There is always something exciting happening in our nation’s capital. With more than 70 free things to do in Washington DC, families and student groups can experience history, culture, and nature without breaking the bank.
Visit World-Renown Museums
Did you know? DC named the #1 destination for museums and galleries by Travel + Leisure.
- Travel around the world at Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art and the adjacent Freer and Sackler Galleries. These museums feature ancient and modern collections originating from Asia and the Middle East.
- Stroll through the Smithsonian Castle to experience a building rich in history and grandeur. Then, enjoy the peaceful oasis created by the adjoining Haupt Gardens.
- Take flight at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. See many of history’s icons of flight: the original Wright Flyer, the Spirit of St. Louis, the Apollo 11 command module and a lunar rock.
- Walk the hanger of the National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center and get up close to a Concorde, the B-29 Enola Gay, and the Space Shuttle Enterprise.
- See the Hope Diamond, Insect Zoo, mammals, live butterflies, Ocean Hall, Hall of Human Origins at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
- Be introduced to poets and presidents, actors and activists, visionaries and villains who have influenced American history and culture at the National Portrait Gallery.
- Study European and American paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts at the National Gallery of Art.
- Dive into the lives of the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Experience their culture, art, and history in this unique museum.
- See American pop culture icons, war artifacts, the original Star-Spangled banner, and inaugural ball gowns at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
- Take in the colossal 75-ft. Corinthian columns and 1,200 foot long memorial to Civil War veterans at the National Building Museum.
- Experience a huge collection of works made exclusively by American artists at the American Art Museum.
- Let your jaw drop in the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson building of the Library of Congress. This two-story room has beautiful murals, mosaics, and vaulted ceilings.
- Explore America’s postal history from colonial times to present at the National Postal Museum.
- Delve into the impact of women artists throughout history at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. This museum is dedicated exclusively to the exhibition, preservation, and acquisition of works by women artists of all nationalities and periods. *Free for Youth under 18*
- View international modern and contemporary art in a striking cylindrical museum and adjoining sculpture garden at the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden.
- Sit in an authentic Elizabethan Theatre at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Visit the home of the world’s largest and finest collection of Shakespeare materials.
- Learn the story of the Holocaust through artifacts, films, photos, and oral histories at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
- See more than 2,700 guns spanning more than six centuries at the National Firearms Museum.
Honor Great Heroes and Leaders in American History
- Climb the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, one of the country’s most popular sites.
- Visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to recognize this history-making civil rights leader.
- Gaze at the 19 soldier sculptures arrayed for combat and the 164-foot mural wall of the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
- Honor the 16 million who served during WWII and those who supported the war effort from home at the National World War II Memorial.
- Reflect on the sacrifice of more than 58, 209 Americans missing or killed in the Vietnam war at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
- Commemorate the service of women in the Vietnam War at the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. This 2,000 pound bronze statue depicts three service women and one wounded soldier.
- Walk through the 7.5 acre site of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. This memorial depicts twelve pivotal years of FDR’s presidency through a series of four outdoor gallery rooms.
- Stand under the marble rotunda of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, touch the 19 foot statue of the third U.S. president, and read passages from the Declaration of Independence.
- Walk the grounds of Cedar Hill, home of the famed abolitionist Frederick Douglas, at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.
- Gaze up at one of the largest bronze statues ever cast in tribute to all Marines past and present at the Marine Corps Memorial Iwo Jima Statue.
- Pause to remember, honor, and celebrate the people and achievements of America’s Airmen at the Air Force Memorial.
- Commemorate the contributions of the U.S. Navy at the U.S. Navy Memorial.
- Pay respects to President John F. Kennedy, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and soldiers from every war in American history at Arlington National Cemetery.
- See the marble walls displaying the names of more than 17,000 federal, state, and local law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
- Reflect on the events of September 11, 2001 at the Pentagon Memorial.
Explore Iconic Landmarks
- Go inside the 555′ 5 1/8″ Washington Monument and take the elevator to the top for unparalleled views of the city.
- Tour the White House and see the presidential home of every U.S. president except George Washington.
- Gaze up at the dome of the U.S. Capitol rotunda. Tour where senators and representatives meet to shape U.S. policy.
- Read the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and Bill of Rights firsthand at the National Archives.
- Take a free 40-minute tour at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and see how the government produces money.
Take in Nature
- Step into the rainforest, the desert, and an orchid paradise at the United States Botanic Garden.
- Hike through the gardens, azaleas, flowering cherry trees, herb garden, and bonsai museum of the U.S. National Arboretum.
- Amble along two miles of trails through forest and wetlands on Theodore Roosevelt Island. This serene island is a memorial to President Theodore Roosevelt, early champion of conservation.
- Enjoy thousands of exotic animals and animal demonstrations at the National Zoological Park. Experience the Asia Trail, Great Cats, Small Mammals, and more.
- Stroll the perimeter of the Tidal Basin, past the gorgeous cherry blossom trees.
- Walk the George Washington Carver Nature Trail, a tribute to Carver’s fervent wish to preserve nature.
- Hear the howl of cascading waterfalls at Great Falls National Park.
- Take in the beauty of thousands of water plants, waterlilies, lotuses, and water hyacinths at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.
- Ride your bike along the 18.5 mile Mount Vernon Trail. This trail winds along the Virginia side of the Potomac River between Theodore Roosevelt Island and Mount Vernon.
- Bask in the sunshine on the National Mall, the almost 2-mile long green park extending from the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.
Be a Part of the Festivities
- Celebrate several US and foreign cultures with music, crafts food, and cultural demonstrations at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
- Experience DC’s signature National Cherry Blossom Festival event. It is a three-week showcase of arts and culture, environment, and community spirit programs.
- Visit nearly 30 European Union embassies or take in one of more than 150 performances and 75 workshops featuring theatrical performan.ces, music, storytelling, art, puppetry, and more at the family friendly Kids Euro Festival.
Connect with Your Faith
- Learn about the life and legacy of Pope John Paul II at the Blessed John Paul II Shrine.
- Take in the spectacular mosaics of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Catholic church in North America.
- Tour the dramatic Gothic architecture of Washington National Cathedral. See majestic stained glass, carvings, gargoyles, and peaceful gardens.
- Experience replicas of the Holy Land and Roman catacombs at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America. Stroll through the extensive gardens with 1,200 rose bushes.
- Visit the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington at St. Matthew’s Cathedral.
Walk the Streets
- Explore historic U Street, formerly called “Black Broadway” when Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, and others performed in its nightclubs. Check out the music venues.
Experience Drama, in a Good Way
- Watch a performance on the Millennium Stage at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Free performances offered at 6:00 PM, 365 days a year.
- The National Theatre hosts a free performance on Saturday mornings designed for families.
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