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