THE MOST expensive part of a trip to Washington, DC is getting to The Capital and paying for a hotel. Most of the popular attractions in the city are free and located within the area of the National Mall, making it easy to walk to and from each location. The city is great to photograph — just keep in mind that no drones are allowed within a 30-mile radius of the city.
Here are 10 of the best free things to do in the city:
1. Tour the White House
You have to register for this tour, and can do so up to three months before your visit. Every President in the United States has resided in this historic home.
2. Smithsonian Museums
With 11 museums to visit on the National Mall and 6 others around the greater DC area, you can be busy for days taking in art, history and even planes.
3. The Tidal Basin
Most popular in early spring when the Cherry Blossoms bloom, this area is free to walk in all year. The path is 2-mile long and has 3 memorials along the way: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memoria,l and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
Spend time on the lawn, go to the top (which is currently closed) when it’s again open, or even take an artistic photo of yourself pushing the Monument over. It’s ok, everyone does.
Visit the three giant pandas. They seem to be the talk of the town ever since baby Bei Bei was born in 2015. You’ll need a full day to see all the animals and exhibits.
6. A tour of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing
You can see money being made. You will need a ticket to get in and you will have to stand in line to get your ticket. You’ll be fascinated by watching long strands of money roll off machines. And no, they do not give you money to take home as a souvenir — I already asked.
7. Explore the World War II Memorial
One of the things I love most about visiting this memorial is that there are always veterans there and everyone is extremely polite. This memorial is dedicated to a pivotal point in history where we lost over 400,000 people in the armed services.
8. Hang out on the National Mall
About 2 miles in length, the National Mall is a wide-open area in the city lined with museums. The Mall has the Capitol Building at one end and the Washington Monument at the other. You can play Frisbee, read a book, take a picnic, or just take a break from all the sightseeing you have been doing.
9. A show at the Kennedy Center at Millennium Stage
Every night at 6:00 pm a free show is put on and no tickets are required. The Kennedy Center is known for bringing in amazing acts from around the world. Even though some people dress up, you can come as you are and enjoy the music for free.
10. Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pond
When the sun sets behind this monument you can see a beautiful reflection in the pond. You can visit during the day to see the massive statue of Lincoln. The view from the steps allows you a perfect shot of the Washington Monument and if there is the sun and your camera angle is right, a striking reflection in the pool.
Best Travel Credit Cards
Top offers from our partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
80,000 bonus points
The Platinum Card®
75,000 bonus points
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 bonus points