15 Favourite Free Things to Do near Washington, DC

Discover a new meaning for freedom in the Capital Region, where many noteworthy attractions offer free admission. 

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia
Arlington National Cemetery
Wild horses on Assateague Island off the coast of Maryland
Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland
Smithsonian, Zoo, National Zoo, Washington DC, DC, attractions
The Smithsonian Institution’s 17 museums (including the National Zoo, shown here) all offer free admission
National Harbor, movie, Movies on Potomac, events, free activities, free, family, view, DC, Maryland, Capital Wheel, ferris wheel
Movies on the Potomac at National Harbor, Maryland
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia
Wild horses on Assateague Island off the coast of Maryland
Smithsonian, Zoo, National Zoo, Washington DC, DC, attractions
National Harbor, movie, Movies on Potomac, events, free activities, free, family, view, DC, Maryland, Capital Wheel, ferris wheel
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Looking for economical entertainment? You've found it! Check out these top free and nearly free activities in the Capital Region.

1. National Arboretum

Located 2 miles from the US Capitol building, this 446-acre living museum features gardens, a bonsai museum and the original columns from the Capitol Building. Washington, DC 

2. Arlington National Cemetery

The highly regarded location of sites such as the Challenger Space Shuttle Memorial, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and President John F. Kennedy’s grave. Arlington, Virginia 

3. Brookside Gardens

Several different gardens — including aquatic-, rose-and butterfly-themed sections — and two year-round conservatories invite visitors to stop and stroll. Wheaton, Maryland

4. Smithsonian Museums

Home to some of the world’s greatest collections, the Smithsonian Institution’s 17 museums (including the National Zoo) all offer free admission. Washington, DC, and Virginia

5. University of Virginia Rotunda

You have to pay to see President Thomas Jefferson’s estate Monticello, but all can see this work of art designed by him and tour the beautiful school he founded here for free. Charlottesville, Virginia 

6. Canal Place Heritage Area

Take advantage of recreational opportunities, canal boat replica tours and summer outdoor movies at Maryland’s first Certified Heritage Area. Cumberland, Maryland 

7. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Virginia’s top art museum houses a permanent collection of more than 33,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years of history. Richmond, Virginia 

8. Movies on the Potomac

Watch family favourites like “The Lion King” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” on the National Harbor’s Plaza screen on Sunday evenings, May through September. National Harbor, Maryland

9. DC By Foot Walking Tours

Get the lay of the land and learn about the city’s history during daily excursions centring on the National Mall, historic Georgetown and U Street, among others. Washington, DC

10. Monuments and Memorials

All of Washington DC’s monuments and memorials are free, including the Lincoln, Jefferson and World War II Memorials and the Washington Monument. Washington, DC

11. Freedom House Museum

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this property that once held slaves captive now serves to emancipate, educate and enlighten through tours, exhibitions and outreach. Alexandria, Virginia

12. Salisbury Zoo

From bobcats and ocelots to tropical birds and alligators, numerous species native to North, Central and South America call this free 12-acre zoo home. Salisbury, Maryland

13. Kennedy Center Millennium Stage

For the famed cultural institution’s Millennium Stage programme, no tickets are required to see daily performances featuring talent from around the world. Washington, DC

14. Assateague Island National Seashore

Arrive on foot, bicycle or on a fee-free day to gain free entry to the protected sandy beaches and marshland of this barrier island off the coast. Berlin, Maryland

15. Chrysler’s Perry Glass Studio

Free glass-blowing demonstrations are offered daily at this state-of-the-art facility in addition to tours, classes and events with music, drinks and performance art. Norfolk, Virginia

 

Explore even more top free attractions in the Washington, DC area!

Related: 
Outdoors & Nature
City Adventures
History & Culture
Attractions & Family Fun