Oh, Washington, D.C., you are a gift and a curse. It’s a blessing to live so close to the nation’s capital, and it’s also a curse once 3 o’ clock rolls around and you’ve been sitting in your car for two hours, dealing with Northern Virginia traffic. Growing up in this area has blessed me with a lot of different privileges, that I am just now learning to appreciate and realize. If you’re just visiting and looking for things to do, places to see, things to try, here is a list of 8 FREE (yes, totally FREE) things to do in Washington, D.C.
- The Washington Monument (or, as NoVa residents sometimes call it: “The Pencil”)
The great thing about this monument, is that it’s located on the National Mall, surrounded by other FREE monuments, and even museums. Visitors can visit the inside of the obelisk, and see a birds eye view of the nation’s capital. Tickets to go to the top are free, you only need to get to the ticket office early enough to snag your ticket for the day. They are first come first serve! Or, you can reserve your tickets online, and only pay a small service fee.
- Say “Hello” to Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln sits on a giant chair, overlooking the National Mall, straight to the Capitol. Climb the stairs, and you’ll be able to look across the Reflecting Pool, World War II Memorial, and the Washington Monument!
- Visit the Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Thomas Jefferson is a bit trickier to find. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial overlooks the Tidal Basin, where you can rent paddleboats. This is one of my favorite memorials in Washington, D.C. to visit at night! It’s a beautiful view, with all of the lights, the view, and the calm of the water.
- Get lost in the Smithsonian Museums
Most people who visit Washington, D.C. don’t realize that ALL of the Smithsonian Museums are free! I’ve visited a few of these museums when I was younger and on field trips, but as a kid, I never appreciated how lucky I was to be able to live so close to a wealth of information. Be sure to check out the Natural History Museum, which is my absolute favorite!
- Pack a picnic, and enjoy the National Mall
The best time to enjoy the National Mall is during May and September. Summer nights are also perfect for wandering around the nation’s capital, but be wary of humidity! Virginia/Washington, D.C. humidity can range up to 90% every day, and while at night it seems to be cooler, walking around in 90% humidity at 11pm will still make you sticky and extremely sweaty. Pack a picnic basket, a blanket, and during the summer, you can watch a free movie! (:
- Explore the White House
If you’re in the process of planning your trip to Washington, D.C. this is well worth it! I didn’t even know that this tour existed until my dad mentioned it to me. It’s important to plan and book accordingly and early, but you can tour the inside of the White House for free! You will need to send a tour request to a member of Congress, and this usually takes about one month.
- Tour the Capitol
The Capitol is also one of the most famous monuments located in Washington, D.C. To be honest, I think this monument often gets mistaken for the White House (ahem, that was me when I was younger… oops!). Tourists can visit the inside of the Capitol for free! It’s important to reserve your tour well in advance, just like the White House, because their schedules can get very busy.
- Mosy around Georgetown
Georgetown is one of the neighborhoods in the area, and can be walked through straight down M Street. The cute neighborhood is adorned with shops, restaurants, ice cream parlors, and boutiques that make for the perfect Instagram backdrop! If you’re willing to spare the cash, try out Georgetown Cupcakes, famous in the Northern Virginia area! (: