28 Absolutely Free (and Awesome) Things to Do This Summer

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Wind, rain, and metro shutdowns can’t dissuade summer: it’s here! It’s here! And we have 25 (free!) ways for you to celebrate it. You’ll want to pull your scheduling calendars out for this one.

11223603_879414512112610_680967124951101644_nPhoto: Yards Park

1. Splish and splash until you’re pruny at Yards Park.

2. There are plenty of opportunities to cool off! You can also ogle the boats on the Potomac and stretch out on the grass while the kids leap between synchronized sprays at the Georgetown Water Park.

3. Bring a picnic and a blanket to Jazz in the Garden in the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden.

4. Pop by the Smithsonian Folklife Festival at the National Mall during the last week of June and the first week of July.

12301623_10153056953166991_1455403765521650558_nPhoto: Strathmore

5. On Wednesdays in July and August, catch a concert at the Music Center at Strathmore!

6. From June 11 to July 31, visit the exhibition, “Turning the Page: Children’s Book Illustrations” at the Strathmore Mansion.

7. While adults and older children need to purchase tickets ($8), children two and under attend shows at the Strathmore’s Backyard Theater for Children for free!

8. It’s been open (again) since 2014, but you still haven’t visited the National Monument, you say? Beat the crowds and make a reservation or show up early to get your free tickets.

13051501_10154099793774253_2694587323404985253_nPhoto: Shilla Bakery

9. Enjoy the seemingly endless free samples at Shilla Bakery in Tysons, then let the kids choose a treat and cool off with a Honey Plum Tea.

10. Pump up your 13-16 year-olds to participate in Politics and Prose’s monthly Teen Book Group (nurse an iced latte while you wait).

11. Encourage your children to appreciate the artwork of other children at the Phillips Collection’s Young Artists Exhibition (free for 0-18, $12 for adults).

12. Attend a Paddle Night on the Anacostia River at the Anacostia Community Boathouse.


Photo: Smithsonian Folklife Festival via Facebook

13. Travel around the world (without leaving D.C.) at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival (June 29-July 4 and July 7-10). You’ll celebratese the music, food, art and cultures of various regions.

14. Check out a free planetarium show at Rock Creek Park.

15. Pick up a Portrait Discovery Kit to guide your visit to the National Portrait Gallery, then let the kids run around the Kogod Courtyard and play in the just-barely-there water feature (and beg you for one of the café’s delicious desserts).

16. See the Wonder exhibit at the Renwick Gallery before it ends! Really! Go now!


Photo: National Independence Day Parade

17. Celebrate the 4th of July at the National Independence Day Parade (11:45 am) with musicians hailing from all 50 states! This parade also features giant balloons, equestrian teams, patriotic floats and celebs.

18. Check out the Independence Day fireworks and the live concert, A Capitol Fourth, on the West Lawn of the United States Capitol.

19. Watch kids ages 0-6 engage in imaginative play at Wegmans Wonderplace at the National Museum of American History.

20. Peek at the collection of miniature dollhouses on display at the National Building Museum.


21. Let the kids stay up late and see a show at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage.

22. Let the kids stay up REALLY late for a movie at Screen on the Green on the National Mall.

23. See the Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea exhibit at the National Zoo (and be sure to swing by the sea lions and spend a half hour at the mini splash pad).

24. Check out an art workshop at the Freer and Sackler Galleries.

13335832_10154404529954574_3621558649201912030_nPhoto: Washington Redskins

25. Visit the Washington Redskins Training Camp. Following practice, players pose for pictures with fans and sign autographs. Admission is free, but you must register in advance.

26. Let your kids run wild and pose for Instagram at the beautiful Tudor Place Historic House and Garden (five and under free, 5-17 are $3, and adults are $10).

27. Enter one of the pay-for-entry parks (i.e. Assateague Island, Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, and Shenandoah National Park) in the National Park Service for free on the NPS’s 100th birthday: August 25, 2016.

28. Stroll through Truckeroo at Fairgrounds, a monthly food truck festival that runs through September and might tempt you to open your wallet for a crepe, lobster room, ice cream sandwich…do we have your attention yet?

What’s your favorite summertime freebie? Tell us about it in the comments section. 

—Katie Brown
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