50 Best Free Things to Do in Washington, DC

Washington D.C. during cherry blossom season

jimfeng / Getty Images

With deep historic roots and easy transportation connections to other cities throughout the Northeast, it's no surprise that Washington, D.C., draws in millions of visitors each year. Luckily for them—and the nearly 700,000 people who call the District of Columbia home—our nation's capital is a budget-friendly city where many of the best museums, parks, memorials, festivals, attractions, and historic sites are free to visit. Wondering where to get started? Check out our guide to 50 interesting sites and attractions in and around Washington D.C. where you won't have to worry about paying admission.

01 of 50

See Smithsonian's New FUTURES Exhibit

A look at the FUTURES exhibit at the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building


900 Jefferson Dr SW, Washington, DC 20560, USA
Phone +1 202-633-1000

Just opened in November 2021, the new FUTURES exhibit in the recently renovated Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building feels like a recreation of the 1964 World's Fair, with a smattering of items on display from that event plus interactive exhibits designed to show what life could be like in the future thanks to technological advances. You can meet an AI robot that reacts to your movements, view a model of Virgin's Hyperloop Pegasus pod (which could someday be the future of high-speed travel), and get a peek at the costumes from Marvel's "Eternals" film, among other fascinating futuristic exhibits.

02 of 50

Get Outdoors at the U.S. National Arboretum

Trees in the U.S. National Arboretum

Jack Siah / Getty Images

Arboretum, Washington, DC 20002, USA

While it's a 15-minute drive from the city center and a little tricky to reach by public transportation, the U.S. National Arboretum is worth the effort. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (except Christmas Day), the 446-acre park is home to collections of Asian plants, azaleas, dogwoods, spruce and fir trees, Japanese maple trees, daffodils, peonies, and magnolias, among other types of plants and trees. It's also where you'll find popular sites like the Grove of State Trees, National Herb Garden, and the National Capitol Columns. The U.S. National Arboretum is also a wonderful off-the-beaten-path place to view the cherry blossoms in springtime.

03 of 50

Celebrate the Holidays at the Downtown Holiday Market

Downtown Holiday Market in Washington, D.C.

Downtown Holiday Market

F St NW &, 8th St NW, Washington, DC 20004, USA

If you happen to be in Washington, D.C., during the holiday season, don't miss the Downtown Holiday Market, held each year from late November to just before Christmas Eve (the last day is usually December 23) on F Street NW between 7th and 9th streets NW. Get into the spirit of things with live musical performances, photo-ops with giant toy soldiers, and other holidays displays of seasonal merriment. Should you feel so inclined, most stalls are run by local businesses so you'll be supporting the community by buying food, hot apple cider, presents, and souvenirs.

04 of 50

Stroll or Bike Around the National Mall

U.S. National Mall

Anthony Medina / EyeEm/ Getty Images

Washington, DC, USA
Phone +1 202-426-6841

There's nothing quite like going for a walk or bike ride around the National Mall, a five-mile trip if you decided to do the whole circuit, lined with memorials, monuments, Smithsonian museums and gardens, and long stretches of sandy pathways reminiscent of Tuileries Garden in Paris. Some portions may be more crowded than others depending on when you visit, while other areas closer to the U.S. Capitol Building are less so. On the Lincoln Memorial side, stop by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial near the north end and the Korean War Veterans Memorial near the south end. Near the center, visit the World War II Memorial and view the Washington Monument.

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05 of 50

Browse the Shops at Eastern Market

Eastern Market in Washington, D.C.

Eastern Market

225 7th St SE, Washington, DC 20003, USA
Phone +1 202-698-5253

Open Tuesday to Sunday and located in the residential Capitol Hill neighborhood is Eastern Market, a magnificent indoor/outdoor food and arts market that's been a go-to for D.C. residents and visitors since it debuted in 1873. Inside, you'll find local vendors selling seafood, fruit, vegetables, flowers, cheese, meat, pasta, and baked goods, while outside painters, sculptors, photographers, potters, woodworkers, jewelers, and designers sell their creative wares.

