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Washington, D.C. is the capital of the United States and is possibly one of the best cities in the country to visit on a budget. It is home to a vast collection of free public museums and is a great place to find some of America’s most famous monuments and memorials. But even beside the cultural attractions, there are lots of other free activities to enjoy in Washington.

Here is our selection of the best Washington attractions and activities to explore for free!

Tour the US Capitol

The United States Capitol, home to the United States Congress and the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government, is open to visitors from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Tours of the U.S. Capitol are free and are conducted from 8:50 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. Be sure to register ahead of time, as passes are required for those planning to visit the Capitol. Click here for more information.

US Capitol. Washington D.C. Photo via by Phil Ostroff

Celebrate the Past at the National Museum of American History

The National Museum of American History is one of the top attractions in Washington. It now boasts a collection of more than 3 million artifacts—all true national treasures. The collections represent a fascinating mosaic of American life and are claimed to contain the greatest single collection of American History. The museum also plays host to demonstrations, lectures, tours, live theatre, and musical performances. The National Museum of American History is open every day except Dec. 25 and admission is absolutely free!

Stop and Smell the Roses at the United States Botanic Garden

Located on the grounds of the US Capitol, the US Botanic Garden is a living plant museum that features over 65,000 plants including economic plants, medicinal plants, orchids, and many others. The gardens are a photographers paradise and are opened every day of the year from 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM. From time to time the gardens also play host to a number of exhibits, like the Rose Garden Exhibit or the Butterfly Garden. Admission to the gardens is free and makes it a convenient stop after visiting the Capitol.

U.S. Botanical Gardens. Washington D.C. Photo via by J. Bo

Shop up a Storm at Eastern Market

For something a little more lively and less traditional, why not pay a visit to the Eastern Market, Washington DC’s original and premier food & arts market. Located in Capitol Hill, the Eastern Market is a destination for fresh food, local produce, arts & crafts, and more.  Located in the heart of the historic Capitol Hill neighbourhood, it is a great place to mingle with the locals and get the feel for a more down to earth side of the capital. The market is opened daily and features over 100 exhibitors.

Attend free festivals and events

There are tons of free fantastic events to check out in Washington, ranging from parades, to concerts and festivals. The Memorial Day Parade in May, Independence Day Parade in July, and the Thanksgiving Parades in November, are some of the best. Search for free events happening in the city at the time of your visit, by browsing’s Washington DC Monthly Event Calendar.

Essential Travel Info: 

Getting in: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is the closest and most convenient airport to get to D.C. However, it only serves flights to and from U.S. Washington Dulles International Airport is the main international gateway to Washington D.C and is served by all U.S. carriers and many international airlines.

Where to stay: If you are eager to visit Washington’s main attractions, consider staying near the Smithsonian Metro station and the nearby museums. From there, it’s a short walk to the Capitol and many other Washington attractions. Cheap hotels in Washington start at just $86.