VACATION IDEAS

20 Fabulously Free Things to Do in D.C.!

Let freedom ring! Did you know that amid the trappings of office, pomp and ceremony, and glitz and glamor of Washington, D.C., you’ll find more high-quality freebies than anywhere else on earth? Who’s ready to binge on cherry blossoms, food, art, dinosaurs, astronauts—and a 45-carat diamond? Here’s how!

WALKING TOUR OF THE NATIONAL MALL

Get an expert's-eye-view of the monuments and memorials

Where: Tours meet at southwest corner of 15th Street and Constitution Avenue and end at the Lincoln Memorial

Okay, this isn't exactly free. DC by Foot operates a two-hour walking tour of the National Mall that invites you to "pay what you like" when the tour is over. In money-mad Washington, that's close enough to a freebie for us! Our one suggestion is: Don't be a jerk.

dcbyfoot.com

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEMORIAL

This memorial to the civil rights movement's leader in this once-segregated city is a must

Where: 1964 Independence Avenue

This four-acre memorial site between the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial is the first on the central axis of the Mall that doesn't commemorate a war or a president. It features a 28-foot-high granite sculpture by Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin, along with a crescent wall engraved with King quotations chosen by historians and writers.

nps.gov/mlkm

VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL

This memorial transforms a painful era in U.S. history into a beautiful touchstone

Where: 5 Henry Bacon Drive

This deceptively simple wall, designed by American sculptor Maya Lin, lists the names of more than 58,000 American men and women who died in the Vietnam War. The enormity of the loss and the presence of visitors searching for a loved one among the names, which are listed chronologically, make this understated memorial unique and unforgettable.

nps.gov/vive

JEFFERSON MEMORIAL

The author of the Declaration of Independence stands watch over the capital's ups and downs

Where: 900 Ohio Drive

Whether you think of Thomas Jefferson as the third president, the author of the Declaration of Independence, the hypocrite who opposed slavery but was himself a slaveholder, or the guy who implores Lisa to tell the truth in a memorial episode of The Simpsons, there's no denying that his memorial is beautifully designed and enjoys a particularly pleasant piece of real estate.

nps.gov/thje

NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM

From the Wright Brothers to the moon landing and beyond, this is a favorite with kids from 1 to 100

Where: Independence Avenue at 6th Street

Home to vintage flying machines like Charles Lindburgh's 1927 Spirit of St. Louis plane and the 1969 Apollo 11 command module, the National Air and Space Museum is one of the most kid-friendly branches of the Smithsonian. Its lineup features a 20-minute planetarium show starring Sesame Street characters, and air-travel-themed story times, where little ones can keep their hands busy building model planes and rocket ships. And don't forget to stock up on the astronaut ice cream at the gift shop!

airandspace.si.edu

NATIONAL ZOO

While most zoos come with a beastly price tag, this one's free—and open to visitors in the early morning!

Where: 3001 Connecticut Avenue

There's more to the always-free National Zoo than giant pandas (though, c'mon, what's not to love about wild animals that look like stuffed toys?). Looking for an early-morning destination to hit when the museums are shuttered? The 163-acre grounds of the zoo generally open by 6 a.m.-ish—four hours before its exhibits officially come to life. Stick around and you'll be rewarded with the sight of six resident orangutans making their way—hand over hand—across an almost 500-foot-long stretch of cables connecting two areas.

nationalzoo.si.edu

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

Long before our ancestors walked this land, there were dinosaurs—and their fossils are just one of the attractions here

Where: 10th Street and Constitution Avenue

The nation's natural history museum will get its first-ever T-rex on Tuesday April 15! It will be in august company, joining other fossils, animal exhibits, geologic formations, and much more. And while the phrase "natural history" may not immediately bring to mind French royalty, you can ogle the 45-carat Hope Diamond, which once belonged to Louis XIV, here.

mnh.si.edu

SEE THE FREEBIES!

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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