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22 Free Things to Do in Washington DC

Washington DC is great because there are so many free things to do! Find out the best free things to do in Washington DC so you don’t have to spend a cent.

I’ve visited DC so many times, and I’ve found so many things to do for free! The city is filled with free museums and attractions, idyllic parks, and free festivals. You’ll have no trouble finding things to do in Washington DC for free.

Don’t break the bank on your visit to Washington DC! Check out these top free things to do in DC.

Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall, Washington DC

Fun Free Things to Do in Washington DC

1. United States Capitol

US Capitol, Washington DC

A visit to the U.S. Capitol Building is a must while visiting Washington DC. And it’s free to tour!

Public tours of the United States Capitol are available to everyone, including non-U.S. citizens. The free tour covers the Crypt, Rotunda, National Statuary Hall, and Senate and House Galleries.

2. White House

The White House has been the official residency of the president of the United States since John Adams in 1800.

It is free to tour the White House, but you’ll have to submit a tour request months in advance through your representative if you’re a U.S. citizen, or through your embassy in DC if you’re an international visitor.

3. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington DC

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History explore the history of our planet from billions of years ago to life on earth today.

This free DC museum has an amazing collection of fossils, precious gems, and unique artifacts that you won’t want to miss!

4. Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Panda Bear at the Smithsonian's National Zoo, Washington DC

Smithsonian’s National Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the United States and it’s home to over 1,500 animals.

At this free zoo, you can find bears, monkeys, big cats, elephants, and more. Their popular exhibits include the Elephant Trails, Great Ape House, Cheetah Conservation Station, and the American Trail.

5. National Gallery of Art

Monet Paintings, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

The National Gallery of Art has a collection of 141,000 works of art from around the Western world.

This free museum has art from the Middle Ages to the present, including a huge collection of Italian artwork (and the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the Americas).

6. National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

As a bonus, the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art adjacent to the West Building is also free to visit.

The free garden exhibits several works from the museum’s contemporary sculpture collection and is a treasure trove of botanicals and sculptures.

7. National Archives Museum

National Archives, Washington D.C.

In the free National Archives Museum, you’ll be able to see important documents from the founding of the United States: the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution.

They also have other documents and records that shaped America’s history, including a copy of Magna Carta, presidential papers, and rotating exhibits.

8. Smithsonian Castle

Smithsonian Castle, Washington DC

The Smithsonian Castle (also called the Smithsonian Institution Building) is the visitor center for the Smithsonian museums. It’s the Smithsonian’s first and oldest building.

You can stop here for information on visiting the other Smithsonian museums, to see their America’s Treasure Chest display with items from each of the Smithsonian museums on display, to see the tomb of James Smithson, and to tour the castle. All of which is free!

9. National Mall

The National Mall is the long park space that runs between the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, and the White House.

Essentially a huge park, you’re free to stroll the sidewalks, plus the Smithsonian’s free museums line the sides, and there are free events throughout the year that you can attend on the National Mall.

10. Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is the largest military cemetery in the country. It serves as the final resting place for more than 400,000 military veterans and their families.

Here, you’ll find the famous Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and its popular Changing of the Guard ceremony. You can also see the graves of President John F. Kennedy, President William Howard Taft, the seven Space Shuttle Challenger astronauts, the Tuskegee Airmen, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and many more important people.

The cemetery is free to visit and explore on your own. They do offer a tram tour that costs extra, if you don’t want to walk the entire cemetery. The tram is free for those with disabilities.

11. Pentagon

Paige at the Pentagon podium, Washington DC, Arlington, Virginia

The Pentagon is the headquarters for the Department of Defense. It is one of the largest office buildings in the world, covering 6.5 million square feet.

You can tour the long hallways, each of which are filled with information and artifacts about the country’s military history. You can also visit the small indoor memorial and chapel for the September 11 attacks.

It is free to tour the Pentagon, but tours are only available to U.S. citizens, and you must make an reservation well in advance of your visit.

12. Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial immortalizes Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd president of the U.S. and the author of the Declaration of Independence.

This monument on the Tidal Basin has a 19-foot-tall bronze statue of Jefferson, surrounded by many of his famous quotes. In the spring, the memorial is surrounded by DC’s famous cherry blossoms.

13. WWII Memorial

WWII Memorial, Washington DC

The National WWII Memorial in the middle of the National Mall honors the 16 million Americans who served during World War II.

This is a serene memorial with 56 granite columns and a plaza fountain.

14. Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is a 555-foot-tall marble obelisk that commemorates George Washington, a Founding Father and the first president of the United States.

And you can ride to the top of the monument for a great view of the city.

Technically, the Washington Monument is free to visit. But to get a ticket, you’ll need to reserve online in advance, which costs a $1 service fee. There are a limited number of walk-up tickets available, which are completely free and without service fee, but these sell out very quickly.

15. Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool, Washington DC

The Lincoln Memorial is dedicated to Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States.

The incredible marble monument holds a 19-foot-tall statue of Lincoln as he gazes out over the National Mall’s Reflecting Pool.

16. Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms with the Washington Monument in the background at the Tidal Basin in Washington DC

Every spring, thousands of cherry blossoms cover Washington DC. You’ll find the beautiful pink and white blooms all over the city, most notably at the Tidal Basin.

The city also holds a free 4-week-long National Cherry Blossom Festival with arts and cultural events celebrating the cherry tree.

This is one of the best times to visit Washington DC!

17. Tidal Basin

Cherry blossoms lining the Tidal Basin with the Washington Monument in the background, Washington DC

The Tidal Basin is the man-made reservoir on the western part of the National Mall. It serves as a pretty backdrop for some of DC’s best monuments.

Walk around the 2-mile Tidal Basin Loop to see the Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the FDR Memorial, the George Mason Memorial, the John Paul Jones Memorial, the Floral Library, the Japanese Pagoda, the Japanese Lantern, and site of the First Cherry Tree Planting.

18. Georgetown

Georgetown is a historic neighborhood of Washington DC that is full of cobblestone streets, Federal-style architecture, and old-town charm.

Enjoy wandering the cobbled streets of Georgetown where you can do some window shopping, see Georgetown University, and see the oldest standing building in DC.

19. The Wharf

The Wharf, Washington DC

The Wharf is a waterfront district in Washington DC that runs along the Washington Channel. This area has tons of shops, restaurants, rooftop bars, entertainment, hotels, and apartments.

Enjoy a waterfront stroll along the Wharf, window shopping at boutique stores, and a visit to the country’s oldest continually operating open-air fish market.

20. Chinatown

Chinatown, Washington D.C.

Chinatown is a small historic neighborhood of DC that is home to tons of great restaurants, the iconic Friendship Archway, and the Capitol One Arena.

The intersection of H Street at 7th Street is where you’ll find the beautiful Friendship Archway, a traditional Chinese gate donated to DC by sister city Beijing in 1968.

21. Willard Hotel

The Willard InterContinental Washington DC Hotel, (also called the Willard Hotel) is a historic hotel where DC’s political elite have been hanging out for over a century.

Every president since Franklin Pierce has either attended an event or gotten a room at this elegant, turn-of-the-century hotel. Ulysses S. Grant enjoyed drinking and smoking in the lobby, and hotel lore says that this is the origin of the term “lobbying”.

The hotel is filled with history, and even if you don’t book a room there, you can still pop in and take a look at the elaborate lobby, decked out in gold, marble, and classy wood finishes.

22. SW DC Prehistoric Pocket Park

SW DC Prehistoric Pocket Park, Washington DC

The SW DC Prehistoric Pocket Park is a tiny park of toy dinosaurs that someone made in their front garden. You’ll find it at 602 7th St SW, Washington, DC 20024.

This is a fun little free piece of art to find on your walk between the Wharf and the L’Enfant Metro station!

Free Things to Do in DC Map

Ready to explore these fun free things to do in Washington DC? Use the map below to plan out your trip!

I hope you have a great time exploring DC on a budget!

Save on Washington DC’s Top Attractions

Want to save big on Washington DC’s top attractions? With the Washington DC Sightseeing Pass, you can save up to 60% on the cost of entrance tickets to museums, tours, and attractions all around the city!

Visit bucket list attractions, enjoy top tours, and discover hidden gems handpicked by local experts. With one price and one pass, you have everything you need right on your phone. This is the perfect pass for visiting Washington DC!

Get your Washington DC Sightseeing Pass here.

Where to Stay in Washington DC

Find the perfect place to rest your head on your visit to Washington DC, from the top rated accommodations to unique stays you can’t get anywhere else.

Hampton Inn Washington-Downtown-Convention Center

We enjoyed our stay at the Hampton Inn Washington-Downtown-Convention Center when attending an event at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

This hotel has a great location. It’s just on the edge of Chinatown and is within easy walking distance to the National Mall and all the tourist hot spots. There are plenty of restaurant options and nightlife nearby.

Canopy by Hilton Washington DC The Wharf

We love the location of the Canopy by Hilton Washington DC The Wharf, though the hotel’s customer service could use some work.

The Wharf is a great spot to be for beautiful waterfront views and lots of dining and nightlife. It’s also only a 10-15 minute walk from two different Metro stations, and it’s really easy to get to and from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

More Things to Do in Washington DC

Explore even more of the nation’s capital! Check out these other top tips for visiting Washington DC.

Ready to visit Washington DC? Plan your trip with these tips.



22 Free Things to Do in Washington DC

What are your favorite free things to do in Washington DC? Let me know in the comments!

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