Last week I was in Washington DC to visit the city, meet a few bloggers, and go to a close friend’s wedding. I’ve been to Washington DC many times before, and I really love the city. There are people from all over the world, making the city very eclectic, diverse, and a foodie’s dream. Yet there’s one really big downside to the city: cost. Washington DC is not a cheap city. With all those free-spending politicians, lobbyists, and diplomats floating around the city driving up prices, costs here are pretty high. Meals, hotels, transportation, parking—they all add up to a lot of money. Luckily, there are many great free things to do in the city for the budget traveler:
Visit the Supreme Court – The Supreme Court is free to enter and there are 40-minute lectures in the main hall for free. It’s a very detailed way to learn about how the court works.
Visit the Capitol Building –The Capitol offers free tours throughout the day. Tickets are available at 8:30am on a first-come, first-serve basis. Get there early, as the tickets are usually gone very quickly. You can also get tickets to sit in the galley and watch Congress in session. Those tickets are also first come, first serve.
Visit the Smithsonian Museums – All Smithsonian museums (and there are a lot) are free, and they even offer free Wi-Fi. Two of the museums offer IMAX movies (which are not free), and if you save your stub, you can get a second movie for four dollars. The museums are all around the National Mall (the big park in the center of town).
Visit the Monuments – All the monuments around the National Mall are free, and you can spend the better part of a day seeing them. You’ll find many monuments to the fallen heroes of our wars, of which the Vietnam War memorial is probably the most popular. There are also lots of monuments to our past presidents. I’m a big fan of the FDR monument—it’s relaxing, has a little garden, and is not very crowded.
Visit the National Zoo – As part of the Smithsonian, this is also free. It’s a good zoo with a lot of animals.
Take in a happy hour – After a long day of walking and sightseeing, you could probably use a nice drink and meal. Luckily, DC is awash with happy hour specials. Head over to Georgetown or DuPont Circle and enjoy good food at a great discount.
Washington DC isn’t always cheap, but many of the city’s great activities are free. These activities will keep you busy for a few days, allowing you to see a lot of DC, take in the country’s history, and not spend a lot of money.
For more information on the United States, visit my country and city guides to US travel.