Best Free Entertainment in Washington, DC

Published: October 1, 2014

Entertainment shouldn't cost a fortune, especially in such a wide, diverse city as Washington, DC. Your only after-work option shouldn't be going out to a restaurant when there are hosts of free museums, parks, and special activities just around the corner. Check out these ten great, free activities in the Washington, DC area and be prepared to save a lot of money while having a lot of fun!

  1. Attend a free summer concert.


    DC is positively teeming with activity, especially during the warmer months. There are always talented performers and free concerts going on across the city. Jazz in the Garden is one of the best concerts - bring a picnic basket with your favorite foods and enjoy the free music from a great live jazz band. They have nearly two dozen different performers that switch out every week, so something new is always playing. It never gets old! While you’re there, enjoy the art displays in the Sculpture garden and make sure to take a walk around Chinatown!

  2. Visit the National Zoo.

    Did you know that the Smithsonian National Zoo is free? Now you have no excuse not to check out the 163-acre zoo, housing all sorts of creatures from gorrillas to reptiles to bison. Don't forget the famous giant pandas! The newest baby panda just turned one-year-old this past August. Curious? It's easy to get to, as well. The Zoo is easily accesible by Metro on the Red line, but parking will cost you a pretty penny so get out those comfortable shoes and enjoy the walk.

  3. Go for a hike.


    Most people wouldn't realize it, but there is an easily-accesible urban park located right in DC! It's extremely easy to get to via public transportation and offers a slew of different activities, including hiking! Rock Creek Nature Park is located a bus ride away from the Fort Totten Metro station and boasts everything from hiking and house trails to planetarium shows. Within the park is a lake and you can even rent kayaks and paddle boats. There are also copious amounts of ranger-led tours so you can get an authentic Rock Creek Park experience.

  4. Take in the natural beauty of the annual cherry blossom festival.

    The best place to be in spring is DC! Normally beginning sometime in late March, the Annual Cherry Blossom Festival boasts parties, parades, crafts, kites, and even an elaborate opening ceremony. Don't forget the blossoms themselves! These beautiful trees line the National Mall and create a heavenly atmosphere to visit. You'll have to hurry, though - often the blossoms don't last more than a week or two and you'll be sorry that you missed it! You can easily keep an eye out for the Peak Bloom date for the blossoms on the National Cherry Blossom's Festival's website.

  5. The Smithsonian Museums on the National Mall.

    Where else in the country is such a wealth of historical information available for free to the public than the highly concentrated area around the Washington, DC National Mall. There are numerous museums covering a large variety of topics, from the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum to the National Museum of the American Indian. All of these great establishments are completely free to the public and boasts tours, thoughtful exhibitions, and monthly events. The Museum of the American Indian often has food exhibitions! Truly great places to visit; now's the time to just pick one and go. You won't regret it.

  6. Take in some great art.

    Interested in art? Well then, now's the time to check out the Hirshorn Museum or the National Gallery! There are countless exhibitions in each in a wide range of material and styles. The National Gallery is mostly comprised of paintings, although they do have exhibitions in digital media and other mediums from time-to-time. The Hirshorn tend to be more modern and boasts a wide range of ever-changing exhibits, often with social causes attached! Don't forget any of a number of privately owned galleries, often in the Dupont Circle area, boasting really great, local art. Free to visit and they often have drinks and refreshments!

  7. See historical documents - in person!

    Witness a part of American history with your own eyes at the National Archives! You can see the US Constitution in the flesh, along with the Bill of Rights and also the Declaration of Independence. You also can have access to a wealth of information that can help you research your ancestry or even look at military records. They also offer a bunch of different workshops, including ones run by reknown genealogists. You have access to years of census information and more, all at your fingertips! For free!

  8. Enjoy a free performance at the Kennedy Center.

    Free concerts? What about slam poetry? You must check out the Kennedy Center! Nearly every night on its Millennium Stage, the Kennedy Center hosts a creative local person or band. It is completely free to watch, built to make the performing arts more available to the general public and the community. If you enjoy watching people perform, this is the best place to do it! It is so much better than spending hundreds of dollars for seats at a performing arts center elsewhere. Check it out this evening!

  9. Take in the embassies from around the world lining Mass Ave.

    Where else in the world could you possibly view such a diverse exhibition of culture than directly on Massachussetts Avenue right in Washington, DC? There are embassies from all over the world, including the Netherlands, Japan, Kenya, Iceland, and more! DC boasts nearly 50 different embassies on the street dubbed, "Embassy Row" and they each have beautiful, different styles of architecture and decorations even viewable from the street. Not to mention, most of the embassies throw events that are free and open to the public. 

  10. Not so free...but a great part of history! Eat at the oldest restaurant in DC.


    There's only one establishment that can boast about it's age and that is the Old Ebbitt Grill near the National Mall. This item is not-so-free, but well worth spending some money to say that you've done it! You can even go during Happy Hour, which is from 3pm to 6pm, and get appetizers for 50%. Soak in the great food, the amazing service, and the outstanding architecture! 

Don't let an empty wallet ruin your free time! Enjoy the best of what Washington, DC has to offer without breaking the bank and make sure to bring your friends along for the ride. There is always something to do in the nation's capital and you shouldn't be left out.