A woman taking a picture of Capitol Hill in Washington DC

10 free things to do in Washington, DC

If you want to flex your intellectual and cultural muscles on holiday, then there’s no better place than Washington, DC. Not only is it home to some of the world’s most famous political landmarks and respected museums – a lot of the learning is free in Washington, DC!  

The amount of free activities and landmarks in Washington, DC is extensive and we could be here for days if we were to list them all. So instead we’ve rounded up 10 of our favourites, ranging from museums to theatre!

1. Explore the Smithsonian Museums

The Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC is a collection at 17 museums (including a zoo) that are world-renowned and free to visit. Between them there are over 150 million objects, works of art and specimens to discover. 

Many of the museums are located on the National Mall and are easily accessible by Metro. In fact, the Smithsonian has its own Metro stop on the Orange and Blue lines. There are others scattered throughout Washington, DC (the National Zoo in Woodley Park and the Postal Museum near Union Station), and even one in Virginia (at the Udvar-Hazy Center).

2. Pay tribute to the soldiers who served in World War II

The National World War II Memorial is one of the National Mall’s most striking monuments. The memorial features two 43-foot arches, a 17-foot pillar for each state, and a field of 4,000 gold stars, all in honour of those who served and supported the efforts from home.

3. See the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Arlington National Cemetery

Visit Arlington National Cemetery to see the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The ceremony is held every hour on the hour from Oct. 1-March 31, and every half hour from April 1-Sept. 30.

4. Visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was designed by sculptor Maya Lin, and is imprinted with 58,307 names of those who died or were lost, all appearing in chronological order. A short walk to the south will bring you to the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, which specifically honours the 265,000 women who served during the war.

5. Sit in on a Supreme Court session

Watch history in the making by sitting in on a Supreme Court ruling. Seating for a session begins at 9:30 a.m. outside the Front Plaza, but visitors should arrive much earlier for a chance to attend a session. Portions of the first and ground floors are also open for exploring.

6. Walk through the Korean War Veterans Memorial

Trek among the 19 statues representing the American military servicemen who fought in the Korean War in this multifaceted memorial. There’s also a 164-feet mural wall which reflects the statues, creating a visual of 38 soldiers, a reference to the 38th Parallel that divided North and South Korea during the conflict.

7. Admire the art of Dupont Circle for free

If you’re visiting Washington, DC on the first Friday of the month then wander over to Dupont Circle. First Friday Dupont is the ultimate neighbourhood gallery night, with several art houses open to the public for free.

8. Wander along the Walk of Fame

Did you know that Washington, DC is home its own Walk of Fame? On the path in front of the legendary Warner Theatre, you will find numerous signatures of stars, including Frank Sinatra, Chris Rock, and Bonnie Raitt.

9. Find all of DC’s street art murals

Street art is everywhere in Washington, DC. Find everything from glittering portraits of a-list actresses like Marilyn Monroe to political powerhouses such as George Washington.

10. Have an intellectual chat with Einstein

Not literally. But outside the National Academy of Sciences’ building you’ll find a larger-than-life statue that is a perfect photo-op.

Morag Lee

Morag is the resident blog writer at Barrhead Travel. Can usually be found exploring a cruise ship or on a city break.