America’s capital city is full of exciting activities. Whether you’re an art lover, a history buff, a shopaholic or at one with nature, Washington, DC has something for you. And best of all, many of the best things in Washington are free. Here are some of the best free activities Washington, DC has to offer.
National Zoo (nationalzoo.si.edu): America’s zoo is 163 acres of 400 diverse species, including many endangered animals. Perhaps most famous are the zoo’s giant pandas, which are part of a conservation partnership with the China Wildlife Conservation Program. The zoo also features primates, big cats, elephants, sea animals and native North American species. The zoo is free and open 364 days a year.
Eastern Market (easternmarket-dc.org): Eastern Market has served residents of America’s capitol for nearly a century and a half. The indoor market, open every day of the week except Monday, features a myriad of shopping options, including fresh produce, hot bread and locally made crafts. On weekends, the market expands to include an open-air section with additional vendors and live music.
National Museum of American History (americanhistory.si.edu): The National Museum of American History offers a broad look at America’s past, from its earliest struggles for freedom to its modern innovations. The museum features daily programs such as live shows, interactive crafts and focused tours. Also available are self-guided tours, available on the website and at the information desk, which are categorized by age and interest. The museum is free and open 364 days a year.
Georgetown Waterfront Park (georgetownwaterfrontpark.org): Once a thriving seaport, the Georgetown Waterfront Park now serves local cyclists, joggers and walkers who enjoy unobstructed views of the Potomac River. On warm days, visitors can see dozens of boaters rowing up and down the river. Just steps away from the river is the Georgetown neighborhood, a historic district with cobblestoned lanes, old houses and trendy boutiques.
National Gallery of Art (nga.gov): The National Gallery of Art brings together a collection from across the globe and includes everything from European renaissance masterpieces to modern Americana. You can’t miss Leo Villareal’s Multiverse, a moving light sculpture that connects the museum’s east and west buildings. The National Gallery of Art is free and open 363 days a year (closed Christmas and New Year’s Day).
United States Botanic Garden (usbg.gov): At nearly 200 years old, the United States Botanic Garden is one of the oldest in the country. The garden seeks to educate people on the importance of plants to humans, from a variety of standpoints. Visitors can tour the garden’s grounds, which include a conservatory, outdoor garden, water gardens and a rose garden, for free 365 days a year. Guided 45-minute tours of the conservatory are sometimes available.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (ushmm.org): This museum is a sobering account of the events of the Holocaust. The main exhibit begins by showing the Nazi party’s rise to power, followed by the implementation of the “Final Solution.” Artifacts, videos and images paint a vivid and sobering picture of the Nazis’ atrocities. The museum also serves as a memorial to those victims, and as a center to prevent future genocide.
Tour with DC By Foot (freetoursbyfoot.com): Visitors can visit the dozens of monuments in Washington, DC, on their own. But for the same price – free – they can take a guided tour of the monuments through tour company DC by Foot. The company offers daily walking tours of the National Mall, Arlington Cemetery and Capitol Hill, as well as themed tours such as one that focuses on the Lincoln assassination. The tour guides work for tips, but the company stresses that if you don’t like the tour, you don’t owe a dime.
Rock Creek Park & Planetarium (nps.gov/rocr): Tucked away in the northwest corner of Washington, DC is Rock Creek Park, a peaceful oasis of fresh air, foliage and wild animals. The park features short trails through the woods. The nature center has exhibits that describe the park’s wildlife and ecosystem. A planetarium leads visitors on a stellar journey. A variety of ranger-led programs, including evening stargazing, are listed on the park’s website.
U.S. Capitol Building (visitthecapitol.gov): The U.S. Capitol Building, where the nation’s legislation battles are fought and won, is free to visitors. Marvel at the 180-foot-high rotunda from below it. In the Capitol Visitor Center, explore exhibits on U.S. history and politics. To visit the Capitol building, passes must be booked in advance either online or through your U.S. senators or representative. Some same-day passes are available in the Capitol Visitor Center.
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