Our capital city is not the cheapest place to visit, so here we present nine fun and wallet-friendly Washington experiences that are easy on your budget.
The National Mall
This expansive site comprises over two miles of stunning gardens, lakes, fountains and leafy walkways. You could spend several days exploring the imposing monuments which stand in tribute to the people and events that shaped U.S. history. Key attractions include the magnificent Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument. Don’t miss the 50 acre Constitution Gardens, and the beautiful and tranquil Reflective Pool.
This government run group of museums and institutions was founded in 1846 and, joy of joys, each facility offers free entry to all visitors. Take your pick of over 20 diverse and fascinating venues, including the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of American History and the National Zoo (see below).
The White House
Go behind the scenes at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the most familiar address in the States. You can visit the official home of the POTUS free of charge by getting in touch with your member of Congress (do this at least three weeks before you visit). Once you’ve passed through security, enjoy wandering through the East Wing’s public rooms. Don’t forget to check out the beautifully tended rose garden.
National Gallery of Art
Enjoy art for free at the city’s National Gallery, where you’ll discover a profusion of classic and contemporary Western masterpieces. Head to the distinctive marble West Building for 11th to 19th century works by Rembrandt, Da Vinci and Monet. The East Building showcases modern exhibits, along with visiting installations. For a breath of fresh air, step into the beautifully manicured six acre Sculpture Garden. Here you’ll find contemporary pieces by luminaries including Bourgeois, Lichtenstein, and Miro. There are several cafes and shops onsite and the museum hosts free alfresco jazz events every Friday during the summer.
The Tidal Basin
This expansive and scenic man-made tributary of the Potomac River is situated in downtown Washington, adjacent to the National Mall. The area is renowned for its picturesque Japanese cherry blossoms in springtime. It’s popular with locals and visitors alike, who picnic on its banks and take to the water in rented boats on hot summer days. Surrounding the basin you’ll find several of the National Mall’s illustrious monuments, including the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial
Free walking tours
Dig out your comfy trainers for a free guided walking excursion around our capital, courtesy of organisations such as DC by Foot and Strawberry Tours. Your friendly and knowledgeable guide will show you major sights including Capitol Hill, Georgetown, the Supreme Court, Arlington Cemetery and the National Mall. You’ll get a real sense of the city and learn fascinating titbits about Washington’s history. Whilst tours are free of charge, it’s customary to show your appreciation via a gratuity at the end of your walk.
The National Arboretum
The centre of Washington conceals an unexpected 450 acre leafy oasis. This free to enter tranquil site houses an amazing horticultural wonderland. Exhibits include carefully tended bonsai gardens, a stunning azalea plantation, and a rare collection of conifer trees. Amongst the foliage, you’ll come across the 22 National Capitol Columns, which were originally part of the US Capitol building and date back to 1826.
The National Zoo
Washington’s National Zoo is a member of the Smithsonian Institute and so offers free admission to all visitors. A must for wildlife fans, the park is located in Rock Creek Park where its 1,800 residents span 400 different species. Encounter tigers, elephants, apes, giant pandas, lions and crocodiles. Visit the Kids Farm, where younger visitors can get up close to chickens, alpacas and miniature donkeys. You’ll find a café, gift shop and visitor center on site.
Turn back the clock in the historic neighbourhood of Georgetown where you can explore traditional cobblestone alleyways on the banks of the Potomac River. Washington DC’s oldest neighbourhood dates back to 1751. Today, its handsome Georgian residences rub shoulders with contemporary art galleries, lively waterfront restaurants and chic boutiques. Hike or bike along the picturesque C&O canal, enjoy stand-up paddle boarding on the river, or simply relax with a picnic in leafy Waterfront Park.
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