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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 the reopened National Air and Space Museum

After an extensive renovation, DC’s National Air and Space Museum has reopened on the National Mall. Renovated galleries of the transformed museum will be shared for the first time, including displays such as America by Air, Destination Moon, Early Flight and Nation of Speed. Timed passes are required. Visit the museum’s website for more information.


Check out a new exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian

All the way back to the American Revolution, Native Americans have served in the U.S. armed forces, often in extraordinary numbers. With Why We Serve: Native Americans in the United States Armed Forces, the National Museum of the American Indian explores the phenomenon of the Indigenous commitment to the U.S. military, from being drafted to the pursuit of employment or education to tribal traditions and treaty commitments. The exhibit opens Nov. 10 and runs through Nov. 30, 2023.


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 Yayoi Kusama's work at the Hirshhorn

The Hirshhorn has been collecting the prolific work of Yayoi Kusama since 1996. The museum’s 2017 survey of her work traveled to five North American art museums, introducing Kusama’s spellbinding visions to record audiences. Now, the Hirshhorn displays five of Kusama’s works from the museum’s permanent collection, including two of the artist’s transcendent Infinity Mirror Rooms. One with Eternity: Yayoi Kusama in the Hirshhorn Collection is a tribute to the life and practice of the visionary artist. The popular exhibit has been extended through the spring of 2023 and beginning Nov. 9, next-day online ticket distribution will be available. Visit the Hirshhorn's website for more information.


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.


Re-visit the beloved ZooLights

Back at the Zoo for 2022! From Nov. 25 through Dec. 30, join the thousands of visitors who make ZooLights, powered by Pepco, a part of their annual holiday tradition. The free event includes live music performances, tasty winter treats and plenty of opportunities for holiday shopping. Environmentally friendly LED lights and dozens of glowing animal lanterns transform Smithsonian's National Zoo into a winter wonderland. Note that timed passes are required this year.

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