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Washington Monument from the Tidal Basin in Winter

Free Things to Do: Winter in Washington, DC

Explore the winter wonderland that is DC with free activities, can't-miss free attractions and much more.

There’s nothing like a trip to Washington, DC in winter. The nation’s capital is filled with free winter activities, serving as a great destination for a seasonal trip.  Washington, DC features plenty of free things to do that are sure to inspire winter whimsy. Check out some of our favorites below.


Your ultimate guide to wintertime in Washington, DC


Explore 'FUTURES' at the Arts & Industries Building

Smithsonian's historic Arts and Industries Building has opened its groundbreaking new experience. On view through July 6, 2022, FUTURES is the Smithsonian’s first major building-wide exploration of the future and temporarily reopens the Smithsonian’s oldest museum for the first time in nearly two decades. The part-exhibition, part-festival celebrates the Smithsonian’s 175th anniversary with more than 150 awe-inspiring objects, ideas, prototypes and installations that fuse art, technology, design and history to help visitors imagine many possible futures on the horizon. Make sure to read our guide to the exhibit before you go.


Check out the fascinating Preston Singletary exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian

The National Museum of the American Indian hosts this new exhibit that features works from internationally acclaimed artist Preston Singletary and tells the story of Raven, the creator of the world and giver of the stars, moon and sun. The exhibit, which opens Jan. 28 and runs through Jan. 29, 2023, promises a multisensory experience with storytelling, music, soundscapes and projected images.


Visit Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is the largest military cemetery in the U.S., where more than 400,000 military veterans and their immediate family members rest in peace. Pay homage to soldiers and their families with a visit to this historic memorial located just across the Potomac in Arlington, Va.


Stand beside Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Visit this incredible monument on MLK Day (Jan. 17) or at any other time throughout the winter. The four-acre crescent shaped site in West Potomac Park on the Tidal Basin was selected for the Martin Luther King Jr., Memorial. President Obama dedicated the memorial on Oct. 16, 2011. The two mountains represent the “Mountain of Despair” reaching for “Hope from Despair,” while the space in the middle symbolizes the distance between them. The memorial is one of the highlights of the National Mall.


Marvel at Abigal DeVille's work in the Hirshhorn's Sculpture Garden

The Hirshhorn’s Sculpture Garden hosts this 13-foot-tall, mixed-media installation that serves as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement within the larger context of America’s long relationship to the idea of liberty itself. Sculptor Abigail DeVille is widely recognized for works that mine the overlooked, often traumatic histories of Black America to spotlight cultural contradictions and inequities. The piece’s proximity to the U.S. Capitol Building and the National Mall is not accidental. Light of Freedom will be on display through April 17.


Witness the wonders of the National Mall

@stellanandia - Fall foliage on the National Mall - Attractions and Landmarks in Washington, DC

Touring the National Mall should top your list of must-do’s when you visit the District. Free monuments, memorials and museums are all around, including the famous Lincoln and Jefferson memorials and the popular National Museum of African American History and Culture. Walk next to the Reflecting Pool and you can hear American history in your footsteps, from the sacrifices made by soldiers to the powerful words of Martin Luther King, Jr.


Discover the U.S. National Arboretum’s Gotelli Dwarf and Slow-Growing Conifer Collection

The U.S. National Arboretum is full of treasures, from the Capitol Columns to the Bonsai & Penjing Museum to the seven-acre Gotelli Dwarf and Slow-Growing Conifer Collection. This collection is one of the most comprehensive in the world, with 1,400 specimens forming an oasis that is perfect for getting lost in, or simply admiring from the gazebo that overlooks the area. You will be amazed by the great variance and adaptability within the conifer family.


Experience Black Lives Matter Plaza

Located along a two-block area of 16th Street NW in Downtown DC, the famous mural features the words “Black Lives Matter” in 50-foot-tall letters, in yellow and all caps, as well as the flag of the District. The area is open to visitors at any time of the day, allowing for reflection on the words emblazoned on the street. Many visitors take photographs of the large yellow letters that stretch down one of the nation's most iconic streets.


See stunning exhibits and works of art at the National Gallery of Art

Visitors at the National Gallery of Art on the National Mall - Free art museum in Washington, DC

Three acres of skylights illuminate the masterworks at the National Gallery of Art. On par with the world’s most important art museums, the National Gallery was established with a gift from Andrew Mellon in 1937. In this marble temple are invaluable works of art from every era, including the only Leonardo Da Vinci painting in the Americas, Ginerva de’ Benci. Make sure to visit the East Building, the museum's modern art wing designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei. Currently, you can enjoy enthralling exhibits that focus on the marvels of aquatint, women photographers and the images of James Van Der Zee.

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