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100 Free & Almost Free Things to Do: Summer in DC

Family on National Mall near Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture - Summer Vacation in Washington, DC

Your guide to free and affordable summer fun in the nation's capital.

There are plenty of exciting summertime recreation options in the District that won't dent your wallet. Read on to make the most out of your summer vacation in Washington, DC.

And if you're looking for even more discounted fun this summer, get up to 40% 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 Big Bus hop on-hop off bus tour, Boating in DC, the Newseum, National Geographic Museum and International Spy Museum, among others. 

1 Experience the National Mall

World War II Memorial and Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool - National Mall in Washington, DC

Well-known landmarks like the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial are all part of the National Mall, and experiencing each will not cost you a cent. There’s also other historic displays, like the FDR Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

2 Take the DC Circulator for $1 per ride
Take the DC Circulator for $1 per ride DC Circulator

Now you can get around the Mall and the Tidal Basin for only a buck per ride on the DC Circulator's National Mall bus route, and kids under 5 ride free. The bus has routes operating throughout the city, too. Transfers within two hours from another Circulator bus or Metrobus are also free.

3 Explore the expansive Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park - Outdoor Activities & Things to Do - Washington, DC

Run, hike, bike, play tennis or ride horses in Rock Creek Park. The 4.4-square-mile natural oasis, which is free to experience, runs through the heart of the District, and serves as a wonderful contrast to the city’s many architectural marvels.

4 To free or not to free? (We’ll take the former)
To free or not to free? (We’ll take the former) Shakespeare Theatre Company

The Shakespeare Theatre Company's Free for All is an annual ode to some of the Bard’s best plays. From Aug. 15-27, catch a spellbinding performance of Othello. How to get free tickets: enter an online lottery, follow social media or wait in line when they begin handing out tickets two hours before show time.

5 Even more free performances!

Millennium Stage at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts - Free Family Friendly Things to Do in Washington, DC

The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage has been offering free performances from artists in an array of genres for 20 years. Help the venue celebrate by attending a concert on any night of the week at 6 p.m.

6 Take in pioneering art at the Renwick Gallery

Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum - Washington, DC

The Renwick Gallery is one of DC’s many free museums, and has been a sensation since reopening in late 2015 after extensive renovations. Through Aug. 27, you can marvel at the trendsetting and inventive enamel work of artist June Schwarcz inside the Invention and Variation exhibit.

7 Animal-watch at the National Zoo

Smithsonian National Zoo Giant Panda - Washington, DC

You can say “Hey, Bei Bei!” to the cutest panda in the country at the free-to-enter National Zoo. You can also witness daily seal feedings or ride a carousel featuring 58 hand-carved endangered species. In total, the zoo features 1,500 animals across 300 different species.

8 Find the picturesque at the National Arboretum

Capitol Columns at the National Arboretum - Free Parks and Attractions in Washington, DC

The National Arboretum is a 446-acre agricultural wonder in the heart of the District that does not charge admission. You will be dazzled by a diversity of flora and fauna, including bonsai trees and azaleas. The Arboretum also features the historic National Capitol Columns that supported the East Portico of the U.S. Capitol from 1828-1958.

9 Fascinating history awaits at the National Museum of the American Indian

Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian - Free Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC

Native American history is on full display at the National Museum of the American Indian. Explore a range of artifacts and exhibits that tell the Native American tale and how the culture still influences daily life in the U.S. today. Patriot Nations: Native Americans in Our Nation’s Armed Forces is on display through Jan. 2018.

10 Savor warm weather at Capitol Riverfront’s Yards Park

Capitol Riverfront - Family Friendly Activities at Yards Park - Waterfront Things to Do Washington, DC

Yards Park is a riverfront abode, serving as a beacon of the vibrant Capitol Riverfront neighborhood. Located within walking distance of Nationals Park, the state-of-the-art park sports plenty of green space, a cascading fountain that kids will love and a beautiful, Instagram-worthy bridge.

Looking for more summer fun in the District? Check out our ultimate guide to summer in Washington, DC.