Washington, D.C. Feature


Free Things to Do in Washington, D.C.

For thrifty visitors, D.C. can be a dream come true. All the Smithsonian museums and national memorials are free, as are many other museums—too many, in fact, to list here. Many top attractions are also gratis, like Ford's Theatre and Dumbarton Oaks. Summertime is heaven for budget travelers, with free outdoor concerts and festivals every week.

Free Attractions

Anderson House

Dumbarton Oaks (free from November 1 to March 14)

Folger Shakespeare Library

Ford's Theatre

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Kennedy Center tours

Library of Congress

National Arboretum

National Zoo

Old Post Office Pavilion

Old Stone House

Rock Creek Park

Supreme Court of the United States

U.S. Botanic Garden

U.S. Capitol/Capitol Visitors Center

Washington National Cathedral

White House

Free Performances

The Kennedy Center hosts performances every day at 6 pm on the Millennium Stage. Also, every September the Prelude Festival kicks off the Kennedy Center's fall schedule with many free events. Choral and church groups perform at the National Cathedral, often at no charge.

In summer, folk, pop, and rock bands perform on Monday and Thursday nights atop Fort Reno Park. You can also hear jazz in the National Gallery of Art's sculpture garden on Friday evenings in summer—a diversion enormously popular among locals, so get there early if you want to secure some lawn space. The Carter Barron Amphitheatre in Rock Creek Park hosts a series of free shows and concerts throughout spring and summer, with tickets distributed at the facility's box office the day of the events. To catch free performances of the Shakespeare Theatre Company, sign up online for the group's Free-for-All lottery, which awards same-day tickets for the company's performances at the Sidney Harman Hall in Chinatown. Performances of military music take place around the city. From June through August the U.S. Navy Band, U.S. Air Force Band, U.S. Marine Band, and U.S. Army Band take turns playing concerts on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol weekdays at 8 pm. You can also see the U.S. Marine Band every Friday night from May through August during the Evening Parade at the Marine Barracks.

Almost every day of the year, the Politics and Prose independent bookstore on Connecticut Avenue invites fiction and nonfiction authors to the store for book readings, talks, and Q&A sessions. Another indie bookstore, Busboys and Poets, offers a wide variety of readings, films, and political discussions almost every night as well.

Free Festivals

D.C. is a city of festivals, many of which are free to the public (food and souvenirs cost extra). For a complete list of annual events, visit the Washington, D.C. Convention and Tourism Corporation at www.washington.org.

Half-Price Tickets

TICKETPlace (www.ticketplace.org, or call in, Wednesday–Sunday, at 407 7th St. NW, between D and E Sts.) sells half-price tickets to D.C.'s theater and music events.

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