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100 Free & Almost Free Things to Do: Off the Beaten Path

Eastern Market - Washington, DC

Experience the authentic DC with these free and almost free experiences.

Not many cities offer as many amazing and free things to do as Washington, DC. From the National Mall to far-flung neighborhoods, we want to be your guide to free and nearly free activities throughout the city. If you’re interested in experiencing some of the lesser-known things to do in DC, consider these off-the-beaten-path excursions.

1 Find the Big Chair in Anacostia
Find the Big Chair in Anacostia Ted Eytan

Everyone knows Washington, DC is a seat of power, but did you know it’s also home to what was once known as the world’s biggest chair? At 19 feet, The Big Chair in Anacostia stands as tall as Lady Freedom atop the U.S. Capitol. The Big Chair is free to visit and serves as a gathering spot for the Anacostia neighborhood.

2 See what's happening on Barracks Row
See what's happening on Barracks Row Barracks Row Main Street

Make Barracks Row your next destination. It's the city’s oldest commercial district and has undergone an incredible revival over the last decade. There, you will find retail and restaurant options galore, and make sure to check the corridor’s calendar for special events. One nearly free option to keep in mind: District Doughnut, where delicious treats start at under $3.

3 Take an affordable neighborhood tour
Take an affordable neighborhood tour Washington Walks

Breathe in some fresh air while learning about DC neighborhoods on a Washington Walks tour. All tours are just $15 per person, and themes include Memorials by Moonlight, The Most Haunted Houses, Georgetown, Embassy Row, and Get Local (features multiple neighborhoods). Architecture buffs can also check out DC Design Tours and DC by Foot offers tours with no upfront fees, but instead asks visitors to pay what they think the tour is worth.

4 Explore Eastern Market
Explore Eastern Market Kate Warren

Visit Eastern Market on weekend mornings to browse the work of local artisans and sample farm-fresh produce and concoctions. Market Lunch’s blueberry buckwheat pancakes are a must-try in the market itself.

5 Read up at Politics & Prose
Read up at Politics & Prose Politics and Prose

Book talks by big-time author at Politics & Prose, a bookstore and coffeehouse in Upper Northwest. All in-store events are free and open to the public – check the website’s calendar to see what’s going on each week.

6 Make a date with Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe
Make a date with Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe

Make a late-night stop at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe in Dupont Circle to browse conversation-starting titles and order a massive piece of pie. The store also frequently hosts author talks, so check its calendar for the latest.

7 Revel in the beauty of the Kogod Courtyard in Penn Quarter
Revel in the beauty of the Kogod Courtyard in Penn Quarter

Take in the splendor of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard at the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. When you're done, walk a few steps to see the latest exhibitions on display at each of the free museums, which stay open until 7 p.m. nightly. Need to check your email or confirm a hotel stay while you're out? You're in luck – the courtyard has free Wi-Fi.

8 Head to the Washington National Cathedral
Head to the Washington National Cathedral Michael Colburn

The Washington National Cathedral just so happens to have been the longest running construction project in DC history. Its first stone was laid in 1907 during a commemoration with President Theodore Roosevelt and it was finally completed in 1990. Visits are free on Sundays. From Monday to Saturday, tours require a fee.

9 Listen to some vinyl
Listen to some vinyl

In need of something new to spin on your turntable? DC has a litany of record shops sure to satisfy any vinyl nut. Take a jaunt down 18th Street in Adams Morgan and stop in Crooked Beat Records and Songbyrd Record Cafe. Over on 14th Street, get cozy inside Som Records, where you can sample before you buy. Hill & Dale Records in Georgetown features new and old classics in a sleek setting.

10 Take in Luce Unplugged
Take in Luce Unplugged Luce Foundation Center for American Art

The Luce Foundation Center for American Art (located inside the Smithsonian American Art Museum) hosts Luce Unplugged, a free, monthly concert series that showcases local talent. Thursday shows are tributes to a Luce Center artwork, while Friday shows feature two bands, a cash bar and free drink samples from a local brewery or distillery.

Now that you are up to speed on some of the lesser known free things to do around town, check the full list of our 100 Free & Almost Free Things to Do in Washington, DC.