06 of 50

Relax in Meridian Hill Park (Malcolm X Park)

Meridian Hill Park in Washington D.C.

U.S. National Park Service

16th St NW &, W St NW, Washington, DC 20009, USA
Phone +1 202-895-6000

What was originally built as a mansion for former President John Quincy Adams in the early 19th century and later served as a campground for Union soldiers during the Civil War, Meridian Hill Park (known colloquially as Malcolm X Park) is a beautifully landscaped 12-acre oasis in the middle of the city. It's where you'll find locals and visitors enjoying the sun, having picnics with friends, and dancing to the sounds of the Sunday drum circle, a D.C. tradition since the 1970s. Head to Upper Level Plaza to check out sweeping city views and the epic Joan of Arc statue; a number of other impressive sculptures, fountains, and gardens can be found elsewhere in the park.

07 of 50

Celebrate Cherry Blossom Season

Cherry Blossoms and the Jefferson Memorial by the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.

Steven Heap / EyeEm / Getty Images

Tidal Basin, Washington, DC, USA

Once a year, the cherry trees of Washington, D.C., turn pink and white, bringing in visitors from all over the world to experience the city in bloom. In turn, the District celebrates its National Cherry Blossom Festival, typically held from mid-March to mid-April, with a parade and free virtual and in-person events—residents decorate their patios, there's a pink tie dinner party, and the kite festival shouldn't be missed.

If you'd rather view them on your own, head to the Tidal Basin to snap iconic photos of them by the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, or Jefferson Memorial. Otherwise, for fewer crowds, try viewing them at the U.S. National Arboretum or East Potomac Park.

08 of 50

Check Out the Dupont Circle Farmers Market

Dupont Circle Farmers Market

Dupont Circle Farmers Market

Dupont Circle, Washington, DC 20036, USA

Open all year long (except for the week between Christmas and New Year's) the Dupont Circle Farmers Market is a great spot to find fresh produce, fruit, honey, ice pops, empanadas, cider, kettle corn and popcorn, French and Greek pastries, coffee, and all manner of other locally sourced food and beverage products. Head to 20th Street NW between Massachusetts and Connecticut avenues on Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. to shop alongside D.C. residents and pick up some tasty souvenirs for loved ones back home.

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09 of 50

Follow the Heritage Trail Through Shaw

Colorful buildings in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington DC

amedved / Getty Images

Shaw, Washington, DC 20001, USA

For an in-depth look at one of the most interesting residential neighborhoods in D.C., follow the Shaw Heritage Trail, marked by 17 illustrated signs starting from 7th Street NW and Mt. Vernon Place, up 9th Street NW, across R Street NW, back down 7th Street NW, and beyond along M Street NW to 4th Street NW, down New York Avenue, and back along L Street NW to 7th Street NW.

Along the way, you'll pass signs depicting what life was like in the District's early days as people from all over the U.S. came to settle here. You'll learn how U Street was "Black Broadway" during the early 20th century, the place where everyone who was everyone came to see the likes of Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, and Duke Ellington perform. Other signs discuss how the neighborhood developed and the stories of famous residents who once called the area home.

10 of 50

Go on a Free Walking Tour

The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Free Tours By Foot

Washington, DC, USA
Phone +1 202-426-6841

If you'd rather learn about the places you're passing by, try a free walking tour with a professional guide. Free Tours by Foot hosts a number of guided trips through Capitol Hill, historic Georgetown, the National Mall, as well as several themed tours about Lincoln's assassination, holiday lights displays, and D.C.'s haunted history. Another company, Strawberry Tours hosts guided walks through Arlington National Cemetery, Capitol Hill and the Library of Congress, and along the D.C. Waterfront. Note that while the tours themselves are free, you are expected to tip your guide at the end, so be generous if you genuinely enjoyed yourself.

11 of 50

Get Inspired at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial

MLK Memorial

TripSavvy / Rachel Cooper

1964 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20003, USA
Phone +1 202-426-6841

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial honors his contributions and vision for all to enjoy a life of freedom, opportunity, and justice. Located around the western end of the Tidal Basin, it's a beautiful place to stroll and reflect on all the work that still needs to be done as you read inspirational quotes from some of Dr. King's famous speeches that still ring true today as much as they did during the Civil Rights era. Visit as you make your way around the Tidal Basin's monuments and pay tribute to those who have worked so hard to defend civil rights for all Americans.

