals, they have some unique ones like the endangered New Zealand Kiwi bird and a giant octopus.

Take in the Views

While the Washington Monument surely offers some spectacular views, the long lines might not be worth your time.

Instead, climb the 315 foot-tall Old Post Office tower which provides equally beautiful (free) views over the city.

For more

 Other Popular Free Things To Do in Washington:

  • US Botanical Gardens
  • Tour The White House (you must make a request through a member of Congress)
  • Library of Congress
  • Walk along the C&O Canal Towpath
  • Visit the Pentagon
  • National Gallery of Art
  • Free festivals such as the Kite Festival and Cherry Blossom Festival.

What would you recommend for someone looking for free things to do in Washington DC?

(photo credit: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5)

10 Responses to Free Things To Do In Washington DC

  1. Eileen, The Super Tourists April 23, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    Can there be an even more perfect photo of a panda??? I don’t think so! Thank you for this, we’re planning a summer-long trip to the US next year and it would be my first time out of CA, NE and FL so this would come in handy for sure! :D

    • Sofia April 27, 2013 at 9:13 am #

      It’s just adorable isn’t it! Great to hear you’re planning a visit there soon and that you found the guide helpful :)

  2. nicole | the wondernuts April 25, 2013 at 4:25 am #

    If there is one thing our capital does well, it’s provide a lot of things for free (well, taxpayer~ish free). But, it’s awesome because you can spend a whole (maybe 2!) just looking at free stuff!

    • Sofia April 27, 2013 at 9:14 am #

      Yeah it’s really great! I love cities that offer tourists free activities, I truly think it pays off in the long run with more people visiting.

  3. Andreas April 25, 2013 at 6:58 am #

    Wow, even in China you have to pay to see the Chinese Pandas. Should be free in Beijing as well.

    • Sofia April 27, 2013 at 9:16 am #

      I think Washington DC is one of very few cities in the world where the zoo is free to enter, and I completely agree, more cities should do this.

  4. Wayne L. April 30, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    Almost everything is free in Washington DC, from the best museums in the world (Smithsonian Complex – 19 museums) to best shows in town. All you have to do is pay for your airline ticket and hotel to see the U.S. Capital.

    • Sofia May 3, 2013 at 11:02 am #

      It’s wonderful isn’t it!

  5. Becky Padmore May 2, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    It’s always good to know where to find the free stuff! I will save this for when I visit :-)

  6. Nigel Clifford May 3, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    I wish I had read this post before I went to Washington D.C. I would have loved to have checked out some of these sights