Enjoy Washington, D.C. on a Budget

The White House and reflection pool at night, Washington, D.C.

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A trip to Washington, D.C. doesn’t have to break the bank. There are plenty of ways to enjoy Washington, D.C. while sticking to a budget. Knowing about free attractions, entertainment, inexpensive hotels, reasonably priced places to eat, and where to find budget-friendly shopping will keep the costs down.

Interior view of the dome, U.S. Capitol Building
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Free Attractions

With its deep historical roots, it's no surprise that Washington, D.C. is a draw for both U.S. and international tourists. Unlike most tourist hotspots, our nation's capital is a city where many of the best attractions are free. You can save money in the District by exploring the countless free museums, parks, memorials, and historic sites.

You can learn how money is made for free. Visitors can visit the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for a 30-minute tour to learn how U. S. paper currency is printed, stacked, cut and examined for defects. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing also prints White House invitations, Treasury securities, identification cards, naturalization certificates, and other special security documents.

Like with most government buildings and museums, there is a long-standing tradition that they are considered belonging to the people of the United States and so you'll often find that entry is free. As an example, the U. S. Capitol Building is open to the public for guided tours. Visitors learn about the work of the Senate and the House of Representatives, and about the building's impressive architecture. The Capitol Visitor Center serves as a museum with educational exhibits that highlight the history of the iconic building as well as the legislative branch of government.

Seagulls fly in front of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington DC
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Free and Cheap Entertainment

With MyTix, you can experience the Kennedy Center in an affordable way. If you are 18 to 30 years old or an active duty member of the armed services, you can join this program designed to make the performing arts more accessible. With discount offers galore and super-special free ticket giveaways, you’ll have access to all kinds of Kennedy Center performances.

You can find coupons to reduce the cost of your entertainment, touring and dining through several websites. Restaurant.com offers discount coupons for a wide range of restaurants. You must purchase these coupons and print them out before you go. They work like a gift certificate.

In Washington, D.C. you can enjoy free summer concerts and outdoor movies.

There are many exciting things to do in the District that are free. See the Supreme Court in action, take a walking tour, and visit the White House.

Save on Hotels

There are some reasonably-priced hotels convenient to most of Washington, D.C.’s attractions. Be aware that some inexpensive hotels may require you to get around town by taxi, bus or Metro. So, be sure to note the location of the hotel when you make your reservation. Hotel rates in Washington, D.C. fluctuate with the seasons and tend to be the cheapest on the weekends during the summer.

Cheap Eats

As with any city, there are restaurants where you can get a special of the day or happy hour pricing if you know when to go. Also, finding a good burger or pizza place will provide you with a meal at a reasonable price. If you check the menus online, you'll be prepared to order when you arrive.

  • Best Cheap Restaurants in Washington, D.C. - You'll be surprised to find out that one of the District's best pubs and restaurants, Bullfeathers, offers casual dining on Capitol Hill, with generous portions of tasty burgers, salads, sandwiches, milkshakes, and pizza. You'll find a reasonably priced oyster bar, Mexican food, and a classic American diner among the budget-friendly eats.
  • Historic Restaurants - Some of the historic restaurants like Ben's Chili Bowl and the Tastee Diner are also reasonably priced.
  • Irish Pubs - Enjoy some favorite dishes such as Irish shepherd's pie, corned beef and hash, homemade Irish bread, fish and chips, and more for pub-pricing.
  • Happy Hours - Happy Hours often have reduced price drinks and specials on foods. Going to a nice bar and restaurant for happy hour is a way to save and still check out the best of the District.
  • Burgers - Burgers don't have to be from a national chain. Try Clyde's in Georgetown with its exposed brick walls and upscale bar and grill atmosphere or RFD, an American restaurant with cuisine a la biere, or beer-inspired recipes, and more than 300 bottled brews and 30 beers on tap.
  • Pizza - Whether you prefer a plain pizza or a wood-fired gourmet one with the works, there are plenty of restaurants that serve a great pie at great prices. 

Bargain Shopping

Shopping in Washington, D.C. usually means trendy neighborhoods and high-priced boutiques. But if you are wanting to save money and get your shopping done there are many ways. Discount coupons, some of which you purchase, can lead the way to great bargains. Also, try places like outlet malls and fascinating flea markets. Collectors know about these places but bargain hunters can score as well.

  • Discount Coupons - Get discount coupons for restaurants, sightseeing tours, museums, groceries, entertainment, home furnishings, car rentals, and more.
  • Thrift Stores – The Washington, D.C. area has a variety of thrift and vintage shops that offer second-hand items including clothing, accessories, toys, furniture, household items, and much more.
  • Flea Markets – Shop for used items, collectibles, and antiques at the always surprising flea markets.
  • Outlet Shopping Malls near Washington, D.C. - Within an hour's drive from Washington, D.C., you will find the best selection of stores and the best prices on designer and brand name items from clothing to electronics to housewares.
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