25 Free Things to Do in Washington DC

Great Free Activities for All Ages in Washington DC

Lincoln Memorial
••• Trevor Carpenter/Getty Images

There are plenty of free things to do in Washington DC all year-round. Whether you are looking for some family fun, an excursion out with some friends or even a quiet day to yourself, the nation's capital is a great place to experience a wide variety of cultural and recreational activities. You will find free attractions, festivals and events, educational programs and much more.

  • 01 of 25
    National Mall
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    The National Mall is the first stop on most sightseeing tours of Washington DC and most of the attractions are free. With dozens of museums and historic sites, there are plenty of things to see and do to keep the whole family occupied. This part of the nation's capital is home to the national memorials and miles of green space. Take your time and remember you can't see it all in one day. 

  • 02 of 25
    National Zoo Pandas
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    The National Zoo is set within the beautiful Rock Creek National Park and is a part of the Smithsonian Institution. Admission is FREE! The attraction is one of the most kid-friendly places to visit in the nation’s capital where you can see more than 400 different species of animals.

  • 03 of 25
    Jefferson Memorial & Tidal Basin with Cherry Blossoms
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    There's plenty of free festivals and events going on in Washington, DC throughout the year. See monthly event calendars for details. (Please note that calendars include some festivals with fees) You'll also find free summer concerts throughout the DC capital region. During the holiday season, there are a variety of free holiday events around the DC area. The Washington, DC area also hosts several parades throughout the year.

  • 04 of 25
    Kennedy Center
    ••• Ron Blunt

    Washington DC’s premier concert hall offers a free performance every evening at 6 p.m. Programs include performances by the National Symphony Orchestra, jazz musicians, poets, dance troupes and more. The Kennedy Center also hosts a variety of seasonal festivals and provides free guided tours of the facility. 

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  • 05 of 25
    The U.S. Capitol building
    ••• Miller Taylor

    Guided tours of the U.S. Capitol building are free, but require tickets which are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. While waiting for tours, visitors can browse galleries at the Capitol Visitor Center that display historic artifacts, touch a 10-foot model of the Capitol Dome and watch live video feeds from the House and Senate.

  • 06 of 25
    East Building of National Gallery of Art
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    The world-class art museum displays one of the largest collections of masterpieces in the world including paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture, and decorative arts. Explore the East and West Buildings. Enjoy an educational program, lecture, guided tour, film, or concert. Take a walk outside and visit the National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden to take in art and some fresh air. 

  • 07 of 25
    Arlington National Cemetery at sunset
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    More than 330,000 American servicemen as well as many famous Americans are buried at the 624 acre national cemetery. Visitors can walk the grounds for free or take a guided bus tour. Be sure to see the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns and visit Arlington House, the former home of Robert E. Lee which is located atop a hill, providing one of the best views of Washington, DC. 

  • 08 of 25
    Boulder Bridge, Rock Creek Park, Washington DC, USA
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    Rock Creek Park is an urban park that offers an opportunity to explore the beauty of nature. Visitors can picnic, hike, bike, rollerblade, play tennis, fish, horseback ride, listen to a concert, or attend programs with a park ranger. Children can participate in a wide range of special programs at Rock Creek Park, including planetarium shows, animal talks, exploratory hikes, crafts, and junior ranger programs.

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  • 09 of 25
    Authority of Law with Supreme Court
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    The Supreme Court is in session October through April and visitors may view sessions on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Seating is limited and given on a first-come, first-serve basis. Mondays through Fridays, throughout the year, visitors can explore exhibits, see a 25-minute film on the Supreme Court, and participate in a variety of educational programs.

  • 10 of 25
    Bureau of Engraving and Printing
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    Everyone loves to watch real money being printed! See how U.S. paper currency is printed, stacked, cut and examined for defects. Free tours are every 15 minutes, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

  • 11 of 25
    Lincoln Memorial
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    The walking tour company gives free tours of Washington DC (gratuity recommended) with a fast paced and engaging presentation. Hear unique and legendary stories about George Washington's love for dogs, the indestructibility of the President's car, why French women loved Thomas Jefferson and much more.

