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100 Free & Almost Free Things to Do: Family Friendly

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Make life-lasting memories with your family while also enjoying all the free possibilities in Washington, DC.

Kids love Washington, DC for its hands-on museum attractions, the National Mall, zoo animals and so much more. Parents love it for all of the same reasons, and the fact that few other cities offer as many amazing things to do that won't cost you a thing. Make the most out of your next family vacation: Check out our free and popular family-friendly picks in DC below.

And if you're looking for even more discounted fun, get up to 35% off on popular paid attractions with the Go Washington, DC Explorer Pass. Pick up either a three- or five-choice pass and experience everything from tickets to Madame Tussauds Washington D.C., Bike and Roll rentals, a hop on-hop off bus tour, Boating in DC, the Newseum, National Geographic Museum and International Spy Museum, among others. 

1 Explore the free-to-enter National Zoo
Explore the free-to-enter National Zoo

Marvel at the National Zoo’s conservation efforts firsthand along the Asia Trail. Pay a visit to giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, as well as their offspring, Bao Bao and Bei Bei (the youngest cub). Be sure to take a peek at their tiny neighbors, the red pandas, too.

2 Work up some magic at Sackler Gallery
Work up some magic at Sackler Gallery

Explore an exhibition and create an art project to take home through the Sackler Gallery's Imaginasia family programming. Events include workshops designed for specific age groups (3-5, 6-12, 9-13), family festivals and summer art camps. Check the online calendar for current offerings.

3 Take a DC by Foot walking tour
Take a DC by Foot walking tour DC by Foot

Trot along the National Mall with DC by Foot, a walking tour company that gives free, kid-friendly tours (gratuity recommended) infused with games, fun facts and trivia. Tours include the Arlington Cemetery Walking Tour, the Lincoln Assassination Walking Tour and the Ghosts of Georgetown Tour.

4 Fly with the stars at Air and Space
Fly with the stars at Air and Space Eric Long/National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Play pilot in a mock cockpit at America by Air, an exhibition on permanent display at the National Air and Space Museum. The exhibit also features the nose from a Boeing 747 that visitors can also enter.

5 Step through the MLK Memorial
Step through the MLK Memorial Geoff Livingston

Pay a visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the newest monument on the National Mall. Read his powerful words and marvel at the memorial’s amazing architecture.

6 Visit the gardens at Tudor Place
Visit the gardens at Tudor Place

Savor more than five acres of outdoor beauty at Tudor Place Historic House & Garden. Visits to the garden cost only $3 per person, while kids 5 and under can enter for free. Enjoy roaming rights of this historic space, which includes gazebos, fountains and picturesque landscapes.

7 Putt-Putt around at East Potomac Park
Putt-Putt around at East Potomac Park East Potomac Park Golf Course

Visit East Potomac Golf Course for a round of miniature golf. Players 18 and under pay $6 per game. Gorgeous views of the Potomac River and planes roaring into National Airport are free of charge.

8 Take a pic with Fala
Take a pic with Fala Tim Evanson

Find Fala, the famous and photo-friendly presidential pooch at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. The seven-and-a-half-acre site also features waterfalls and quiet pools that the kids will love.

9 Feel the butterflies
Feel the butterflies Chip Clark / Smithsonian Institution

Walk among living butterflies at the National Museum of Natural History's Butterfly Pavilion ($6 for adults, $5 for children). Tuesdays are free, but timed-entry tickets are required. Those are available at the Butterfly Pavilion box office beginning at 10 a.m. every Tuesday. 

10 See how money is made
See how money is made Ron Cogswell

Want to see a millions of dollars in person? Take the free, 40-minute tour of the Bureau of Engraving & Printing. During the peak season (March-August), first-come, first-served same-day tickets are required. The ticket office opens at 8 a.m. Keep in mind that the visitor center is closed on weekends and federal holidays.

11 Travel through American history
Travel through American history

Teach the kids about history at the National Museum of American History. See the Star-Spangled Banner flag, which inspired our national anthem. Young historians will also love the new Wegmans Wonderplace, an interactive, educational exhibit, as well as Spark!Lab, where kids can experiment and invent.

12 Step foot inside the National Building Museum
Step foot inside the National Building Museum National Building Museum

Admire the National Building Museum's massive Great Hall. Take a photo standing beside one of the 75-foot-high Corinthian columns for a sense of scale of the enormous atrium. In addition to free admission into the hall, look for occasional free festival days. Admission is required for galleries and exhibits.

13 See the city from the top of the Washington Monument
See the city from the top of the Washington Monument @jerryblossoms

Get your tickets to the Washington Monument, and take the elevator all the way to the top. Visitors can order tickets in advance or get them at the Washington Monument lodge on 15th Street, adjacent to the monument.

14 Say "What's up?" to Einstein
Say "What's up?" to Einstein

Hang with one of history’s greatest geniuses at the Albert Einstein Memorial, located outside of the National Academy of Sciences’ building. The larger-than-life statue makes for a perfect photo-op.

15 Have a field day in Rock Creek Park
Have a field day in Rock Creek Park Abraham via Wikimedia Commons

Stare up at the stars in Rock Creek Park at the parks Nature Center and Planetarium, the only planetarium operated by the National Park Service. On Wednesdays, a special program is held for young astronomers (4 p.m.). Saturdays and Sundays feature a seasonal night sky (1 p.m.) and “Exploring the Universe” (4 p.m.). All programs are free to attend.

16 Admire America's Independence
Admire America's Independence Ryan Healy

Give kids an inspiring lesson in freedom with a stop at the National Archives to view John Hancock’s, er, John Hancock on the Declaration of Independence, along with the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

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.