The list of free things to do and the activities you can enjoy in Washington D.C. is mind-numbingly endless and they include poignant monuments, historical memorials, Smithsonian museums, a massive National Gallery of Art, fun festive events, quintessential nooks and crannies, The White House, the National Mall and many more! It’s impossible to cross off all the free things you can do in your checklist with one trip; chances are, you’d have to make other trips to D.C. to enjoy ALL the cool activities.
Most of these museums, memorials and kid-friendly attractions in our nation’s capital are open all year round (except for specific holidays). They are packed during spring and summer months which are peak seasons for Washington D.C. as a whole, so, if you’re not keen on crowds, autumn is best. It’s when things are slowing down and the number of tourists dwindles. Instead of choking heat, you’re left with a light and airy breeze to accompany you with big splashes of bold fall colors.
Since there’s plenty of entertainment, events, shows and tourist attractions to visit in downtown D.C., with many of them charging you absolutely or close to nothing, do come by to check out winter and holiday events too. It’s off-peak period so, chances are, hotel rates are also lower compared to other times of the year.
So, wait no more! Here is a summary of free places to visit and things to do that in downtown Washington D.C.
1. The Tidal BasinThe basin was designed and named after Major William Johnson Twining, Washington D.C.’s first Engineer Commissioner. Major Twining's idea was to construct a tidal reservoir to help flush the Washington Channel. Today, the basin is a gorgeous place to visit from mid-March to October especially during the Cherry Blossom Festival in April. Hotspots like Jefferson Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Monument, George Mason Memorial, and the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial are found a short distance away from the Tidal Basin.
Today, the basin is used as an entertainment and cultural space rather than one for its original function. You can rent a paddle-boat when the weather is nice and head out for an outing with the entire family at an affordable rate. The basin takes up 107 acres of land and is approximately 10 feet deep, making it suitable for paddle-boating. Paddle boating is just one of those intelligent ways to get around the crowds, especially during the massive congregation of people during peak season. Another way to avoid getting into the pile-up of a lineup at the entrance is by making your reservations online; this guarantees you a boat during the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
Even as you make your way around the Independence Avenue to 15th Street towards the Paddle Boat Dock, you can hear the laughter, the cheer, the joy. The rental company is open every day from March to October and from 10am to 6pm. After paddling on a two-person or four-person boat, there are daily performances to enjoy during peak season. They come in the form of music, dance, song, martial arts, cultural offerings from bands, drum performances, rugby, walks, runs and lantern tours. If you’re lucky, take part in annual activities like the junior ranger programs, the Japanese Film Festival, Blossom Kite Festival, Cherry Blossom Freedom Walk, Japanese Stone Lantern Lighting Ceremony, a waterfront fireworks festival, parade and many more!
Stop by during the night when the crowds have dissipated to enjoy a quieter walk, lounge around the waterway trails to take photos of Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, the National Mall and the White House, or head out early during the cherry blossom season for a calming, relaxing walk.
JEFFERSON MEMORIAL & CHERRY BLOSSOMS: Swipe ⬅️Left to see different perspectives! — PHOTO TIP - UNIQUE PERSPECTIVES: Change your #POV to tell the whole story in 5 different ways... 1. Use a prime lens with a shallow depth to blur the subject and focus on blossoms instead of the monument 2. I tell my students to “Get Down and Turn Around” because a better shot may be waiting for you. So for the second shot I sat down under a tree and looked up for unique lines. 3. When I turned around I saw a macro op where the blossoms had fallen. I used the closeup filters and water dropper I carry in my camera bag to capture a mini-fisheye lens effect in a water drop. 4. Next I captured the joy of a boy in a tree shaking branches on his sister who was dancing in the “blossom rain.” 5. Finally I saw an artist painting the scene and everyone taking in the glorious day! So don’t forget to get down, turn around and try unique techniques and perspectives. — — #tidalbasin #cherryblossom #cherryblossoms #jeffersonmemorial #monument #phototips #shallowdepth #wideaperture #primelens #sunrise #reflection #cherryblossomfestival #dc #washingtondc #perspective #pov #macro #closeup #waterdrop #tree #branches #lines #nature #landscape #travel #creative
2. Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute3001 Connecticut Ave., NW Washington, DC 20008
Hours: 8am - 7pm
It’s a free zoo on a hill that does not compromise on its size and quality of care. It’s the fifth zoo of its kind to house animals who were born through artificial insemination and one of only four zoos in the United States with pandas. Visitors are reminded, time and again, to don proper footwear for their trip because it is built on a hill and you’ll be legging your way around the entire time. However, if you take it slow and spend adequate time at each exhibit, the entire day will feel like only a couple of hours. Food choices are not impressive but if you pack your own food and drinks, that's one potential problem out of the way.
The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, also known as SCBI, is headquartered right here at the National Zoo and it is a renowned participant in the wildlife conservation scene. Not only are they extremely proactive in saving endangered species from extinction, training is provided to train future generations of conservationists. Covering everything from tackling modern day complex conservation challenges to learning new ways to interpret animal behaviors, reproduction habits, and ecological needs, the 163-acre zoo is home to 1,500 animals across hundreds of species.
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Continue Reading the article for information about etching out a satisfying trip to Washington D.C. without cracking your budget right open!
You don't need to splash loads of cash to enjoy the splendor of Washington D.C. Psstt...many of them are FREE. Yes, free. On top of all the Smithsonian museums and galleries, you can include trips to a spacious, hilly National Zoo, explore the awe-inspiring compounds of a historic cathedral, learn about space and aviation history, enjoy a free live concert, and stuff your face with the best local cuisine that Washington D.C. has to offer!
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