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Free Things to Do: Theater & Performing Arts in Washington, DC

Free Theater and Performing Arts Experiences in Washington, DC - Luce Unplugged at the Luce Foundation Center for American Art in DC

Say “Bravo!” as Washington, DC’s theaters host free events, shows and performances throughout the year.

There is no shortage of free theater in Washington, DC, from shows with no admission charge to events and concerts. Some of the city’s most prestigious venues offer free opportunities, including the Kennedy Center (most notably, its Millennium Stage), the National Theatre, Ford’s Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre and more. DC’s neighborhoods also get in on the act. Read on for some of our favorites.

1 Enjoy free performances every day at the Kennedy Center

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

Take in a free performance at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage every evening at 6 p.m. Acts include everything from performances by the National Symphony Orchestra to poetry slams. The Kennedy Center also offers deep discounts to patrons ages 18-30 and members of the armed services through its MyTix program.

2 Savor Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Free for All

Shakespeare Theatre Company's Free for All - Free Theater Performances in Washington, DC

Each year, Shakespeare Theatre Company hosts its special Free for All series, in which performances of one of The Bard’s classic plays are made available to the public, free of charge. Free tickets can be retrieved via online lottery or in-person the day of the show – visit their website for more details.

Explore The Arts District - Adventure through Washington, DC’s vibrant arts and culture scene

3 Take in Luce Unplugged

@katebydesign - Luce Unplugged free concert at the Smithsonian American Art Museum - Free performing arts in Washington, DC

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.

4 Score free tickets to a Ford’s Theatre production with TodayTix
Score free tickets to a Ford’s Theatre production with TodayTix Carol Rosegg / Ford's Theatre

TodayTix offers free tickets to the first preview of Ford’s Theatre productions through a mobile lottery. To enter, patrons can download the TodayTix app (available in the Apple App Store and Google Play), open it and select “TodayTix Free First Previews” with Ford’s Theatre.

5 Groove to free live jazz at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Jazz in Kogod Courtyard - Washington, DC

Groove to free live jazz at the Smithsonian American Art Museum's "Take Five!" performance series. Performances take place on the third Thursday of each month, and the museum's Kogod Courtyard Café stays open so guests can enjoy beer, wine and light snacks during the performance.

6 Turn up the volume at Fort Reno

@llkoolwhip - Summertime concert at Fort Reno in Upper Northwest - Free concerts in Washington, DC

Free, live, local music at Fort Reno in Upper Northwest is one of DC's hippest summertime traditions. Organized by Amanda MacKaye (sister of Ian MacKaye, former frontman of influential DC bands Fugazi and Minor Threat), the series showcases bands from the area in a laid back, alcohol-free and very communal atmosphere on Monday and Thursday evenings.

7 Have fun with Free at the Folger

Event at the Folger Shakespeare Library on Capitol Hill - Things to do in Washington, DC

The Folger Theatre and the Folger Shakespeare Library collaborate to bring free opportunities to the public. The Library often features special exhibitions that are free to enter, as well as free docent-led tours that include a visit into the theater. There are free family-oriented programs throughout the year, in addition to the free lectures and special events during Folger Fridays and the annual Open House to honor Shakespeare’s birthday.

8 Bring the whole family to Saturday Morning at The National

Saturday Morning at the National at National Theatre - Free family theater in Washington, DC

Young minds will be engaged during The National Theatre’s free Saturday morning programs, affectionately known as Saturday Morning at The National. The interactive performances often feature puppets, dance and music, letting kids use their imaginations. Performances occur at 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., with tickets available for reservation one week before the show.

9 Catch a free Positive Force event at St. Stephen & The Incarnation Episcopal Church

Positive Force DC, an activist organization that empowers local youth, regularly hosts benefit shows, free concerts, film screenings and educational events at St. Stephen & The Incarnation Episcopal Church. Check out their website to see what events you can catch in the near future.

10 Check out the signatures in front of Warner Theatre

@fulyaek - Warner Theatre in Downtown - Theaters in Washington, DC

Did you know that Washington, DC has its very own Walk of Fame? On the sidewalk in front of the legendary Warner Theatre, you will numerous signatures of stars embedded, including Frank Sinatra, Chris Rock, Bonnie Raitt and many more. And hey, if your vacation doesn’t have to be entirely free, check out the marquee and see if you want to purchase tickets for the Warner’s show that night.

Performing arts and theater in Washington, DC - Experience wonder inside DC's acclaimed playhouses