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25 Free Things to Do in Washington DC

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There are plenty of free things to do in Washington DC all year-round. Whether you are looking for some family fun, an excursion out with some friends or even a quiet day to yourself, the nation's capital is a great place to experience a wide variety of cultural and recreational activities. You will find free attractions, festivals and events, educational programs and much more.

1. Visit the National Mall - the Smithsonian and the National Monuments

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© National Park Service

The National Mall is the first stop on most sightseeing tours of Washington DC and most of the attractions are free. With dozens of museums and historic sites, there are plenty of things to see and do to keep the whole family occupied.

2. See the animals at the National Zoo

© Smithsonian National Zoo

The National Zoo is set within the beautiful Rock Creek National Park and is a part of the Smithsonian Institution. Admission is FREE! The attraction is one of the most kid-friendly places to visit in the nation’s capital where you can see more than 400 different species of animals.

3. Attend free festivals and events

© Rachel Cooper

There's plenty of free festivals and events going on in Washington, DC throughout the year. See monthly event calendars for details. (Please note that calendars include some festivals with fees) You'll also find free summer concerts throughout the DC capital region. During the holiday season, there are a variety of free holiday events around the DC area. The Washington, DC area also hosts several parades throughout the year.

4. Enjoy a free performance at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage

© Margot Schulman

Washington DC’s premier concert hall offers a free performance every evening at 6 p.m. Programs include performances by the National Symphony Orchestra, jazz musicians, poets, dance troupes and more.

5. Learn about Congress and tour the Capitol

© Miller Taylor
Guided tours of the U.S. Capitol building are free, but require tickets which are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. While waiting for tours, visitors can browse galleries at the Capitol Visitor Center that display historic artifacts, touch a 10-foot model of the Capitol Dome and watch live video feeds from the House and Senate.

6. Visit the National Gallery of Art

© Rachel Cooper

Explore the artwork or enjoy an educational program, lecture, guided tour, film, or concerts. Take a walk outside and visit the National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden to take in art and some fresh air.

7. Tour Arlington National Cemetery

© Rachel Cooper

More than 330,000 American servicemen as well as many famous Americans are buried at the 624 acre national cemetery. Visitors can walk the grounds for free or take a guided tour bus for $7.50. Be sure to see the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

8. Hike the trails or visit the nature center at Rock Creek Park

© Rachel Cooper

Rock Creek Park is an urban park that offers an opportunity to explore the beauty of nature. Visitors can picnic, hike, bike, rollerblade, play tennis, fish, horseback ride, listen to a concert, or attend programs with a park ranger. Children can participate in a wide range of special programs at Rock Creek Park, including planetarium shows, animal talks, exploratory hikes, crafts, and junior ranger programs.

9. Watch a Supreme Court ruling

© Rachel Cooper

The Supreme Court is in session October through April and visitors may view sessions on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Seating is limited and given on a first-come, first-serve basis. Mondays through Fridays, throughout the year, visitors can explore exhibits, see a 25-minute film on the Supreme Court, and participate in a variety of educational programs.

10. Take a free walking tour with DC by Foot

© National Park Service

The walking tour company gives free tours of Washington DC (gratuity recommended) with a fast paced and engaging presentation. Hear unique and legendary stories about George Washington's love for dogs, the indestructibility of the President's car, why French women loved Thomas Jefferson and much more.


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