12 of 50

Picnic at East Potomac Park

East Potomac Park

TripSavvy / Rachel Cooper

Ohio Dr SW, Washington, DC 20024, USA
Phone +1 202-485-9880

East Potomac Park is where you'll find many of Washington D.C's famous cherry trees and offers terrific views of the city from its 300-acre perch on the river. The park's proximity to both the Tidal Basin and the National Mall makes it a go-to spot for picnics, biking, running, and fishing for visitors and residents; it's also home to a golf course, tennis center, and swimming pool. Hains Point, located at the tip of the island, is the perfect place for spotting airplanes as they take off and land at nearby Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

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13 of 50

Visit the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum

African American Civil War Memorial and Museum

TripSavvy / Rachel Cooper

1925 Vermont Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001-4125, USA
Phone +1 202-667-2667

Located along the historic U Street Corridor in the hip Cardozo neighborhood just north of downtown D.C., the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum honors the African American struggle for freedom in the United States. A Wall of Honor lists the names of 209,145 United States Colored Troops (USCT) who served in the Civil War, while the museum showcases artifacts from this time period.

14 of 50

Tour the Anacostia Community Museum

Anacostia Museum


1901 Fort Pl SE, Washington, DC 20020, USA
Phone +1 202-633-4820

With a special focus on the social issues affecting metro D.C.'s diverse populations, the Anacostia Community Museum offers exhibits, educational programs, workshops, lectures, film screenings, and other special events that interpret Black history from the 1800s to the present. Founded as the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum and opened in 1967, the site was envisioned by S. Dillon Ripley, then-secretary of the Smithsonian, as an outreach effort by the Smithsonian to collaborate with the local African American community.

15 of 50

Cycle in Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park

C & O Canal

TripSavvy / Rachel Cooper

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, United States

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries and stretches 184.5 miles from Georgetown in Washington, D.C., along the Potomac River to Cumberland, Maryland. The towpath is a popular place for walking, cycling, and hosting picnics, while National Park Service rangers offer guided tours and educational programs throughout the year.

16 of 50

Discover the Women of the American Revolution

DAR Museum

DAR Museum

1776 D St NW, Washington, DC 20006, USA
Phone +1 202-628-1776

This minuscule spot is often missed by visitors, but the collection at the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Museum features more than 30,000 examples of decorative and fine arts, including objects made or used in America prior to the Industrial Revolution. Next door, the museum's Constitution Hall is a popular venue for concerts and other public events.

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17 of 50

Learn About President Lincoln Where He Was Assassinated

Ford's Theatre

Paul Whitfield / Getty Images

511 10th St NW, Washington, DC 20004, USA
Phone +1 202-347-4833

The historic theater where President Lincoln was assassinated is a national landmark that still functions as a theater. Visitors can listen to a talk by a National Park guide and learn the fascinating story of the events surrounding President Lincoln’s untimely assassination. On the lower level, the Ford's Theatre Museum displays exhibits about his life and explains the circumstances of his tragic death. 

The Petersen House and Education Center, located directly across the street from the theater, features two floors of permanent exhibits addressing the immediate aftermath of Lincoln’s death and the evolution of his legacy, plus a lecture and reception space and two levels of education studios. Note that while entry to Ford's Theatre, the Petersen House, and the Education Center are technically free, there is a $3 convenience fee charged when you order an advanced reservation online.

18 of 50

Hear a Free Outdoor Concert at Fort Dupont Park

Fort Dupont

National Park Service

Minnesota Ave SE, Washington, DC 20019, USA
Phone +1 202-426-7723

Fort Dupont Park is located on the other side of the Anacostia River in Southeast D.C. Visitors have 376 acres to spread out and enjoy picnics, nature walks, Civil War programs, gardening, environmental education, music, skating, sports, theater, and concerts, among other recreational activities. It's especially popular during the summer months, when the park hosts its free outdoor concert series.

