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100 Free & Almost Free Things to Do: Arts & Culture

Phillips Collection museum

Expand your mind when you explore DC’s affordable arts and culture scene.

Home of the Kennedy Center, 75+ museums and a thriving theater scene, Washington, DC is brimming with cultural possibilities at every turn. The best part: many are free of charge. Check out all of these free and almost free arts and culture-related things to do.

1 The Phillips Collection
The Phillips Collection The Phillips Collection

The Phillips Collection in Dupont Circle is America’s first museum of modern art and access to the permanent collection is free of charge Tuesdays through Fridays (contributions are encouraged). The museum regularly features fascinating ticketed exhibitions – check its website for current displays.

2 The National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery of Art Dean Rzonca

Trip the light fantastic to Leo Villareal’s dynamic light sculpture Multiverse while riding the moving walkway between the National Gallery of Art’s East and West Buildings. The installation contains more than 40,000 LEDs!

3 Events and Festivals
Events and Festivals Francisco Guerra, Smithsonian Institution

DC is a celebratory city where festivals take place throughout the year. Check out our events calendar for information on DC’s most popular free-of-charge festivals, including the National Cherry Blossom Festival (March-April), the Source Festival (June) and the two-week-long Smithsonian Folklife Festival (June-July).

4 The National Museum of Women in the Arts
The National Museum of Women in the Arts National Museum of Women in the Arts

Explore the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the only museum in the world dedicated exclusively to recognizing the work of women artists. Admission is free on Community Day, the first Sunday of every month.

5 The Renwick Gallery
The Renwick Gallery Renwick Gallery

Interested in artistic innovation? The recently renovated Renwick Gallery, located just steps from the White House, features craft and decorative art fit to dazzle the eyes.

6 Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

Take in a low-price play courtesy of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s Pay What You Can Performances, offered for the first two shows of every mainstage production (usually Monday and Tuesday). Tickets (two per person) are sold at 6 p.m. on the evening of the performance.

7 Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden Kyle Tucker

Cutting-edge architecture and contemporary art displays mean the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden is always ripe for a jaw-dropping visit. Check out the Lerner Room on the third floor, which provides stunning views of the DC skyline.

8 Sackler Gallery
Sackler Gallery

Immerse yourself in Asian art at the Sackler Gallery, located on the National Mall and within walking distance of all of the major monuments. Like all Smithsonian museums, entry is free of charge (its sister museum, Freer Gallery of Art, will reopen with renovations in 2017).

9 National Geographic Museum
National Geographic Museum National Geographic Museum

Visit the National Geographic Museum and travel around the world in DC. Enjoy engrossing exhibitions that highlight the diversity of international cultures and natural wonders. Admission requires a fee: adults $11; kids 5-12 $7.

10 Art Conservation
Art Conservation davidgalestudios via Wikimedia Commons

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the preservation of art in the Lunder Conservation Center. It’s the first art conservation facility allowing the public permanent access to view the essential conservation work of paintings and other art pieces. Inside, you’ll see staff from the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum hard at work through floor-to-ceiling windows.

11 Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs

Make plans to visit Millennium Stage at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The stage hosts a new, free performance at 6 p.m. every single day of the year. From local performers to international acts and global stars, you'll something exciting every day. Tap in to a performance wherever you are with the Kennedy Center's live stream.

If you’re looking for more fun and free things to do, there are plenty of other options. Check out the full list of 100 Free & Almost Free Things to Do.