20+ Free Things to Do in Washington, D.C.

National Zoo Panda
National Zoo Panda | © Becker1999/Flickr
Kate McMahon

While people often assume that Washington, D.C. is pretentious and overtly political, a vibrant and cultural community exists outside the Capitol Building. However, even the Capitol itself is free to enter and open for tours. Due to its wealth of versatile free activities, the District is ideal for a visit on a budget.

Enjoy Free Museums

Smithsonian institutions are federally funded, which makes admission fees obsolete.

Admire everything from classical Dutch portraiture to abstract modern art at The National Gallery of Art.

Touch an authentic moon rock at The National Air & Space Museum.

Steal the Declaration of Independence at The National Archives (*only free if you don’t get caught).

Watch Smithsonian paleontologists uncover actual fossils at the Natural History Museum’s FossiLab.

Delight in African American cultural achievements at the NMAAHC.

Fossil Lab

Get Outside

Go for a hike or bike ride in Rock Creek Park‘s expansive trail system.

Appreciate the vibrant fall foliage at these parks.

Have a picnic at locals’ favorite spot, Malcolm X Park.

Relax in the grass with a view on The National Mall.

Smell the roses at the National Arboretum and U.S. Botanic Gardens.

Delight in the lotus and lily flowers at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.

During early spring, take in the cherry blossoms at The Tidal Basin.

Mediterranean Room In Botanic Gardens

Admire Monuments

Go for a self-guided walking tour of the monuments.

Visit the monuments at night for spectacular views.

Pay your respects to fallen heroes at Arlington National Cemetery.

Schedule a tour of The White House.

Get Cultured

Attend free author talks at local bookstore Politics & Prose.

Sign up for a library card at Library of Congress to browse their historic and rare collections.

Attend a free performance at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage.

Library of Congress Reading Room

Listen To Music

Drink sangria while enjoying outdoor jazz concerts at the Sculpture Garden (summer only).

Support local musicians at Fort Reno’s summer stage concert series.

Attend an underground house show.

Jazz In the Garden

Visit The National Zoo

The mecca of free things to in DC, the 163 acre Zoo offers over 400 species of animals, and the groundbreaking research that accompanies them.

Fawn over the most famous Washington residents, the giant pandas (who absolutely need a category of their own.)

Mei Xang
landscape with balloons floating in the air


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