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Every which way you look in D.C. there is another iconic landmark that you can visit—for free!

The capital city of the United States is set in a backdrop of beautiful, classic, white marble architecture and upbeat, tasty restaurants ran by some of the most famous chefs in the country. With all of the exquisite places to tour, it may seem like it will cost you a small fortune to visit. Quite the opposite actually, as the nation’s capital is full of free museums, monuments, and attractions for every taste.

National Zoo

In the beautiful neighbourhood of Woodley Park, sits the exciting, family-friendly National Zoo. Whether visiting in the spring, summer, fall, or winter, there is always something special to do at the Zoo. Spring and fall are the best times to visit the animals because the weather is more temperate. Summer can be hot and the sidewalks crowded with tourists, but you can often catch a live musical performance at the zoo later in the evening when the temperature has cooled down. Around Halloween, the kids will love getting candy from Boo at the Zoo and there is even an event for Christmas time called Zoolights, where you can view special, environmentally-friendly exhibits and hear live talks about the animals. Even if you don’t make it for one of the holiday-specific occasions, there are at least 10 other events through-out the year.

Explore the Monuments

One of the most popular reasons for visiting Washington, D.C. is its history and the monuments dedicated to that history. Stroll along the National Mall, peer up at Abraham Lincoln’s colossal sitting figure, or guide a paddle-boat through the tidal basin surrounding the Thomas Jefferson memorial. You can take a free walking tour of each of the monuments starting at the Lincoln Memorial periodically throughout the day. There are also many exciting bus or Segway tours for a small fee.

If you happen to visit during the warmer months, a tour of the monuments by moonlight is particularly enamouring and a stop at the World War II memorial has a beautiful spraying fountain surrounded by wreathed-columns that represent each of the states within the US Visiting at night makes for beautiful photography and a magical, romantic experience for couples.

Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Right in the heart of the city is the Bureau of Engraving and Printing where you can watch money being printed or even print it for yourself. Here you will learn everything about US currency on a free 40-minute tour, ending at a shop with all sorts of souvenirs and gifts pertaining to currency.

National Museum of Natural History

Open 364 days of the year, the National Museum of Natural History is free to visit and the second most visited museum in the world. The museum will let you explore animals and ecosystems, human diversity, earth sciences, fossil history, and many special exhibitions. There are also many fun interactive exhibitions to explore. The children will enjoy learning about mummies and mammals, gems and minerals, and seeing the T. Rex Skull and the Hope Diamond.

National Harbor

Located just outside of Washington D.C. in Fort Washington, Maryland, is the beautiful waterside plaza of National Harbor. You can visit many of the shops and restaurants or for a small price, take a ride on the Ferris wheel and take in the surrounding natural beauty. A recent instalment in the area is the Tanger outlets where you can find many popular American brands at a fraction of the price you would pay at shopping malls.

There are many events throughout each season such as outdoor movies in the summer, free waterside workouts during the week, and an ice display at the Gaylord hotel in the winter, among other events.

National Archives

The United States has grown with remarkable speed and one of the most prominent pieces of that history is the US Constitution complete with the original Bill of Rights. These documents show how our country started and began to thrive. What better way to experience history than to see these famous documents yourself? Visit the National Archives and take a peek at one of the most important pieces of American and world history.

Arlington National Cemetery

The National Cemetery located just outside of Washington, D.C. in Arlington, Virginia is one of the most beautiful and humbling sites in the area. Start at the Welcome Centre and retrieve maps, info, and souvenirs in the bookstore. You can also view exhibits and displays before heading off to the John F. Kennedy gravesite. Take in the eternal flame and the site of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, next to President Kennedy.

One of the most popular exhibits to visit is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where a white sarcophagus holds an unidentified American soldier from World War I. Among it are three graves of unknown soldiers from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars. One of the most prestigious honours in the American military is to be one of the sentries that guards these graves, and you can watch the changing of the guard during your visit. These honourable military members safeguard the tomb 365 days a year, at all hours, through all weather. They stand to represent the protection of any threat to America and to honour and watch over all of the deceased soldiers who remain unknown.

Georgetown

Explore the capital city’s most charming neighbourhood and stroll down the cobblestone streets that have housed the likes of President and Jacqueline Kennedy, Julia Child, Thomas Jefferson, Francis Scott Key, and Elizabeth Taylor. Stroll along the waterside and have a picnic, or sashay throughout M Street and Wisconsin Street for some of the best shopping in the city. You can also take a stroll among the famous university with the same name of the neighbourhood.

Festivals

Washington is a popular place for festivals of all sorts, such as those for the wine lovers, food lovers, craft lovers, and more. The annual Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the most famous in the world and commemorates a beautiful gift of the cherry blossom tree from the Japanese which now bloom all throughout the city in the spring and perfume the air with their lovely fragrance. You can also explore the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival, the Source Festival, and more. Look around and see what festivals may be happening while you are visiting; most are free.

Kennedy Centre

The John F. Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts holds a number of different performances throughout the year such as musicals, operas, and ballets. Many of these shows can get quite pricey but the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Centre holds free performances for the cultural enrichment of the community.

The world of budget travel is open for anyone interested in visiting Washington, D.C. in the United States. With all the money you save on entertainment and sightseeing, a travel insurance plan to protect the rest of your holiday investments shouldn’t be too far out of reach. After all, Smartraveller says, if you can afford to travel, you can afford travel insurance.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Colin Capelle