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Free in Washington, DC

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Found this guide helpful

DC can be a very expensive place to travel to by yourself and/or with others. These are some of my favorite things to do and see for free in Washington, DC (and some safety tips too!)

Good for
  • History Buff
  • Art and Architecture Lover
  • Nature Lover
  • Peace and Quiet Seeker
  • Thrifty Traveller
  • Trendsetter
  • Like a Local

20 Places

13 City Tips

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Map

20 Places

U.S. Capitol

Government Buildings

United States Botanic Garden

Fountains, Gardens

National Mall

Historic Walking Areas, Parks

Washington Monument

Monuments & Statues

White House

Government Buildings

Lafayette Square

Points of Interest & Landmarks

National World War II Memorial

Monuments & Statues

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Monuments & Statues

Lincoln Memorial

Monuments & Statues

Library of Congress

Government Buildings, Libraries

Washington National Cathedral

Architectural Buildings, Sacred & Religious Sites, Churches & Cathedrals

National Zoological Park

Zoos

National Geographic Museum

Natural History Museums

National Gallery of Art

Art Museums

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Natural History Museums

National Air and Space Museum

Speciality Museums

Rock Creek Park

Military Museums, Parks, Speciality Museums

Jefferson Memorial

Monuments & Statues

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

Monuments & Statues

Tidal Basin

Bodies of Water

iStefPayne's City Tips

  • 20% tip is customary for most services
  • Taxis in DC are required to take credit cards
  • Best methods of transportation: Uber (download the app); taxis (call or wave down); city bus and the DC metro are all good, cheap options
  • Don't leave personal belongings of value unattended in public places
  • Avoid walking through parks at night
  • "Sorry" is an appropriate response to panhandlers
  • Basic etiquette: give up your seat to elderly and disabled on the bus and metro
  • Always wear a helmet when city biking
  • Mind crosswalks -- cars will run you over if you wander into the street looking up at the monuments!
  • Stand to the sides of the metro doors when they open so riders can get off safely
  • Stand right on the metro escalator so people can walk by
  • Rooftop restaurants and bars are big in DC -- check out the views across the relatively shortly-stacked city
  • When exiting the metro escalator or entering the metro car, don't stop right at the end and/or at the top/bottom -- people crash all the time. Super dangerous and annoying!
  • U.S. Capitol
    Government Buildings
    See more photos
    iStefPayne Says:

    The United States Capitol Building -- when you take the politics out of it and see it for what it is, you're left looking at one of the most remarkably beautiful structures in the world. Even under a ton of scaffolding, it's beautiful! (Major restoration is underway in 2015).

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • I like to wander and/or ride my bike around the vicinity. Most go on foot, ride along on a Capitol Bikeshare, or take segway tours
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #24 of 428 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Group tour was ouststanding, really impressed. 22/10/2018
    • Great Place to Walk 21/10/2018
    • U.S. Capitol
    Address:
    East Capitol St NE & First St SE
    Washington DC, DC 20004
    Phone:
    +1 202-226-8000
    Hours:
    Mon - Sat
    8:30 AM - 4:30 PM
    Other:
  • United States Botanic Garden
    Fountains, Gardens
    See more photos
    iStefPayne Says:

    One of my favorite green escapes within the concrete jungle! The wild orchids and variety of plant species' is super unique, there is almost always a worthwhile special exhibit, and above all, the air smells awesome and feels cleansing - a welcome escape from the noise and grit of downtown DC

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Trendsetter
    • Hidden Gems
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Just steps from the U.S. Capitol building, I usually pair the two in one outing
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #32 of 428 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • A Nice Place to Visit 21/10/2018
    • Beautiful 18/10/2018
    • United States Botanic Garden
    Address:
    100 Maryland Ave. at First St. SW
    At the east end of the Mall
    Washington DC, DC 20001
    Phone:
    +1 202-225-8333
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
    Other:
  • National Mall
    Historic Walking Areas, Parks
    See more photos
    iStefPayne Says:

    In my opinion, the Mall is just a foot path to everything around it -- memorials, Smithsonian museums, metro stops, and other great outdoor spaces. As a standalone space it is vast and can be what you make it... a place to picnic, throw a frisbee, read, kick or throw a ball, take photos, run, etc. My favorite part of it is the walking trails that line the exterior. The Mall is right by my work and I, like many other locals, hit the trails after work, at lunch, anytime really to run, walk or just wander. Oh, great people watching too!

