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Free Things to Do: Off the Beaten Path in Washington, DC
Check out these free hidden gems and you’ll quickly see why they need to be added to your DC itinerary.
Of all the free things to do in Washington, DC, many are offbeat and unusual, but essential sites to see all the same. These hidden treasures should be on everyone’s DC bucket list. So, survey our unique things to do below and take your DC exploration off the beaten path without having to pay a dime.
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.
Hang out 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.
Yes, records cost money, but browsing through them and taking a jaunt through DC’s robust lineup of record stores does not. Stop in Smash! Records and Songbyrd Record Cafe in Adams Morgan. Over on 14th Street, get cozy inside Som Records, which has a listening station that is perfect for checking out its bargain selections.
Canvases are everywhere you look in the District, which teems with vibrant street art in all quadrants. Spot everything from renditions of silver screen stars Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor to abstract, museum-commissioned works, restaurant-themed facades and lots more.Check out where to find the most colorful street murals in the city to start your exploration.
For a breathtaking visual, you can’t go wrong catching the sunset at the Graffiti Cliffs near the Key Bridge, which connects Georgetown to Virginia. The cliffs feature colorful DIY art and a stunning view of the Potomac River, the Georgetown Waterfront and the skyline of Arlington, Va.
Considered one of the most romantic spots in the District, the Spanish Steps reside on 22nd Street in the vibrant Dupont Circle neighborhood. This little lovers’ nook is a prime picnic spot and an off-the-radar gem that also makes for a great Instagram photo.
Run by the U.S. Department of the Interior, this free museum near the National Mall is open on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The museum focuses on public lands, natural resources and cultural heritage in the U.S. Learn more about what the department does in the People, Land & Water exhibit.
Shining a lens on urban life, the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum examines, documents and interprets the impact of historical and contemporary social issues on communities. The museum not only focuses on the District’s communities, but those around the world as well, using artifacts and art to paint a vivid and thought-provoking picture.
Located in Washington Channel Park in the Southwest Waterfront, this memorial was authorized by Congress in 1917 and funded by donations from 25,000 American women honoring the men who died during the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. The statue’s pose is similar to that of Kate Winslet in a classic scene from the 1997 hit movie Titanic.
Take a stroll down Blagden Alley in Shaw, one of the city’s hippest spots. Without paying a cent, you can check out the DC Alley Museum, a series of colorful outdoor murals painted on garage doors and the sides of buildings. A highlight: the oversized tribute to musicians Sun Ra and Erykah Badu. You’ll also see mosaic images of former alley dwellers.
The Smithsonian National Postal Museum serves to honor and celebrate America’s proud postal history. Located next to Union Station in DC’s NoMa neighborhood, the museum houses a vast collection of stamps, postal artifacts and informative exhibits for all ages. Visitors will learn the fascinating evolution of how Americans have used the mail to communicate with each other and the world.
The National Mall’s iconic red building features fascinating information on the Smithsonian museums and the man behind them, James Smithson. Once you have marveled at the Victorian arches and dark woodwork, use the 3-D interactive maps of DC’s Smithsonian museums to plan your educational adventure. You can also learn of the history of the castle and visit Smithson’s crypt.
Continue your voyage through DC’s free things to do by checking out these free arts and culture activities.