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100 Free & Almost Free Things to Do: International DC

Smithsonian Folklife Festival - Washington, DC

DC’s international feel lets you globetrot without leaving the city.

Don’t be fooled by the nickname “the nation’s capital.” DC could also be labeled as a global capital, thanks to its worldliness. Far-flung immigrants have settled in DC.

1 Explore "Little Rome" in Brookland
Explore "Little Rome" in Brookland Josh (NCinDC)

Get a taste of Little Rome with a visit to the myriad Roman Catholic institutions located in the Brookland neighborhood of DC, including the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Franciscan Monastery and Garden, the Catholic University and the Saint John Paul II Shrine. The basilica is the largest Catholic church in the United States.

2 Admire worldly art throughout the city
Admire worldly art throughout the city Smithsonian National Museum of African Art

Check out the collection of Russian imperial art and French decorative art at Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens. Take a docent-led tour at the National Museum of African Art or wax poetic about French Impressionism at The Phillips Collection.

3 Amble up Massachusetts Avenue’s Embassy Row
Amble up Massachusetts Avenue’s Embassy Row The Embassy Row Hotel

Get a firsthand look at the beautiful architecture of embassies from around the globe. The two-mile stretch is dotted with many of DC’s 175 embassies. During the first two Saturdays in May, many embassies have an open house as part of Passport DC, an international cultural festival celebrated throughout the entire month.

4 Stroll beneath the Friendship Archway in Chinatown
Stroll beneath the Friendship Archway in Chinatown

Take pictures at the Chinatown Friendship Archway at the corner of 7th and H Streets NW, then head to one of the many nearby restaurants for dumplings and drinks.

5 Drop by the Goethe-Institut
Drop by the Goethe-Institut Nele Lenz/Goethe-Institut Washington

Go to the Goethe-Institut situated downtown and learn all about German culture. In addition to language classes, the space hosts exhibitions featuring work from German artists. Check the events calendar for upcoming exhibitions and other programming.

6 Catch a Freer and Sackler Gallery film screening
Catch a Freer and Sackler Gallery film screening

The Freer Gallery is under renovation until 2017, but its popular Freer and Sackler film series continues on and is hosted at numerous venues around the city, including the National Gallery of ArtAFI Silver Theatre and the National Museum of American History. The acclaimed foreign films shown often have a direct connection to an exhibit the Freer and Sackler galleries, and provide in-depth perspectives from Asian cultures.

7 Taste DC’s international flavors
Taste DC’s international flavors Masa 14

The nation’s capital is a hub for global cuisine. Savor Ethiopian flavors at Ethiopic, or go for Peruvian eats at China Chilcano, a creation of celebrity chef José Andrés. Indulge in creole fare at Acadiana or try Latin-Asian fusion at Masa 14. Still hungry? Explore even more dining options.

8 Attend the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Folklife festival

If you visit around the Fourth of July, you’re in luck! The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, held on the National Mall, serves as a living, breathing museum of cultures during this annual festival, which usually takes place over the last weekend in June and first weekend in July. Arts and crafts lovers are crazy about the international marketplace. 

9 Say cheers in a beer garden
Say cheers in a beer garden Sauf Haus

Kick back after a day filled with international exploration with a visit to a beer garden. Affordable German suds flow and authentic sausages are served at Biergarten Haus. At Sauf Haus Bier Hall, in Dupont Circle, you can pair a lager-filled stein with a two-pound pretzel. If Belgian and Abbey ales are more your speed, head to the pristine patio at Brasserie Beck.

10 Visit the Mount Pleasant Farmers' Market
Visit the Mount Pleasant Farmers' Market Mt. Pleasant Farmers' Market

Make a trip through Mount Pleasant, a vibrant neighborhood whose eponymous main drag is lined with shops, markets and restaurants owned by the Salvadoran and Dominican Republic immigrants who’ve settled there. During warm months, stroll through the Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market for fresh mango, locally sourced popsicles and kombucha.

If you’re looking for more fun and free things to do, there are lots of other options. Check the full list of our 100 Free & Almost Free Things to Do in Washington, DC.