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100 Free & Almost Free Things to Do: Spring in DC
Your guide to free and fun activities in spring
The worst-kept secret about DC is that there’s an endless amount of exciting things to do for free. Here’s how you can take advantage of it all during springtime, one of the best seasons for getting in on the fun.
And if you're looking for even more discounted fun this summer, get up to 40% off on popular paid attractions with the Go Washington, DC Explorer Pass. Pick up either a three- or five-choice pass and experience everything from tickets to Madame Tussauds Washington D.C., Bike and Roll rentals, a Big Bus hop on-hop off bus tour, Boating in DC, the Newseum, National Geographic Museum and International Spy Museum, among others.
The Tidal Basin is cherry blossom central during full bloom, but even if you come after they’ve peaked, the Tidal Basin remains one of the city’s most scenic spots. Pack a picnic here or get up at sunrise for a spectacular photo-op.
DC offers a full helping of flower power. Check out the Bishop’s Garden at the Washington National Cathedral, which was planned to suit the 14th-century-style Gothic cathedral, or tour the U.S. Botanic Garden with blooming wildlife all year long.
Free events dominate spring. You don’t need your wallet to catch the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade (April 8) or the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival (April 15). A celebration of international culture, Passport DC (May 1-31) gives you two chances to tour embassies: the Around the World Embassy Tour (May 6) and Shortcut to Europe (May 13). Check out even more events.
At any given time of year, you can catch a brand new exhibit for free thanks to DC’s Smithsonian Museums and the National Gallery of Art. A few to keep an eye on: Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors (Feb. 23 – May 14) at the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Frédéric Bazille and the Birth of Impressionism – (April 9 – July 9) at the National Gallery of Art and American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times (May 3 – Sept. 17) at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Walk around on “America’s Front Yard” and pay homage to past presidents, America’s war heroes and civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. One hidden gem to look out for: the DC War Memorial, an open-air dome with ample shade.
Washington, DC might seem like a big city, but you can easily escape to nature in Rock Creek Park, which cuts through the heart of the city. Its 3.5-mile Boulder Bridge trail is popular among hikers and used to be visited by President Theodore Roosevelt.
DC regularly ranks among the nation’s most walkable cities, and that’s thanks to neighborhoods like Capitol Hill. Check out street vendors on a weekend morning at Eastern Market, stroll through Barracks Row to see some of the nation’s hottest restaurants and cap it off with a visit to the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center. Check out more neighborhoods to explore.
Museums in DC are known for being very kid-friendly and interactive, but the same can be said at the White House Visitor Center. Guests can take a touchscreen tour of the White House and admire 90-plus artifacts in the White House collection.
Union Market has become the “it” place for foodies in DC, but you shouldn’t just come here for the free samples. For just a few bucks, you can pick up any number of locally made delectables, from Korean-style tacos to charcuterie and sandwiches to Chesapeake Bay oysters.
Canvases are everywhere you look in the District, which teems with vibrant street art in all quadrants. Spot everything from renditions of silver screen stars Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor to abstract, museum-commissioned works, restaurant-themed façades and lots more.
If you’re looking for more fun and free things to do, there are plenty of other options. Check out the full list of 100 Free & Almost Free Things to Do.