19 of 50

Reflect at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

FDR and Fala

TripSavvy / Rachel Cooper

This impressive monument, dedicated to former president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, features four outdoor gallery rooms depicting the 12 years of his presidency in addition to 10 bronze sculptures of the man himself, his wife Eleanor Roosevelt, and various scenes depicting life in the World War II era. Located on the southwestern end of the Tidal Basin, the monument also offers great views of the cityscape and is a particularly beautiful spot to view the cherry blossoms.

20 of 50

Tour the Frederick Douglass Historic Site

Frederick Douglass Historic Site

National Park Service

1411 W St SE, Washington, DC 20020-4813, USA
Phone +1 202-426-5961

Located in the Anacostia neighborhood of southeast D.C., this National Historic Site honors Frederick Douglass' life and work as an abolitionist. After freeing himself from slavery, he helped others do the same and later became one of the 19th century's most accomplished writers and speakers in the fight against injustice.

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21 of 50

Admire Asian Art at the Sackler and Freer Galleries

Sackler Gallery


1050 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560, USA
Phone +1 202-633-1000

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art, both part of the National Museum of Asian Art and located along the National Mall, feature world-renowned collections of Asian art including paintings, ceramics, manuscripts, and sculptures. The Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Auditorium provides free performances of Asian music and dance, films, lectures, chamber music, and dramatic presentations. As both are part of the Smithsonian collection of museums, admission is free.

22 of 50

Learn About Modern Art at the Hirshhorn Museum

People discussing a painting in the Horschorn Museum

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre 

Independence Ave SW &, 7th St SW, Washington, DC 20560, USA
Phone +1 202-633-1000

The Smithsonian's museum of modern and contemporary art is comprised of approximately 11,500 works, including paintings, sculptures, artworks on paper, photographs, collages, and decorative art objects. In addition to rotating exhibitions, the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum also hosts various performances, including film screenings and dance exhibitions. 

23 of 50

Pay Your Respects at Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

TripSavvy / Victoria Chamberlain 

Arlington, VA, USA
Phone +1 877-907-8585

Located across the Potomac River at the western end of the Memorial Bridge, this peaceful spot serves as a cemetery and a memorial to America's war heroes. More than three million people visit Arlington National Cemetery each year to pay their respects and attend graveside services and special ceremonies that pay tribute to veterans and historical figures. Give yourself a free walking tour to better explore the grounds at your own pace.

24 of 50

Take a Moment at the US Marine Corps War Memorial

Iwo Jima Memorial

TripSavvy / Rachel Cooper

Arlington, VA 22209, USA
Phone +1 703-289-2500

The U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial is located just north of Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia and is dedicated to the marines who gave their lives during one of the most historic events of World War II, the battle of Iwo Jima. Just across the Potomac River from downtown D.C., the site also offers panoramic views of the nation's capital.

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25 of 50

Honor the Third US President at the Jefferson Memorial

People boating around the pond in front of the Jefferson Memorial

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

16 E Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242, USA
Phone +1 202-426-6841

One of the District's most popular attractions, this dome-shaped rotunda honors the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. The 19-foot bronze statue is located alongside the Tidal Basin and surrounded by a grove of trees, making it an especially beautiful place to visit during cherry blossom season in the spring. The lower level of the memorial also houses a bookstore and a few exhibits about Jefferson's life and legacy.

26 of 50

Watch a Free Performance at the Kennedy Center


Hisham Ibrahim / Getty Images

2700 F St NW, Washington, DC 20566, USA
Phone +1 202-467-4600

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is home to the National Symphony Orchestra, Washington Opera, Washington Ballet, and American Film Institute. You can catch performances featuring everything from live theatre, Broadway musicals, and dance recitals to orchestra music, comedy shows, and chamber music. The world-famous venue also hosts youth and family programs and multi-media shows. Catch free performances at 6 p.m. on the Millennium Stage in the Grand Foyer on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; free film screenings are held there at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays.

