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
Tall Ships in Baltimore Inner Harbor, Maryland
Tour visiting ships at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, 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
Tall Ships in Baltimore Inner Harbor, Maryland
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Looking for economical entertainment? You've found it! Free and nearly free activities abound 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. Sail Baltimore Visiting Ships

Each year, tall ships and military vessels from around the world drop anchor along the waterfront to provide unique opportunities to board and tour them, attend christening events and more. Baltimore, 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 here is a work of art designed by him at the beautiful school he founded that all can tour 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. Outdoor Movies in the Parks

On Wednesday evenings in August, four different movies screen at four different neighbourhood parks, where you’re welcome to spread out on a blanket to enjoy the show. Rockville, 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 or bicycle 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

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