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Plan to stay:
    More than 3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #16 of 428 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Overwhelming! 22/10/2018
    • Get a Bike 21/10/2018
    • National Mall
    Address:
    Constitution Ave NW
    Washington DC, DC 20565
    Phone:
    +1 202-426-6841
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    12:00 AM - 11:59 PM
    Other:
  • Washington Monument
    Monuments & Statues
    See more photos
    iStefPayne Says:

    This is the mid-way point between the Lincoln Memorial and the U.S. Capitol Building, and in many ways is the heart of the city.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • You can take a trip to the top for awesome aerial views of the city. You'll have to wait in line for a few minutes, but so worth it!
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #48 of 428 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Stunning 21/10/2018
    • Stands out all over the DC area. 21/10/2018
    • Washington Monument
    Address:
    2 15th St. NW
    Near 15th St. & Madison Dr. NW
    Washington DC, DC 20560
    Phone:
    +1 202-426-6841
    Other:
  • White House
    Government Buildings
    See more photos
    iStefPayne Says:

    There is not much to do at the President's house unless you get on a garden tour but it's beautiful to look from beyond the fence line and certainly a must-see

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Riding your bike on Pennsylvania avenue (which wasn't always but is now closed off to car traffic) is a fun way to watch protesters. :)
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #72 of 428 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Good - for those not eligible to go on a WH tour. 21/10/2018
    • Contact your senator and enjoy 21/10/2018
    • White House
    Address:
    1600 Pennsylvania Ave
    Washington DC, DC 20500
    Phone:
    +1 202-208-1631
    Other:
  • Lafayette Square
    Points of Interest & Landmarks
    See more photos
    iStefPayne Says:

    Lafayette is just across from the White House and is where many locals wander while going to and leaving from work

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Worth a wander through though not much of a destination, IMO
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #95 of 428 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Interesting - but not a destination in itsefl 21/10/2018
    • Intresting 07/09/2018
    • Lafayette Square
    Address:
    16th St & Pennsylvania Ave Northwest
    Washington DC, DC 20006
    Phone:
    +1 202-755-7798
    Other:
  • National World War II Memorial
    Monuments & Statues
    See more photos
    iStefPayne Says:

    This is a must-see walk through near Lincoln Memorial. The fountains and quotes lining the granite walls are beautiful.

    Good for
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #14 of 428 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Deeply impressed! 22/10/2018
    • Must see 21/10/2018
    • National World War II Memorial
    Address:
    1750 Independence Ave. SW
    Near 7th St. & Independence Ave. SW
    Washington DC, DC 20024
    Phone:
    +1 202-426-6841
    Other:
  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial
    Monuments & Statues
    See more photos
    iStefPayne Says:

    This memorial is very different than all of the others in the area -- designed by a young art student, it has a modern feel. You could get lost for hours reading all of those names...

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Hidden Gems
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Be respectful of those observing loved ones (as opposed to just visiting as a tourist) and stand back to give them room.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #3 of 428 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Ver touching 22/10/2018
    • Humbling 21/10/2018
    • Vietnam Veterans Memorial
    Address:
    5 Henry Bacon Dr NW
    Washington DC, DC 20242
    Phone:
    +1 202-426-6841
    Other:
  • Lincoln Memorial
    Monuments & Statues
    See more photos
    iStefPayne Says:

    Hands down one of the coolest monuments in DC! Whether standing inside where Lincoln towers tall above onlookers, outside on the steps facing the reflecting pool or reading the inscription of Lincoln's landmark Second Inaugural Address on the granite -- the history here is palpable. It's very moving -- my favorite memorial by far.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Hidden Gems
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Sit on the steps and share moments of reflection (and the Washington Monument!) in the pool below as all of the former presidents have
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #1 of 428 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Historie on the spot, with a view on Capitol Hill. 22/10/2018
    • awesome 21/10/2018
    • Lincoln Memorial
    Address:
    2 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW
    Washington DC, DC 20037
    Phone:
    (202) 426-6841
    Other:
  • Library of Congress
    Government Buildings, Libraries
    See more photos
    iStefPayne Says:

    Largest library in the world -- what more is there to say?!

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Hidden Gems
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #12 of 428 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Good - but not quite as interesting. 21/10/2018
    • Beautiful building and great tour 21/10/2018
    • Library of Congress
    Address:
    101 Independence Ave SE
    Washington DC, DC 20540
    Phone:
    +1 202-707-5000
    Hours:
    Mon - Sat
    8:30 AM - 4:30 PM
    Other:
  • Washington National Cathedral
    Architectural Buildings, Sacred & Religious Sites, Churches & Cathedrals
    See more photos
    iStefPayne Says:

    This is the one church that makes this list because you can't check out a major city without seeing their premier church! Oh, and it's grand and totally beautiful.

    Good for
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Check out a walking tour and look skyward to see Gargoyles
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #18 of 428 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Go for Evensong at 4:00 p.m. 21/10/2018
    • Second tallest church building in the U.S. 18/10/2018
    • Washington National Cathedral
    Address:
    3101 Wisconsin Ave NW
    Washington DC, DC 20016-5000
    Phone:
    +1 202-537-6207
    Other:
  • National Zoological Park
    Zoos
    See more photos
    iStefPayne Says:

    My zen-place in DC! This free zoo is one of the very best outdoor walks with the most amazing display of animals (cheetah, lions, Siberian Tiger, giant panda, sea lions, wolves, gorilla, and on and on and on...) I go here often -- the true testament of a great place is if a local can't get enough!