27 of 50

Honor Korean War Veterans

Korean War Veterans

TripSavvy / Rachel Cooper

900 Ohio Dr SW, Washington, DC 20024, USA
Phone +1 202-426-6841

Our nation honors those who were killed, captured, wounded, or remain missing in action as a result of the Korean War at the namesake memorial. Nineteen figures represent every ethnic background, while the statues are supported by a granite wall with 2,400 faces of land, sea, and air support troops. The memorial is within walking distance of the Lincoln Memorial and across the National Mall from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

28 of 50

Take Photos of the White House From Lafayette Park

Lafayette Park

TripSavvy / Rachel Cooper

Pennsylvania Ave NW &, 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20001, USA
Phone +1 202-619-6344

While this 7-acre park provides a prominent arena for public protests, ranger programs, and special events, it's also the front lawn of the White House, making it a great spot to shoot photos. Additional artfully designed buildings surrounding Lafayette Park include the Old Executive Office Building, the Department of the Treasury, Decatur House, Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, The White House Historical Association, Hay-Adams Hotel, and The Department of Veterans Affairs.

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29 of 50

Visit the World's Largest Library

Inside the Library of Congress

TripSavvy / Victoria Chamberlain

101 Independence Ave SE, Washington, DC 20540, USA
Phone +1 202-707-5000

The Library of Congress contains more than 128 million items including books, manuscripts, films, photographs, sheet music, and maps. Visitors can explore the library, navigate books via page-turning technology, and learn how America’s greatest thinkers were inspired. The Library of Congress is one of the city's most beautiful buildings and a must-see for architecture lovers.

30 of 50

Pay Tribute to President Lincoln

Lincoln Memorial

TripSavvy / Victoria Chamberlain 

2 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW, Washington, DC 20002, USA
Phone +1 202-426-6841

The Lincoln Memorial is one of the top attractions in Washington, D.C., and occupies a prominent space on the National Mall. Created in tribute to President Abraham Lincoln, who fought to preserve our nation during the Civil War between 1861 and 1865, the memorial has been the site of many famous events since its dedication in 1922, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963 during the March on Washington.

31 of 50

Browse the National Archives

National Archives


700 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20408, USA
Phone +1 866-272-6272

The National Archives and Records Administration stores and provides public access to the original documents that set up the American government as a democracy in 1774. Stop by to view historical documents like the U.S. Government's Charters of Freedom, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence.

32 of 50

Learn About the Building of America—Literally

National Building Museum

 Maxwell MacKenzie

401 F St NW, Washington, DC 20001, USA
Phone +1 202-272-2448

One of D.C.'s lesser-known museums, the National Building Museum examines America's architecture, design, engineering, construction, and urban planning with a series of exhibits featuring photographs and models of buildings found in Washington, D.C., The museum also offers insights into the history and future of our built environment, as well as a variety of educational programs and special events, informative lectures, exciting demonstrations, and great family programs.

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33 of 50

Worship at Washington National Cathedral

Exterior of Washington National Cathedral

TripSavvy / Victoria Chamberlain

3101 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016, USA
Phone +1 202-537-6200

Washington National Cathedral is an impressive English Gothic structure featuring exquisite architectural sculptures, wood carvings, gargoyles, mosaics, and more than 200 stained glass windows. The top of the Gloria in Excelsis Tower is the highest point in Washington, D.C., offering dramatic views of the city, while the grounds are home to beautiful gardens and a gift shop.

34 of 50

See Masterpieces at the National Gallery of Art

National Gallery of Art

TripSavvy / Victoria Chamberlain 

Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20565, USA
Phone +1 202-737-4215

One of the city's most famous attractions for art lovers is the National Gallery of Art, a museum that displays one of the largest collections of masterpieces in the world, including paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculptures, and decorative arts from the 13th century to the present.

Just outside, a 6-acre sculpture garden includes 17 significant sculptures by internationally renowned artists like Louise Bourgeois, Mark di Suvero, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Coosje van Bruggen, and Tony Smith. Free jazz concerts are held in the gardens on Friday evenings during the summer, while in winter part of the space is transformed into an ice skating rink (there's a fee to ice skate but it's still free to enter the garden).

