FREE Things To Do in D.C.

Updated July 8, 2020.

Washington, D.C., is known for its history, monuments, and, of course, politics. But when I moved here right out of college, I was delighted to find that so many things to do here are totally FREE! Here’s my list of the top free things to do in my adopted hometown!

10. Museums

So many of D.C.’s museums are free every day of the year! Check out A Guide to DC’s Smithsonian Museums, but don’t forget about D.C.’s other free museums, too, including the U.S. Botanic Gardens, National Galleries of Art, and small museums at the Washington Monument (closed until spring 2019), Lincoln Memorial, and Jefferson Memorial.

Smithsonian Castle
More here: Your Ultimate Guide to D.C.’s Smithsonian Museums

9. Summer Movies

There are several free movie locations around D.C. in the summers. There are free outdoor movies (weather permitting) on the National Mall, Rosslyn, Crystal City, Southwest Waterfront, Adams Morgan, and more! Check out D.C. Outdoor Films for scheduling.

8. White House Tours

These are hard to come by, but if you’re lucky enough to score a White House tour through your Congressperson’s office, it’s free! You can only take pictures at Christmas time, but tours are offered year-round. Subscribe to the blog or check back soon for a guide to touring the White House! If you don’t get a tour of the White House itself, you can still visit the White House Visitor Center to see presidential artifacts and learn about the White House’s history.

The White House
Keep reading: How to Tour the White House
and D.C. Tours to Request in Advance

7. Silent Drill Team at the Marine Corps Memorial

This is another summertime activity, but it is the most impressive performances I have ever seen. It happens on Tuesday evenings, but check their website for their latest schedule. Dozens of marines come to the Marine Corps Memorial and perform their drills silently–with no cues whatsoever–using their rifles and even with fixed bayonets. It’s an unbelievable sight. The Marine Corps band comes out to perform as well!

Getting ready to watch

6. Free Shows at the Kennedy Center

At 6:00pm 365 days per year, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts puts on a free show at their Millennium Stage! It’s hit or miss, but always entertaining! You could see the U.S. Navy Jazz Band one day, then a school group from China performing traditional songs the next! Check out their schedule and see what’s happening while you’re in town. Need a ride? There is a FREE shuttle from the Foggy Bottom Metro to the door at the Kennedy Center every 15 minutes!

Don’t miss a tour of the Kennedy Center!
More here: How to Tour the Kennedy Center for FREE
5. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing

This is where they make the money! Tickets for this tour are timed, but they are free of charge. This is a really fun tour for all ages, but especially if you have kids with you. Find all the details at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing Website.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing
More here: How to Tour the Bureau of Engraving and Printing

4. Arlington Cemetery

A visit to Arlington Cemetery is completely free of charge. Be sure to check out Arlington House while you’re there, as well as the Changing of the Guard. Bring your walking shoes–there is a lot of ground to cover, but the views on the hills are beautiful.

View of D.C. from Arlington National Cemetery
Keep reading: The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Arlington National Cemetery

3. National Park Talks and Tours

The National Park Service is a dramatically underutilized resource, especially in D.C.! Not only do they give daily ranger-led talks at the monuments, they have tons of events that are all free of charge. A friend recently told me about a running tour on the National Mall, and I can’t wait to try it out soon! Check out their schedule of events here: NPS Event Calendar.

I encourage you to take a ranger-led tour of the major monuments!

2. Captiol Hill

Yes, you can tour the U.S. Capitol, U.S. Supreme Court, and the Library of Congress, but there’s more. You can go on the House and Senate Floors if you go with a Congressional staffer (and a Capitol Dome Tour if you can swing a visit with a Member of Congress). You can also sit in for 5 minutes at a time at a Supreme Court case when they are in session. And the Library of Congress also has public events like concert and lectures that you can attend, too! Oh, and don’t forget to pick up your Library of Congress Library Card at the Madison Building across the street!

The Library of Congress Main Reading Room

1. The Monuments

This remains my favorite thing to do in D.C. I love walking the monuments, and you can find my ultimate guide here! Walking is always free, and don’t worry, there are bathrooms and food vendors along the way if you get hungry on this beautiful walk. The monuments are always available, too!

You can always walk the Monuments for FREE, day or night!

I hope you love your trip to D.C., no matter what your budget! Want more info to help you plan your trip? Check out my dedicated Washington, D.C. Page!

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Published by quickwhittravel

Welcome to the blog! We do things a little differently around here: no ads, no negativity, and no checked luggage, y'all. My name is Whitney, and Quick Whit Travel Blog is your one-stop shop for all the best travel tips, packing advice, and destination information. Click around or message me on social media @quickwhittravel for more!

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