Your guide to the attractions in DC that are free and which require tickets.
Many of Washington, DC's major attractions are open to the public and do not require tickets, including the Smithsonian museums, the National Gallery of Art, and the monuments and memorials on the National Mall. Entry to the Smithsonian Zoo is free but requires an entry pass.
You can buy tickets for some of Washington, DC's most popular ticketed attractions including Ford's Theatre at the venue or on their website. Some attractions offer discounts to those who buy tickets online ahead of their visit including the President's Gallery by Madame Tussauds Washington, DC. You can also purchase 24 or 48-hour, hop-on, hop-off bus tour tickets with Big Bus Tours, which will allow you to view the wonders of the National Mall at your own convenience.
While some attractions are free, they require timed passes to save visitors from waiting in long lines. Timed passes are available to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and a limited amount of same-day passes are available online the day of your visit. The passes are printed featuring a one-hour time range, within which you may enter the museum.
Free timed-entry passes are required to visit the National Air and Space Museum. Entry times are hourly from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. The museum releases individual passes for six-week periods at a time and is open every day except December 25 from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm.
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum also requires timed passes to enter the permanent exhibition from March through August. These are distributed daily beginning at 10 a.m. on a first-come, first-served basis at the museum or online at ushmm.org several months in advance. There are a limited number of same-day passes available online each day beginning at 6 a.m. A small service charge of $1 per ticket is charged for online bookings. You don’t need passes to visit the non-permanent museum exhibitions year-round or for the permanent exhibitions from September through February.
Admission is free for the Washington Monument but a timed ticket is required for entry. Timed tickets are on a first-come, first-serve basis. One person may obtain up to six tickets as well as request their preferred ticket time. All visitors (including children ages 2+) must have a ticket to enter the Washington Monument.
Admission is free for the Bureau of Printing and Engraving though tickets are required from March through August. These are distributed on the day of your visit, beginning at 8 a.m. until all tours for the day are full. Lines form early and, during peak season, tickets are often distributed by 9 a.m.
Tours of the White House are only available by advance arrangement through your member of Congress. You can contact your representative or senator's office up to six months in advance to request a tour. International visitors who want to visit the White House should contact their embassy in Washington, DC for assistance submitting a tour request. More information is available at whitehouse.gov.
Tickets are also required to tour the U.S. Capitol. You can obtain tickets through your member of Congress or via visitthecapitol.gov. Some limited same-day tour passes may be available at the public walk-up line in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center.
While the Library of Congress, Supreme Court, National Gallery of Art and Smithsonian museums do not require tickets, you may want to check schedules in advance to take advantage of guided interpretive tours, lectures, IMAX movies and other programs.
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