Washington, DC, not only the capital of the United States but the museum and monument capital of the nation, has much to offer tourists on a budget. So many of the city’s best attractions are absolutely free! Here’s a list of some of my favourite free things to do in Washington, DC.
Bring comfortable shoes and get walking!
The White House
The White House usually tops the list of things to see in DC. And when you get there, a quick 5 minutes of observing the famous home is enough to check it off your bucket list. But if you’re lucky (and keen) enough to book a White House tour 6 months to 21 days in advance, you may get a better view of the house and its interior.
Tours are available 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday. 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
I had never heard of “the Mall,” so I was pleasantly surprised to learn it is filled with museums instead of stores. This public space is comprised of parks and iconic structures that span from the Washington Monument to Capitol Hill.
The Smithsonian Museums, a collection of 19 museums and galleries (plus the National Zoo), are all free of charge. Pick and choose your favourites and pop in and out as you try to fit in as much as you can! As an art fanatic, I opted for the National Gallery of Art (amazing!), African Art Museum, Asian Art Museum, and the Hirshhorn Museum (of modern art) and Sculpture Garden.
Holocaust Memorial Museum
This profound memorial is located close to the Washington Monument in the Mall. Follow the narrative history through the exhibitions and collections spanning three floors as you learn about the Holocaust and remember survivors and victims. The Hall of Remembrance is a solemn space for reflection where visitors may light a candle.
The permanent exhibition is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5:20 p.m.
While you’re viewing the iconic white dome atop Capitol Hill, don’t forget to stop by the Botanic Garden at the east end of the Mall. The Conservatory, National Garden, and Bartholdi Park are open every day at 10:00 a.m. Take photos, sketch, or simply admire the diversity of flora, from breathtaking roses to orchids to endangered plants.
West of the Washington monument you’ll find important memorials such as the:
- Martin Luther King Memorial
- Lincoln Memorial
- National WWll Memorial
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial
- Korean Veterans Memorial
A little further is the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with millions of books, recordings, photographs, maps, and manuscripts. Browse the library’s materials and online collection. It was founded in 1800 and receives around 15,000 items each working day! Explore on your own or take a guided tour of the Thomas Jefferson Building.
What’s your favourite free thing to do in Washington, DC?