We do. And we'll pass our secrets on to you...for free!
We planned a 3-day, fantastic family vacation (food, gas, attractions, and hotel for five) in our nation's capitol for just over $500. Want to know what we saw and how we did it? Here's how...
Here's a list of amazing museums and attractions in Washington DC that are totally free!
|Cool geodes at the National Museum
of Natural History.
You could spend days just going to Smithsonian museums, of which there are 14 (plus one in New York). All are free. Here are our favorites:
National Air & Space Museum
Did you know that this free museum is actually TWO museums? If you're interested in space, aircraft, or just like pushing buttons, don't miss these amazing museums. Read our review by clicking the link above.
National Museum of Natural History
Dinosaurs, the Hope Diamond, live butterflies, IMAX, and more. Our favorites? The Precious Gems room, the "hibernating" squirrel, and the fennec fox.
National Museum of American History
One of the best places in the nation to get a walking overview of American history. Highlights include Abe Lincoln's top hat, Dorothy's "ruby" slippers from "The Wizard of Oz," and a display of inaugural gowns from First Ladies.
National Portrait Gallery
The best free Washington DC site to see all the former presidents in one place (well, through their portraits).
Over 400 species--including pandas!-- at this 165-acre oasis in the city. It's a free Washington DC site, but they get you through the parking fees: $10 for the first hour, $15 for 2-3 hours, and $20 for 3+ hours. Hmm. Sounds like a good reason to take the Metro from your hotel...
Other free Smithsonian museums include:
Other free Washington DC museums...
National Gallery of Art
Perhaps the most relaxing and beautiful free Washington DC museum. See work of artists ranging from Leonardo daVinci, Monet, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Degas. You name it, they have it...plus a wonderful gift shop and delicious eateries. Don't miss their "NGAKids" link--it's one of our kids' favorite online sites for art games.
The Washington Monument
2012 Update: Sadly, since the 2011 earthquake in Virginia, the Washington Monument is closed, possibly permanently.
True, the Washington Monument is free (and has totally amazing views!). BUT we found the secret for bypassing the long lines...and for only a small fee. Here's how, plus what they WON'T tell you on the Washington Monument tour!
Pay Abe a visit between 8 am and midnight. Use your cell to dial 202-747-3420 to listen to Lincoln Memorial interpretive recordings as you visit.
Open 24 hours a day, there's small museum in the lower level which is open 9:30 am-11:30 pm daily. Use your cell to dial 202-747-3420 to listen to Lincoln Memorial interpretive recordings as you visit.
Not too far from the Lincoln Memorial, this 7.5 acre memorial to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is open 24 hours a day, but park rangers are available 8 am-midnight, and the bookstore is open 9 am-6 pm.
|The FREE view of the Capitol from the Washington Monument. |
One of the best known buildings in the world, the Capitol has tours every 15 minutes from the Rotunda. Tickets are available first-come, first-served at the Capitol Guide Service Kiosk (on the sidewalk south of the Capitol) starting at 9 am. Tours are offered Mon-Sat, 9 am-4:30 pm. Contact your congressman for limited free passes to the House and Senate galleries.
|You just might see the President fly by. We did! |
Library of Congress
This free Washington DC site achieved fame with younger kids thanks to the movie "National Treasure II". See a Gutenberg Bible and letters from famous presidents. Includes a 12-minute film and scheduled tours, Mon-Sat, 10 am-5:30.
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Everyone loves to see money being made (if only they could keep it!). The fascinating public tour is offered every 15 minutes 9 am-10:45 am, and 12:30 pm-2 pm weekdays year round. In summer, they add evening hours: 5 pm-7 pm. March through August, you must get tickets on a first-come, first-served basis from a kiosk at Raoul Wallenberg place starting at 8 am. Tickets go fast, so get there early.
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Beware: This is not an easy museum to visit due to the subject matter. But it is something that everyone age 10 or older should see. You'll be given the name of a holocaust victim to "assume." Find out at the end of the tour if your character survived the Nazi Holocaust. Open 10 am-5:30 pm, with extended hours in summer. Timed tickets are required and usually sell out by noon. You can get them onsite or through www.tickets.com.
National Museum of the Marine Corps
Learn about the US Marines whose motto, "Always faithful," has represented their faithful service to our nation since 1775. You can also see famous artifacts, including a Grumman F9F-2B Panther, Bell UH-1E Huey, and the famous Wake Island M1903 Springfield Rifle which was captured by the Japanese at Wake Island during World War II, and then recovered by the Marines when Wake Island was liberated.
Now you can even take a virtual tour of the entire museum from your laptop! Open 9 am-5 pm everyday except Christmas. Best of all, the museum is absolutely FREE.
The National Museum of the Marine Corps is just off I-95, about 35 miles south of Washington, DC. The address is 18900 Jefferson Davis Hwy, Triangle, VA 22172. Call 1-877-635-1775 for more details.
There's so much to do in Virginia: Virginia Beach, Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown, and more. Which attractions are must-see's?
Don't miss our Virginia Attractions page for links to our reviews of the sights you shouldn't miss!
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