Land of the Fun & Free

15 suggestions for affordable adventures, events and entertainment in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia.

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
The National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC
Wild horses on Assateague Island, MD
Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland
Boats in Baltimore's Inner Harbor
Tour visiting ships at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond
Virginia Beach boardwalk - walk, bike or rollerblade and enjoy the ocean views
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
Wild horses on Assateague Island, MD
Boats in Baltimore's Inner Harbor

Looking for economical entertainment? You've found it! Free and almost free activities abound in the Capital Region.

Washington, DC

  • All of DC's monuments and memorials are free including the Lincoln, Jefferson and World War II Memorials and the Washington Monument.
  • Admission to each of the region's 17 Smithsonian museums (including the National Zoo) are free of charge. Must-sees include the newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture, the original Wright Flyer at the National Air and Space Museum, the 45.5 carat Hope Diamond at the Museum of Natural History and Dorothy's ruby slippers at the National Museum of American History.  
  • Take in a free performance at The Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage every evening at 6pm.
  • Get out into DC's neighbourhoods to learn about history beyond the National Mall by experiencing Cultural Tourism DC's free self-guided walking trails. The trails are marked with illustrated signs revealing the stories behind Washington's historic neighbourhoods.
  • Rock Creek Park is one of America’s largest and oldest city parks and is home to the Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Planetarium. Free tickets to each planetarium show can be picked up at the Nature Center front desk up to 30 minutes before the show.

Maryland

  • Soak up the sand and the sun in Ocean City. The 2.5 mile boardwalk provides a nice beginning for a stroll along the ocean.
  • Visit Assateague Island, a 37-mile long barrier island known for its salt marshes, sandy beaches, herd of wild ponies and birds. The Barrier Island visitors center features a nature film, aquarium with hands-on discovery tank and beachcombing exhibit. The island is free for pedestrians and cyclists. Small fee for cars.
  • Canal Place Heritage Area in Cumberland offers lots of fun and free activities. Get a first-hand look at the history of the C&O Canal and America’s early transportation history via hands-on exhibits about life on the canal.
  • At the Salisbury Zoo, bobcats and ocelots, tropical birds and alligators, and numerous species native to North, Central and South America call this free 12-acre zoo home. 
  • Climb aboard, tour and learn the fascinating history of any one of the massive ships that visit Baltimore’s Inner Harbor each year. Sail Baltimore provides a free program of visiting ships and maritime events, creating a changing museum in the Inner Harbor. 

Virginia

  • In Richmond, visit the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts' noteworthy collections of Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Contemporary American art, French Impressionists and a collection of Fabergé jewelled objects.
  • Arlington National Cemetery attracts more than four million visitors a year, many of them visiting memorial sites such as the Tomb of the Unknowns, Challenger Space Shuttle Memorial and the gravesites of president John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline, marked by an eternal flame.
  • Just six miles off the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway in Nelson County is Crabtree Falls, the highest vertical-drop cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River.
  • Roller blade, bicycle or just people watch along the Virginia Beach Boardwalk. During the summer three oceanfront stages offer nightly entertainment.
  • Head to Natural Tunnel State Park to explore some of Virginia's greatest natural wonders. More than 850 feet long and as tall as a 10-story building, Natural Tunnel was naturally carved through a limestone ridge over thousands of years. 
Related: 
Outdoors & Nature
City Adventures
History & Culture
Attractions & Family Fun