  • 12 of 25
    Tourists at the botanic gardens, Washington DC, United States, USA
    ••• Elan Fleisher/LOOK-foto/Getty Images

    The state-of-the-art indoor garden is located next to the U.S. Capitol Building and displays approximately 4,000 seasonal, tropical and subtropical plants. The Gardens holds special events and educational programs throughout the year.

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  • 13 of 25
    Low angle view of the White House, Washington DC, USA
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    To arrange a free tour of the White House you must make a request through a member of Congress. Group tours are held Tuesday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. through 11:30 a.m. and are scheduled one month in advance. Without advance planning, you can visit the White House Visitor Center, located at the southeast corner of 15th and E Streets, which is open daily from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m.

  • 14 of 25
    U.S. Constitution
    ••• VisionsofAmerica/Joe Sohm

    See the original Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights at the National Archives. There is also a state-of-the-art theater and a special exhbit gallery devoted to document-based exhibits on newsworthy and timely topics.

  • 15 of 25
    The National Theatre
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    The free performance series features shows ranging from puppet and magic shows to music and ballet. Seating is limited and tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis 30 minutes prior to showtime. The National Theatre is one of Washington DC's premiere theaters and is located in the heart of the city near a variety of other attractions.

  • 16 of 25
    Library of Congress Main reading room
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    Unknown to many, the Library of Congress is one of the most beautiful buildings in Washington DC. There are interactive exhibits and the re-creation of Thomas Jefferson's original library. Free lectures, concerts, exhibits, and poetry readings are held regularly. The Library of Congress is located near the U.S. Capitol Building and the U.S. Supreme Court Building.

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  • 17 of 25
    18th Street facades in Adams Morgan.
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    Learn about the history of Washington DC's neighborhoods by following one of Cultural Tourism DC's walking trails.  The illustrated signs combine stories, historic photos and maps. Explore a variety of neighborhoods including Adams Morgan, U Street, Barracks Row and themed trails like the Civil War to Civil Rights Downtown Heritage Trail.

  • 18 of 25
    C&O Towpath
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    The historic canal begins in Georgetown and stretches 184-miles to Cumberland, Maryland. The towpath is a beautiful and interesting place to walk, jog, bike or rollerblade. Visitor Centers along the way provide guided educational programs and host seasonal events.

  • 19 of 25
    Mt. Vernon trail
    ••• Kieran Scott

    The Mount Vernon Trail runs parallel to the George Washington Memorial Parkway and follows the west bank of the Potomac River from Theodore Roosevelt Island to George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate. The trail offers wonderful views of the Potomac River and Washington DC’s famous landmarks.

  • 20 of 25
    Capital columns at National Arboretum
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    The National Arboretum displays 446 acres of trees, shrubs and plants and is one of the largest arboretums in the country. Visitors enjoy a variety of free exhibits from formal landscaped gardens to the Gotelli Dwarf and slow growing Conifer Collection.

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  • 21 of 25
    Pope John Paul II Cultural Center
    ••• Rachel Cooper
    The Roman Catholic museum located in Northeast Washington, DC offers interactive and multimedia exhibits that explore the Catholic Church and its role in history and society. The Pope John Paul II Cultural Center also displays personal memorabilia, photos, and artwork of the late Holy Father and serves as a research center and education facility promoting Catholic principles and faith.
  • 22 of 25
    Frederick Douglass home
    ••• Courtesy of the National Park Service
    The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site honors the life and accomplishments of the abolitionist who freed himself from slavery and helped to free millions of others. There is no admission fee. However, a $2.00 per person service charge applies to reservations for tours of the Douglass Home.
  • 23 of 25
    D.C.'s Old Stone House
    ••• Rachel Cooper
    Old Stone House, built in 1765, is the oldest known private home in Washington, DC. The National Park Service maintains the property and it is open to the public.
  • 24 of 25
    The Pentagon
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    The headquarters for the Department of Defense is a fascinating building. Guided tours are given by military personnel and are available by reservation only. Learn about the mission of the the four branches of the military (Navy, Air Force, Army and Marine Corps). Be sure to visit the Pentagon Memorial as well.

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  • 25 of 25
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
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    The permanent exhibition at the Holocaust Memorial Museum presents a narrative history of the Holocaust, the annihilation of 6 million European Jews By Nazi Germany from 1933 – 1945. Free Timed Passes are required for the permanent exhibit.