10 Awesome & Totally FREE Things We Did with the Kids in Washington DC
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It’s FREE when you’re in DC!
1. Enjoy a free outdoor movie on Wednesdays.
During summer months you can catch a free movie in the trendy DC town of NoMa, and doors open at 7 PM! There are even food trucks to curb your appetite offering inexpensive (but absolutely delicious) foods where you can score anything from a slice of pizza to a juicy Greek gyro.
And if it’s cold when you go, the Library of Congress hosts free movies the month of February – just make sure to secure your tickets in December since they’re limited!
2. Bring bathing suits for a splash park.
If you’re looking to cool off during a trip to DC, check out one of the free splash parks at either Capitol Riverfront’s Yards Park, Canal Park, or even hop over to Georgetown Waterfront Park.
Hip Tip: Since you’re saving so much money, make sure to splurge on some incredible ice cream. Ice Cream Jubilee is close by and rated the best in the city!
3. Enjoy any of the museums at the National Mall (they’re ALL free)!
You will need an entire weekend (or more) just to check out all of the amazing (and free) museums. My kids especially enjoy walking through real rocket ships at the National Air & Space Museum and seeing dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History.
Here is a complete list of all the free museums:
- National Gallery of Art
- U.S. Botanic Garden
- National Air & Space Museum
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- National Museum of Natural History
- National Museum of American History
- Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
- National Museum of the American Indian
- National Museum of African American History and Culture
- The Freer | Sackler Galleries
- National Museum of African Art
- Smithsonian Institution Information Center in the Castle
- U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing
- National Archives Museum
*All museums are closed December 25th. See hours of operations and closings.
Hip Tip: Grab a free map of each museum when you get there, so you know where to go and how to take advantage of any extras like an IMAX film at the Air and Space Museum (or a free hands-on experience at the American History museum).
4. Enjoy an amazing fireworks display on the 4th of July.
If you happen to be visiting the big city on July 4th, stick around for one of the most incredible fireworks shows you’ll ever see – or put it on your list for next summer. Make sure you sit in one of these spots to get the best view!
Hip Tip: You can also catch free festivals hosting celebrity performers on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day.
5. Ride bikes around the Washington Monument on a gorgeous day.
There are many places to ride to enjoy the city that are also really wide and safe for family rides. There are even places to rent bikes or Segways at a reasonable cost if you aren’t able to bring your own. According to Foursquare, here are 15 of the best places you can also bike when in DC.
Hip Tip: Bring your own water bottles. There are tons of clean water fountains, so you don’t need to waste money on drinks for the whole family. Better yet, pack a cooler and leave it in the car if you’ll be close by.
6. Spend all day at the National Zoo.
The National Zoo admission is completely free and has exhibits featuring Giant pandas, Asian elephants, Sumatran tigers, Aldabra tortoises, and everything in between. Parking will cost around $20, but there’s plenty of free, nearby residential parking if you don’t mind a little walk.
*The zoo is open daily except for Christmas Day. Hours: March 15th –September: 9 AM-6 PM and October–March 14: 9 AM-4 PM.
Hip Tip: If you’re lucky enough to go during Nov. 23—Jan. 1, the Zoo hosts after-hours visits to the National Zoo during ZooLights, which illuminates the zoo with more than 500,000 environmentally-friendly LEDs, animated light installations, and live music.
*Zoolights does not run on December 24th, 25th, and 31st.
7. Make sure to stop by the other National Monuments.
Whether you want to relive your favorite Forrest Gump moments at the Reflecting Pool, show the kids a huge sculpture of the 16th President at the Lincoln Memorial, or fly a kite at the Washington Monument, these are major stops you don’t want to miss. Plus, they’re all close to each other, so you can visit them at the same time. 😉
8. Go during the Cherry Blossoms and enjoy the free festivals.
It’s no surprise that the iconic 3,000 cherry blossoms that bloom every year made this list, but just in case you miss them, there’s no need to worry… DC celebrates them from the end of March to the middle of April every year with numerous free festivals.
9. Tour The White House and snap some pics.
*All self-guided tours are free and available from 7:30 AM-11:30 AM Tuesday through Thursday, 7:30 AM-1:30 PM Fridays and Saturdays (excluding federal holidays or unless otherwise noted).
10. Walk the streets of Georgetown on your way home.
Our family always ends our trips to DC in the gorgeous and charming town of Georgetown. It will take you just about 15 minutes to get there from the center of the National Mall. You’ll be dazzled by a street of great restaurants and markets to end your family day or shops that have plenty of drool-worthy window shopping.
Hip Tip: Most restaurants in Georgetown aren’t stroller accessible, so if you plan to grab dinner, plan to leave it in the car or call ahead to make arrangements.
Check the best (and cheapest) travel destinations for your next family vacation!