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History, Hikes & Hot Spots: Free Fun in the Capital
May 15, 2013
Video Thumbnail: Nicholas Walters, Delta St. University Junior (WISH Alumnus) WISH Testimonial 1

Stomping Your New Stomping Grounds

Washington D.C. is a National Treasure of things to see and do, many of which are free or nearly free. Now that you’ve gotten settled into your internship, you’ll have plenty of time to see all of it. Here’s a quick list of inexpensive and free things to do that don’t require a 2/3 majority.

Go There and Back Again…and Again…

…by visiting the Smithsonian. Unless, that is, you think you can see all 137 million objects housed in 19 museums and galleries in one day. (Hint: it would take years.) Everything from ancient fossils to the Apollo lunar module are on display, so if you happen to have a paleontologist and an astronomer in your group, you’re in luck. Admission to most of the museums is free but be sure to check before going. The most popular spots are the National Museum of Natural History, the National Air and Space Museum, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Newseum, which traces the history of reporting from the 16th Century all the way up to the present day. Most of the museums are within walking distance, but some are in other parts of the city. A guided tour is the best way to go, unless you want to end up as part of the Smithsonian yourself.

Freedom Isn’t Free

But seeing all of the monuments and memorials that represent it sure are. DC is filled with no less than 160 memorials and monuments that honor the people and events that helped shape our great nation. The most famous ones are the DC War Memorial on the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Theodore Roosevelt Island and the Washington Monument. There are also statues and plaques spread out all over town, which is why there is a wide variety of sightseeing tours available due to their popularity in the nation’s capital. Be sure to check our Getting Around DC page for a complete listing of other museums and transportation options for getting there.

 The Great Outdoors in the Middle of Town

If you’re the outdoors type, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal is the place for you. It offers a variety of activity from hiking and horseback riding to boating and kayaking, making it very difficult to avoid yet another Smithsonian pun. While you’re here you should check out the Billy Goat Trail for a challenging hike; the Towpath which is used for biking (mostly just the first 20 miles); and Great Falls Tavern which offers mule drawn canal boat rides. There is a $3 entrance fee to the park if on foot and $5 if in a vehicle. One side note to think about, though: DC averages 39 inches of rainfall a year, which is more than even Seattle. So, whatever it is you end up doing, check the forecast.

The Smithsonian of Nightlife

The historic neighborhood of Georgetown is known as one of DC’s best spots for dining and nightlife. You’ll find everything from upscale shopping to great collegiate gathering places (also known as bars) that line the quaint cobblestone streets. Some of the best places to go here are 1789 Restaurant, located on a quiet street resembling a country inn; Cabanas, a Latin bar and restaurant located on the waterfront; and Blues Alley, a jazz supper club located in the heart of Georgetown. The neighborhood is also home to Georgetown University which, ironically, is surrounded by very expensive homes that encourage students to continue studying real hard.

The World’s Most Famous Address

Public tours of the White House are limited to groups of 10 or more and have to be booked a month in advance through a member of Congress. Therefore, the threat of a filibuster is high. Thankfully, there’s a much better way to see the White House. Just head across the street to Lafayette Park. From here you can take great pictures, hang out, chill, have a picnic, etc. White House Garden Tours are also available where visitors can see the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, Rose Garden, Children’s Garden and South Lawn. However these are not open year round so be sure to check their availability. Also, be sure to visit the White House Visitor Center where you’ll be able to learn many aspects about the White House and its history.

As you can probably tell, Washington is a city with something for everyone. You may never get to see all of it, but that’s the beauty of it. Be sure to treat yourself to some of what DC has to offer. Doing so will not only help you get a better sense of your home and neighbors, but will also help you understand why Washington, DC, in and of itself, is considered a national treasure.  Make the most of your opportunity by experiencing as much as you possibly can. And make sure you sign up for our Newsletter for more updates on Things To Do.