1. The Smithsonian
19 museums, all free, that’s the magic of the Smithsonian. Visit favorites likes the American History Museum, Natural History Museum, Renwick Gallery and Portrait Gallery.
2. Library of Congress
It’s the largest library in the world with millions of books, recordings, photographs, and manuscripts. It’s also one of the most architecturally beautiful buildings in the area.
3. The National Zoo
Technically the National Zoo is part of the Smithsonian but it’s hard not to list this as its own entity. The zoo is one of the most popular places to visit with over 1,800 animals.
4. Watch a Supreme Court ruling
They might not be in session right now but when they are you can see oral arguments at the Supreme Court for free. It’s a first come, first serve basis.
5. National Arboretum
The arboretum is the perfect place to enjoy nature in the middle of the city. You can bike, picnic, bring your pup, and explore throughout this natural oasis.The Bonsai exhibit is a popular attraction as are the iconic Capitol Columns.
6. The National Mall and the Monuments
Hang out on the mall, play frisbee, or bring a deck of cards. If you feel the need to stretch your legs, wonder around the monuments and memorials, like the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the WWII Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr and the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.
7. The Capitol Building
Tours of the U.S. Capitol building are free and open to anyone with a reservation. The Capitol building is one of the most famous buildings in the world with an equally famous history that you can learn about during your visit.
8. The National Gallery of Art
View gorgeous and historic art at the National Gallery of Art. The gallery has collections from many different eras and art forms.
9. The Ford's Theatre Experience
Self guided tours of the theater where President Lincoln was shot includes rare artifacts, a look at the very box Lincoln was in at the time and a detailed look at the aftermath. Because Ford’s Theatre is a work theatre, the schedule varies and tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
10. Kogod Courtyard
Located in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Kogod Courtyard has an awe-inspiring glass ceiling filling the plaza with light. You can relax there for free and enjoy their free Wi-Fi.
11. National Cathedrals
Techincally the National Cathedral is only free on Sundays. But it’s worth a stop to see the beautiful architecture, art, and the famous gargoyles!
12. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Otherwise known as the Basilica, this is the largest Catholic church in the United States and North America. The Basilica has over 70 chapels, showcases Byzantine-Romanesque style, and has a large collection of art.
13. Changing of the Guard at Arlington Ceremony
While technically in Virginia, the changing of the guard is a beautiful experience not to missed by locals or tourists. The guard changes every hour on the hour from October 1 to March 31. From April 1 through September, an additional change is added on the half hour.
14. Bartholdi Park
Part of the U.S Botanic Garden on the grounds of the U.S Capitol, Bartholdi Park features the picturesque Bartholdi fountain and is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the greenery.
15. The Pentagon
Visit The Pentagon to learn about the armed services and their mission. The tour includes 1.49 mile walk through the massive building and must be reserved 14 days in advance.
16. Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens
In the northeast corner of DC, Kenilworth Park provides a beautiful area of cultivate ponds, waterlilies, lotuses, and other aquatic life.