Washington DC on a Budget

While D.C. can be expensive to live in, the nation’s capital might just be one of the best budget-friendly places to visit. Many of the museums that are free or inexpensive. Here are 10 things to do in Washington D.C. that are $10 or less. Check out Bonus ideas at the end!

1. Tour the National Mall (Free)

Most visitors plan to stroll around the National Mall and Memorial Parks. The monuments, from the Lincoln to the Vietnam War memorials, are free. However, National Park Service (NPS) offers free tours at most of these sites on the hour. You can even get in on a free walking tour. For Tour, times check here.

2. Do the Smithsonian Institution Museum Crawl (Free)

There are an abundance of free museums in Washington D.C. The Smithsonian Institution operates 17 free museums in the D.C. Metro area. Explore the Natural History Museum, American History Museum, National Gallery of Art, and the Hirshhorn Museum. They cover a plethora of topics including history, art, nature, space, history, nature and art. The Air and Space Museum is a kid favorite with its five-story-high IMAX theater screen, planetarium show, model planes, rocket ships and Sesame Street characters story times.

Rock Creek Park 3. Hike Rock Creek Park (Free)

Rock Creek Park spans more than 2,000 acres in Northwest D.C and is the oldest urban park in the NPS system. It’s has hiking trails, bicycle paths, picnic grounds, a nature center, an amphitheater with a summer concert series, a tennis center, a planetarium, and much more.

4. Take a Stroll Around National Zoo ($10)

National Zoo belongs to the Smithsonian Institution collection. It’s located at southern end of Rock Creek Park. It’s an opportunity to visit the gorillas, elephants, lions, tigers, and orangutans. The travel over the heads of visitors on a system of cables and towers. There are daily programs that include animal training and feeding demonstrations. Guided tours are available.

5. Cheap Eats at Don Jamie  ($10 or less)

Don Jamie’s is perfect for cheap eats. Try specials like Huevos Divorciados or the Migas.  You’ll also find brunch classics like omelets, breakfast burritos and corned beef hash. Slurp down bottomless cups of coffee. Everything is under $10, which is perfect if you are on a budget. 3209 Mount Pleasant Street NW.

Captial6. Tour the White House (Free)

While a visit to the White House is free, it takes planning. American citizens can request free tours through the offices of their members of Congress. You will need to provide at least 21 days’ notice and bring a government-issued photo ID. Foreign nationals may request tours from their embassy in Washington D.C. The tours will take you through the East Wing. You will be able to take a peek at the East Room, the Library, the China Room, the State Dining Room, and more.

7. Admire the Rotunda of the Capitol Building (Free)

Visitors can book tours of the U.S. Capitol building through the offices of their Congressional representatives. If you are lucky your representative will lead their own tours of the building. The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center also offers tours of the Rotund, the Crypt, and the National Statuary Hall. Hour-long tours run from 8:50a to 3:20p, Mon-Sat. Tour passes are required. For more information click here.

8. Take in the U.S. Botanic Garden (Free)

Home to more than 5,000 orchids, the U.S. Botanic Garden features plants from all over the world.  There are desert-friendly succulents, tropical rainforest, and regional mid-Atlantic plants. There are few outdoor gardens that are the perfect place to take a break from sightseeing on the Mall.

Kittner_20150721_02189. Catch an Outdoor Movie (Free)

Take advantage of the outdoor movies during the summer. Movie screens are slated for public spaces across town. Catch a flick at the 17-year-old Screen on the Green on the National Mall, which is famous for showing classic movies. For a list of locations and times, check out the schedule at DC Outdoor Films.

10. Pick Up a Snack at District Taco ($3)

This former food truck has turned into a little brick and mortar powerhouse. At less than $3 a whack, these tacos—filled with meat and pico de gallo, beans, and avocado—are the real find. Two or three tacos are enough to fill you up without busting your budget. 1309 F Street NW.

BONUS! Here are 8 more things to do under $10!

1. Attend a Shakespearean Play (Free)

Since 1991, the Shakespeare Theatre Company has shared the famous playwright’s work. All shows are Free. The series highlights classics such as Romeo and Juliet. They usually run over a two-week period at the Sidney Harman Hall. Check the schedule here.


2. Get Cultured at the National Geographic Museum ($8)

Check out cultures from all around the world at the National Geographic Museum. View interesting exhibitions that highlight the diversity of international cultures and natural wonders. According to NatGeo, 100% of the proceeds from exhibitions and events goes back to the National Geographic Society’s nonprofit educational, conservation, and scientific work.

3. Relish Shakespeare Library’s Collection (Free)

If you love Shakespeare, you’ll love the Folger Shakespeare Library. They offer free tours of their collection and reading rooms. Stroll through the Elizabethan garden. Enjoy the free exhibitions, like a display of the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays. Every April there is an open house in honor of the bard’s birthday, featuring all kinds of special events.

Events at Arlington National Cemetery4. Pay Your Respects at Arlington National Cemetery (Free)

Across the Memorial Bridge from the Lincoln Memorial stretches Arlington National Cemetery. Honoring America’s fallen men and women of the military, this sobering monument is a must see. Visit the Kennedy family gravesites. Witness the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns. 

5. Hear Jazz in the National Gallery Garden (Free)

The National Gallery of Art hosts a concert series every summer in its sculpture garden.  Jazz in the Garden is a series welcomes jazz musicians of all types—Latin jazz, jazz guitar, vocalists, and even funk. They can be found getting their swag on, on Friday evenings from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

6. Chow Down at Döner Bistro ($10)

If you have tied one on the night before, Döner Bistro will help you soak up the swill. Portions are generous and the Döner Box is worthy of checking out. It’s a large cup filled with fresh fries, meat and garlic-yogurt sauce with fresh cucumbers (Tzatziki). 1654 Columbia Road NW.

7. Bang a Drum at Meridian Hill Park on Sundays (Free)

If the weather is good, between 3 and 9 p.m. you can hear the famous drum circle. For more than 40 years people have been banging their drums together. People from all different backgrounds come to participate. Watch African dancing or bring your own drum and join the fun.

market8. Wander the Markets (Free)

Although you might be tempted to spend money when you’re there, it’s free to enter. There are two major marketplaces. There is the 130-year-old Eastern Market, a hot spot for fresh produce, arts, and crafts. Butchers and prepared items can be found in its indoor food hall. You’ll also find a flea market packed with antiques and collectibles. Union Market, on the other hand, is in the NoMa neighborhood. You can find fresh produce, a cheese shop, butchers, a seafood bar, bistros and much more.

What are your budget-friendly ideas for those visiting D.C?
Leave your suggestions in the comments below.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s