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Hidden Gems
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Go earlier in the day to see animals feeding - especially during the hot months
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #66 of 428 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • not easy to get to 21/10/2018
    • A sleepy day at the Zoo 21/10/2018
    • National Zoological Park
    Address:
    3001 Connecticut Ave NW
    Washington DC, DC 20008-2537
    Phone:
    +1 202-633-4888
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
    Other:
  • National Geographic Museum
    Natural History Museums
    See more photos
    iStefPayne Says:

    The museum and explorer hall is a great way to be a part of the most beloved organization by those with an adventurous soul.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Hidden Gems
    • Like a Local
    • History Buff
    • Nature Lover
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Trendsetter
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Tips
    • Check out seasonal NatGeoLive! events to learn from expedition and photography experts. *This is not free* but worth the fee!
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #99 of 428 things to do in Washington DC
    • A new way of presenting stories 19/10/2018
    • Titanic Rules 17/10/2018
    • National Geographic Museum
    Address:
    1145 17th St NW
    Washington DC, DC 20036-4707
    Phone:
    +1 202-857-7588
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
    Other:
  • National Gallery of Art
    Art Museums
    See more photos
    iStefPayne Says:

    By far one of the best painters/sculptors gallery in DC! See works of some of the greatest artists of all time. I usually wind up staying here for hours

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • There are several wings that span blocks, plan your route in advance to save time
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #7 of 428 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Everyone needs to go! 21/10/2018
    • The big blue rooster 21/10/2018
    • National Gallery of Art
    Phone:
    +1 202-737-4215
    Hours:
    Sun
    11:00 AM - 6:00 PM
    Mon - Sat
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
    Other:
  • Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
    Natural History Museums
    See more photos
    iStefPayne Says:

    This is a terrific place for kids with lots of great exhibits about the Earth sciences - beautiful gems too, including the Hope Diamond on permanent display.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #6 of 428 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Very good. 21/10/2018
    • How much stuff 21/10/2018
    • Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
    Address:
    10th Street and Constitution Ave
    Washington DC, DC 20560
    Phone:
    +1 202-633-1000
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    10:00 AM - 5:30 PM
    Other:
  • National Air and Space Museum
    Speciality Museums
    See more photos
    iStefPayne Says:

    NASA's favorite place to teach the general public about space in Washington, DC

    Good for
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #5 of 428 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • As unique as fantastic! 22/10/2018
    • Great Guided Tour 21/10/2018
    • National Air and Space Museum
    Phone:
    +1 202-633-2214
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
    Other:
  • Rock Creek Park
    Military Museums, Parks, Speciality Museums
    See more photos
    iStefPayne Says:

    This bike/walking path is one of the very best options for experiencing outdoor green space on foot, running and/or by bike -- and it turns 125 year old this year (2015)

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Trendsetter
    • Hidden Gems
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Rock Creek takes you from the north part of town right down to the Tidal Basin - our next stop in this guide -- and on if you want it to: to Georgetown and on up to Great Falls
    Plan to stay:
    More than 3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #43 of 428 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Take a walk, do a jog, or have a bike ride in this Park 15/10/2018
    • Interesting park along the water in Georgetown 15/10/2018
    • Rock Creek Park
    Address:
    3545 Williamsburg Ln NW, Washington, DC 20008
    Washington DC, DC 20015
    Phone:
    +1 202-282-1063
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    6:00 AM - 7:00 PM
    Other:
  • Jefferson Memorial
    Monuments & Statues
    See more photos
    iStefPayne Says:

    A beautiful memorial and excellent for photographers whom want to capture the Tidal Basin at sunrise and sunset

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Prime viewing spot for DC cherry blossoms each spring
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #20 of 428 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Kids enjoyed this memorial 21/10/2018
    • Magnificent Structure 21/10/2018
    • Jefferson Memorial
    Address:
    701 E Basin Dr SW
    At the south shore of the Tidal Basin
    Washington DC, DC 20242
    Phone:
    +1 202-426-6841
    Other:
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
    Monuments & Statues
    See more photos
    iStefPayne Says:

    Love this memorial because it is spread out and provides an opportunity for a walk and talk around the Tidal Basin... "slow time"

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Hidden Gems
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Just across the basin is the Jefferson Memorial -- great to hit both in one stop!
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #15 of 428 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • My favorite memorial 21/10/2018
    • Easily missed 21/10/2018
    • Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
    Address:
    1850 West Basin Dr SW
    Washington DC, DC 20242
    Phone:
    +1 202-426-6841
    Other:
  • Tidal Basin
    Bodies of Water
    See more photos
    iStefPayne Says:

    Beautiful outdoor walk between memorials, and quiet (unless it's cherry blossom week!)

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Paddle boat with your friends!
    • Sunrise and sunset photography
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #26 of 428 things to do in Washington DC
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Worth the walk 21/10/2018
    • Beautiful location for photos 21/10/2018
    • Tidal Basin
    Address:
    E Basin Drive NW
    Ohio Drive NW
    Washington DC, DC 20003
    Other:
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