Washington DC, the nation’s capital— it’s a place full of both American spirit and free activities. Follow this guide to take advantage of what this iconic city has to offer on your next trip.
While the Metro is an easy and cheap option for travel around the entire city, don’t pay for transportation on the National Mall or anywhere near the monuments. Hop on the circulator buses for free rides to different popular tourist areas.
Museums, museums, and more museums!
There’s a museum to satisfy everyone’s interests in DC The Smithsonian located right on the National Mall are all free. Some of the best rated, according to TripAdvisor, are the Holocaust Museum, Air and Space Museum, the Museum of Natural History, and the National Art Gallery.
The street art scene in Washington, DC is on the rise, and for good reason. Some of the world’s most colorful and creative street pieces are spread across the city. Check out these murals for amazing Instagram pictures. Must see murals include the Blind Whino at the southwest waterfront, the Watermelon House in Logan Circle, and the George Washington mural in NoMa.
Iconic landmarks such as the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument are always free and open to the public, unless there is construction or restorative work occurring. The monuments on the Mall tend to be crowded during the day. Here’s a tip: visit the less crowded monuments during the day and the more popular ones at night. They are beautiful lit up in the evening, especially the monuments with fountains. Check out this list of some lesser known monuments for a truly unique experience.
Guided historical tours
Check different travel websites for free guided historical tours. Some are on foot, but some are on bike or Segway. There are oftentimes offers for discounted or free tours, especially for groups. At night you can even catch a ghost tour with DC Ghosts.
Watch congress in action
It’s hard to avoid the political scene in Washington, DC, even if you’re just there on vacation. The congressional rotunda is open for tours during business hours throughout the week. For just a few minutes, you are shuffled into the viewing room where you can spectate political figures in action.
Waterfront views and homes in Georgetown
For pretty views and waterfront seating, head over to Georgetown. There are many famous homes and mansions lining the streets next to cute local bakeries, shops, and restaurants. The waterfront is free to explore, so go ahead and soak in the views of the Potomac. If you’re willing to spend a few dollars, this Potomac cruise is one of the most budget-friendly in the DC area.
During summers, many neighborhoods put on movies outside at night for little to no cost. Oftentimes cheap food trucks and vendors will line the street nearby for good snacking options. Here’s a list of the best spots to lay out on your blanket and enjoy an outdoor movie under the stars.
Music and festivals
The National Mall is always having some sort of festival or concert. Here is a list of the events occurring on the mall during the summer free to the public. Popular reoccurring concerts and events are the 4th of July fireworks, Smithsonian Folklife festival, and the DC Jazz festival.
These activities are only scraping the surface of what DC has to offer. If you can’t fit it all in one trip, consider making multiple trips to experience all this city has to explore throughout the year.