Give your wallet a much needed day off with these 10 fun activities in and nearby the District that won’t cost you a single dime. From smelling the roses to traveling back in time, there’s something for every frugal family member.

1. Sit Front Row


All summer long., REACH will be hosting a number of films, event and performances on the outdoor Millennium Stage and the price for admission is, you guessed it, free!  There's opera, jazz, Indigenous dance...basically anything you can think of. For the perfect picnic, use the money you saved on tickets for a cool glass of wine and some nibbles at Victura Park.  

2700 F St. NW
Foggy Bottom
Activity details.

2. Catch a Flight

Vivi N. via Yelp

Pint-size aviation buffs will love hanging out at Gravelly Point Park, which is conveniently situated just off of the George Washington Parkway. It's there where they're able to watch planes take off (right above their heads!) from Reagan National Airport. Pack a picnic or bring popcorn to make plane watching a serious spectator sport. 

George Washington Pkwy.
Arlington, VA

3. Smell the Roses

Hazel C. via Yelp

DC has a number of public gardens and parks that won't cost you a dime to visit. One of our absolute favorite's is Bishop's Garden at the National Cathedral. It's stocked with beautiful roses, fun exploring pathways, a tiny pond with goldfish and frogs, a shady stone gazebo, and a big open lawn to run around in or spread a picnic blanket on. 

Massachusetts and Wisconsin Aves. NW
Woodley Park
Activity details.

4. Meet a Working Artist

Bruce Mars via Unsplash

Stroll the halls of the Torpedo Factory, a former munitions factory turned art space. Creative kiddos get a sneak peek at any one of the 82 artists with working studios in the Factory. From painting to ceramics and fiber to printmaking, the creative types love to chat with families about their gigs. Bonus: There are elevators and wide hallways, making this ideal for strollers.

105 N. Union St.
Alexandria, VA

5. Spend a Day at a Museum

G.D.S. via Yelp

One of the biggest perks about living in the District is that many of the museums are federal institutions, which means admission is free. This includes the National Gallery of Art,  Planet Word and the Smithsonian's museums (think: the kid-approved National Air and Space museum). Find one that the whole family will enjoy and go explore.

Editor's Note: Check your favorite museum's website prior to visiting; many are now requiring timed entry tickets. 

6. Up Your Insta Game

Meghan Yudes Meyers

If you're looking for a cool backdrop to snap kiddo's next pics for grandma, look no further than DC's outdoor art scene. Not sure where to start? We rounded up some of the boldest murals here. Bring a camera and some snacks for the littles, but leave your wallet at home; there are no down payments or studio fees involved with these sittings.

Activity details. 

7. Hang with the Animals

Jaime G. via Yelp

Bring a stroller and lace up your sneakers to walk the 163-acre animal park. Home to popular exhibits such as the panda house, there are plenty of lesser-known must-see stops. For instance, there’s the Kids’ Farm, where llamas and cows are neighbors with rare breeds like San Clemente Island goats and Ossabaw Island hogs. Educational programs are available throughout the day and include Amazon fish feeding, elephant training and meetings with panda or ape keepers.

Editor's note: The zoo is still free, but you must have a timed-entry ticket upon arrival. Get them here

3001 Connecticut Ave. NW
Woodley Park

8. Travel Back in Time


Go back in time without spending a dime at this Fairfax County park. Dating back to 1726, the park imitates a 1920s through 1950s farm, including agricultural process, rural community life and landscape. In the Kidwell Farm area, check out horses, chickens, rabbits, sheep, goats, cows, pigs and their babies. Then, help a farmer milk a cow. Wagon and carousel rides are available seasonally for a small charge. In the Antique Equipment Shed, visitors can look at horse-drawn carriages and early farm equipment from 1900.

2739 West Ox Rd.
Herndon, VA

9. Stalk the Stars

Greg Rakozy

Rock Creek Park is home to the only planetarium operated by the National Park Service, and it's free. On Wed., Sat. and Sun. nights, the image of the night sky is projected onto a large, dome-shaped ceiling. You'll hear more than one "coooool" coming from the kiddie corner. 

Editor's note: Ms. Seymour, the planetarium projector, is currently out-of-service. We will update this story when Ms. Seymour is working again! 

5200 Glover Rd. NW
Rock Creek Park

Cool Your Jets

Fairfax County

Many of the District's spray pads and splash parks are completely free (check out our ultimate guide here). For a park experience that feels worthy of an entrance fee, Head to Our Special Harbor Spray Park in Franconia, VA. There are boats to climb, bubblers and even a beach. 

6601 Telegraph Rd.
Franconia, VA

—Meghan Yudes Meyers and Ayren Jackson-Cannady

featured photo: iStock


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