7 Free Things to Do in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. is a major tourist destination. With all the different museums and iconic places to visit, you may be under the impression that visiting D.C. is quite expensive. Well, it doesn’t have to be! The great thing about Washington D.C. is that many of the attractions are free to the public. The following are some of the most popular attractions in the Washington D.C. area, and you can visit them all for free!

1.  Animal Watching at the National Zoo

Lions, tigers, and bears—oh my! Put on a pair of comfortable shoes and get ready to tour one of the nation’s largest zoos. Operated by the Smithsonian Institute, the National Zoo is one of the D.C.’s greatest gems. This is a popular destination for both tourists and locals alike. Get ready to experience gorillas, pandas, lions, elephants and more. Make sure to visit the peacocks, as you’ll be to get up close and personal with them as they walk around leisurely through their habitat.

2.  Check Out an Outdoor Film

Warm spring and summer nights are perfect for lying on a grassy lawn to watch a film in the company of other cinephiles. The popular Screen on the Green, running for 18 years now, continues to showcase classic movies on a projector on the lawn of the National Mall. Other outdoor films are shown throughout D.C. at various locations such as Adams Morgan, the Capitol Riverfront, and near Union Market. Pack some snacks and a blanket and enjoy a movie for free!

3.  Tour the Library of Congress

This library not only holds bragging rights as the world’s largest, it is also includes the Thomas Jefferson Building, considered to be one of the most beautiful structures in the city. Come in an appreciate the expansiveness of the building and the detailed architecture while marveling at one of the largest sources of information in the world. Guided group tours are available for musical collections and the Thomas Jefferson room.

4.  Shop at the Public Markets

Public markets are a fond mainstay for most cities as they are deeply rooted in the evolving history and culture of a city. In D.C., Eastern Market has served D.C. residents as the go-to spot for fresh produce, meats, arts and crafts, and other goods for more than a century. The market also includes a flea market as well as a food court, where an assortment of prepared foods is served piping hot and ready to enjoy. The NOMA neighborhood has Union Market, which contains quality butchers, fresh produce stands and a creamery that serves some of the best homemade ice cream in D.C. Goods at these markets might not be free, but they don’t charge to look around!

5.  Listen in on a Drum Circle

There are long-enduring D.C. cultural experiences often found beyond the familiar streets of downtown D.C. Such is the case with the live drum circle at Meridian Hill Park. For over 50 years, people gather in the park on Sunday to play their percussion instrument of choice while an attentive audience listens leisurely while lounging on the grass.

6.  Enjoy Rock Creek Park

Covering more than 2,000 acres in northwest D.C., Rocky Creek Park is a bit of the wilderness in the middle of the city. It is the oldest park in the National Park System, and when you enter, you’ll feel as if you have been transported into a green leafy world that juxtaposes the concrete jungle on the other side. This is the perfect place to come to enjoy outdoor activities such as biking, hiking, walking the trails, and playing a game of tennis at the tennis center. There is a nature center on-site as well as a planetarium. There is also plenty of space for picnics as well as an amphitheater where the popular summer concert series is held. Fun fact: The National Zoo is located in the southern portion of the park.

7.  Getaway to the U.S. National Arboretum

If you are looking for an oasis in the middle of D.C., the arboretum is definitely it. This space is so expansive you’ll likely have to make several trips to really tour the whole thing. There are several gardens and collections to explore. There is a space specially dedicated to various state trees. The National Bonsai and Penjing Museum is a must visit as it holds a collection of bonsai trees. Some of the other collections and gardens include the azalea, dogwood and Asian collections, fern valley and the herb garden. The Washington Youth Garden (WYG) offers hands-on gardening as well as nutrition activities in an effort to teach children about where food comes from.

If you are planning a trip to D.C. or even if you are a local seeking new experiences, there are plenty of wonderful no-cost resources to enjoy throughout the city!


About the Author

Nonah Renata is a freelance writer and travel blogger with a keen eye for great travel deals. Working with LUXbnb, she hopes to help teach travelers that engaging experiences don’t always come with a high price tag.