Washington, the United States capital city, is packed with free or very inexpensive activities for visitors. It’s probably one of the best destinations in the US, if you’re traveling on a smaller budget. Whether you visit the city with your family, as a couple or with friends, you will have plenty of fun free activity options.
A ton of free museums!
What makes Washington such an interesting city to visit for small budgets is probably its the incredible amount of free museums. The Smithsonian Institution, an educational science organization, manages nearly 20 museums and art galleries in the city of Washington, and all are completely free for all visitors.
Among the 20 museums is the American Art Museum, the National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of Natural History, to name just a few. For the complete list, you can visit the Smithsonian Institution’s website. There are museums for all tastes that can appeal to both children and adults.
Other museums than those of the Smithsonian are also free. Like the Islamic center where you can admire the mosque and go through the books, in addition to taking the Arabic course; the Daughter of the American Revolution Museum, which houses collections of objects dating from the colonial era; the permanent collections of The Philipps Collection Museum of Modern Art, as well as the renowned National Gallery of Art where you can admire the works of renowned artists such as Picasso and Monet.
For history and political buffs
Of course, there are a ton of places and monuments related to politics and history in Washington. In the heart of the capital is the National Mall, an esplanade around which you can find many museums, as well as the US Capitol, which is the seat of the United States Congress, the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, and many more.
Free guided tours of the National Mall and Memorial Park are offered every hour. There is of course the White House, but its access is very complex.
However, the Capitol is open to the public and you will have the chance to visit the crypt, the lobby, the Congress Library of Congress, which is the largest library in the world, and the rotunda.
Also make a jump to the National Archive Museum, the place where are kept, among others, the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution.
A visit to Arlington National Cemetery will take you back in time. It is one of the most important military cemeteries in the country, being the last resting place for 300,000 soldiers. You can also see the Unknown Soldier tomb, as well as that of Presidents Taft and John F. Kennedy.
Did you know that you could attend Supreme Court sessions? Tickets are given on first come, first served basis, so get there early if you want a seat. A unique chance not to be missed!
Nature lovers are not left out!
Go to Meridian Hill Park on summer Sundays to attend a gathering of people playing music. The Drum Circle has been created more than 50 years ago, bringing together locals and tourists, musicians so you can listen to music while picnicking in the park.
For a whiff of nature, head for Rock Creek Park. This 1,754 acre city park offers visitors the opportunity to escape the bustle of the city and find a peaceful refuge, recreation, fresh air, majestic trees, wild animals, and thousands of years of human history. It features hiking trails, bike paths, a tennis court, lots of green spaces and even a planetarium! All of Rock Creek Park is free to enter! Even the planetarium shows, Old Stone House, and Peirce Mill!
Located at Rock Creek Park’s southern entrance, the National Zoo, is also a must! As a Smithsonian property, the access is absolutely free. Admire the pandas, lions, tigers, elephants and gorillas that live there.
The U.S National Arboretum houses an impressive collection of bonsai trees as well as the iconic trees of the United States’ 50 states, in addition to the gardens that vary seasonally.
You can also visit the U.S Botanic Garden which is a small oasis in the middle of the city, where you can find more than 5,000 orchids as well as an impressive collection of plants from all over the world.
Immerse yourself in the culture of the city
Every night at 6pm, it’s a rendez-vous at the Kennedy Center for a free show. You will have the chance to hear the Washington Symphony Orchestra, to let yourself be drawn to a dance show, or to be thrilled by the sound of the opera.
A little tour in one of the two main markets of the city will surely please you! The Eastern Market, which is over 130 years old, is full of fresh produce and a flea market where you will find crafts and antiques. Union Market, on the other hand, offers stalls of fruits and vegetables, local products, meats, fish and seafood, as well as some restaurants.
On the Georgetown side, a historic district of Washington, take a stroll to admire historic buildings and shopping, as well as Georgetown University.
Finally, the Washington National Cathedral is certainly worth seeing, whether for spiritual reasons or simply to admire it.
No matter what kind of activities you prefer, you will certainly find several to please you in this long list of free activities to do in Washington. Have a nice trip!