35 of 50

Visit the National Museum of African Art



950 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560, USA
Phone +1 202-633-4600

The National Museum of African Art, located along the National Mall near the Smithsonian Castle, features a collection of ancient and contemporary artwork from Africa as well as special events, storytelling, demonstrations, and a number of interesting children’s programs. Come to see exhibits highlighting artists from all over Africa, contemporary female creators, the portrayal of water in African art, and Wind Sculpture VII, created by popular artist Yinka Shonibare. Exhibitions focusing on photography in the Indian Ocean region and artists' points of view regarding cultural and racial stereotypes are also available online.

36 of 50

Geek Out at the National Museum of American History

Exterior of the National Museum of American Museum

TripSavvy / Victoria Chamberlain

1300 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560, USA
Phone +1 202-633-1000

The Smithsonian National Museum of American History displays more than three million distinctly American artifacts ranging from the War of Independence to the present day. Ongoing exhibitions include displays about the American D-Day experience during WWII, a collection of dresses worn by former first ladies, American inventions and ingenuity through the ages, Dorothy's ruby slippers from "The Wizard of Oz," the Star-Spangled Banner (which inspired the U.S. national anthem), and other exhibits demonstrating the diversity of America’s history and culture. Special tours and programs are scheduled daily.

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37 of 50

Bring Native American History to Life

National Museum of the American Indian

John Steiner / Smithsonian Institution

4th St SW, Washington, DC 20560, USA
Phone +1 202-633-1000

The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian showcases Native American objects from ancient pre-Columbian civilizations through the 21st century. Multimedia presentations, live performances, and hands-on demonstrations let guests see what life was like for Native Americans and their ancestors, while the museum also features films, music and dance performances, tours, lectures, craft demonstrations, and other interesting programs all year long.

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Get to Know African American History and Culture

The exterior of the Museum of African American History with the Washington Monument in the background

TripSavvy / Victoria Chamberlain 

1400 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560, USA
Phone +1 844-750-3012

The National Museum of African American History and Culture offers exhibits and educational programs focusing on topics like slavery, post-Civil War reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Civil Rights Movement. Artifacts on display range from items such as Harriet Tubman's hymn book (1876) to Muhammad Ali's headgear (1960) and Gabby Douglas's Olympic gymnastics outfits (2012). 

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Observe Specimens at the National Museum of Natural History

Natural History Museum

TripSavvy / Victoria Chamberlain

10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560, USA
Phone +1 202-633-1000

The National Museum of Natural History is one of the District's most popular attractions, housing a collection of more than 145 million natural science specimens and cultural artifacts. The museum is a favorite with kids but has plenty to intrigue all ages. The most-visited displays include dinosaur skeletons, an enormous collection of natural gems and minerals, artifacts of early man, an insect zoo, a live coral reef system, and the legendary Hope Diamond.

40 of 50

Admire Art at 2 Museums in the Same Building

A landscape painting in the National Portrait Museum

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre 

8th St NW & G St NW, Washington, DC 20001, USA
Phone +1 202-633-8300

This restored historic building situated in the lively Penn Quarter neighborhood houses two museums in one building. The National Portrait Gallery presents six permanent exhibitions of nearly 20,000 works ranging from paintings and sculptures to photographs and drawings. Farther south, along the National Mall, the Smithsonian American Art Museum is home to the largest collection of American art in the world, including over 41,000 works spanning more than three centuries.

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41 of 50

Learn About the Post Office at the National Postal Museum

National Postal Museum


2 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002, USA
Phone +1 202-633-5555

This intriguing museum, located under Washington D.C.'s former Main Post Office near Union Station, displays the largest stamp collection in the world and examines the development of the U.S. postal system using a series of interactive displays.

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See Giant Pandas at the National Zoo

Smithsonian National Zoo

Smithsonian National Zoo

3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA
Phone +1 202-633-4888

One of the most kid-friendly places to visit in Washington, D.C., is the Smithsonian National Zoo, where you can see more than 400 different species of animals. The zoo is famous for its pandas, while regular zoo favorites, including lions, giraffes, tigers, monkeys, and sea lions, are all there, too. The exhibit of native American animals is especially unique. 

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Explore Undersea Vehicles at the Navy Museum

Washington Navy Yard

Getty Images

736 Sicard St SE, Washington, DC 20374, USA
Phone +1 202-685-0589

The former shipyard for the U.S. Navy houses the Navy Museum and the Navy Art Gallery and is home to exhibits and artwork dating back to the Revolutionary War all the way up to the present day. It's a great attraction for kids, with interactive exhibits featuring naval artifacts, model ships, undersea vehicles, sub periscopes, a space capsule, and a decommissioned destroyer, among other cool things to check out.

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Admire Contemporary Art at the Renwick Gallery



1661 Pennsylvania Avenue NW #1, Washington, DC 20006, USA
Phone +1 202-633-7970

The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum is the first of its kind in the U.S. that is dedicated strictly to American art. The Renwick highlights American crafts and contemporary arts from the 1800s onward, covering everything from photography, modern folk art, self-taught art, African American art, Latino art, and video games. 

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45 of 50

Get Some Fresh Air at Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park

TripSavvy / Rachel Cooper

5200 Glover Rd NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA
Phone +1 202-895-6000

This sprawling 1,754-acre urban park extends all the way from the Potomac River to the border of Maryland and is a fantastic place to picnic, hike, bike, rollerblade, play tennis, fish, go horseback riding, listen to a concert, or attend events with a park ranger. Kids 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.

46 of 50

Head to a Little-Known Wilderness Preserve

Trees lining a canal in Theodore Roosevelt Island

TripSavvy / Victoria Chamberlain

Theodore Roosevelt Island, Washington, DC, USA

Theodore Roosevelt Island, a 91-acre wilderness preserve dedicated to our nation's 26th president, honors his contributions to the conservation of public lands for forests, national parks, wildlife and bird refuges, and monuments. The island has 2.5 miles of foot trails where you can observe a variety of flora and fauna, while a 17-foot bronze statue of Teddy Roosevelt stands in its center.

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Never Forget at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

Exterior of the US Holocaust Memorial in DC

TripSavvy / Victoria Chamberlain 

100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW, Washington, DC 20024, USA
Phone +1 202-488-0400

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum pays tribute to the millions who were murdered by the Nazis during World War II. The permanent exhibition presents a narrative history of the Holocaust and the outright annihilation of 6 million European Jews by Nazi authorities from 1933 to 1945. The exhibit uses more than 900 artifacts, 70 video monitors, and four theaters to portray film footage and eyewitness testimonies of those who survived the horrific concentration camps.

48 of 50

Visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

TripSavvy / Rachel Cooper

5 Henry Bacon Dr NW, Washington, DC 20002, USA
Phone +1 202-426-6841

One of the most-visited Washington, D.C., sites, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial consists of a V-shaped granite wall inscribed with the names of the 58,209 Americans who were missing or killed during the Vietnam War. Created in 1982, it's quite moving to see in person, read through the names, reflect on the sheer number of people lost, and view flowers, photos, and other tokens left behind by visiting loved ones more than 40 years later.

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49 of 50

View the Washington Monument

The Washington Monument with an american flag flying beside it

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre 

2 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20024, USA
Phone +1 202-426-6841

The Washington Monument, dedicated to George Washington, the first president of the United States, is one of the most prominent landmarks in D.C. and stands as the National Mall's grand centerpiece. Measuring 555 feet high, it is the tallest structure in the District of Columbia. For a fee, you can ride the elevator to the top for a bird's eye view of the city and Potomac River.

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Spend a Moment of Silence at the World War II Memorial

World War II Memorial

TripSavvy / Rachel Cooper

1750 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024, USA
Phone +1 202-426-6841

World War II Memorial serves as a peaceful place to remember those who served our country during World War II. The beautifully designed memorial consists of an oval shape with two 43-foot arches representing the war's Atlantic and Pacific theaters, while 56 pillars represent the states, territories, and the District of Columbia at the time of the war. Two sculpted bronze wreaths adorn each post, while small fountains sit at the bases of the two arches.

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