Washington DC
Washington DC

Five Free Things to do in Washington DC

Washington DC attraction guide

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1. Get jazzed

For the first half of the 20th Century, Washington DC's U St. was a veritable Mecca of jazz. Now the corridor, where greats like Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald flaunted their talent, is experiencing a resurgence in popularity.

At U-topia Bar and Grill, cozy up inside warmly lit orange walls decorated with work by local Washington DC artists and catch live nightly performances, for free! 1418 U St., Washington DC; Tel. + 1 202.483.7669

The Corcoran Gallery of Art offers Wednesday Jazz, a chance to hear local musicians play for free on the first and third Wednesday of every month, 12:30pm-1:30pm. 500 17th St., Washington DC; Tel. + 1 202.639.1700

2. Go au natural

Washington DC's streets practically overflow with lush trees and colorful flowerbeds during warmer months, but for truly grandiose blooms, take a stroll through these free Washington DC gardens.

The U.S. National Arboretum is 446 acres of so much more than petals. The park-like Dogwood Collection, National Bonsai Museum and Aquatic Garden are a mere sampling. Daily, 8am-5pm. 3501 NY Ave., NE Washington DC; Tel. + 1 202.245.2726

Dumbarton Oaks This Harvard University research institute features patches of Peonies, Magnolias and Day Lilies, an antique French fountain and a Roman style, open-air amphitheater within ten acres of landscaped grounds on a hillside in Georgetown. Admission is free from Nov. 1-Mar. 14, 2-5 p.m.; closed Mondays R and 32nd St., Washington DC; Tel. + 1 202.339.6401

The U.S. Botanic Garden features ever-changing exhibits, the newly-renovated National Garden, plus a butterfly garden and The First Ladies' Water Garden. Free. Daily, 10 am-5pm. 100 Maryland Ave., SW Washington DC; Tel. + 1 202.225.8333

3. Discover local wares

Outdoor markets abound on the weekends, offering something for everyone in every corner of the city. The good news is browsing is free!

The Art Market at Western Market has a bit of everything, from photography and pottery to woodworking, knits, flowers and jewelry in the quirky Adams Morgan neighborhood. Sat, from noon until dark. 18th and Wyoming St., Washington DC

Eastern Market near prestigious Capitol Hill boasts a farmers market on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-6pm and a flea market full of antiques and crafts on Sundays from 10am-5pm. 7th St. and North Carolina Ave., Washington DC

Downtown, The Penn Quarter Fresh Farm Market draws between 12 and 15 farmers peddling the standard fruits and veggies, plus meats and cheeses, baked goods and plants. Thu, 3-7pm. 8th St. between D & E Sts., NW Washington DC

4. Expand your mind

It's nearly impossible to walk a block in Washington DC without passing a gallery or museum. Inside the National Mall, the possibilities are overwhelming. Here are a few of the big ones inside the Mall, not to be missed, nor to be paid for.

Get your fossil fix at the National Museum of Natural History 10th St. and Constitution Ave., NW Washington DC; Tel. +1 202.633.1000

Wondering how we progressed from horse and buggy to Ford Mustang or curious about our nation's military past? The National Museum of American History explains it all. 14th St. and Constitution Ave., NW Washington DC; Tel. + 1 202.633.1000

The National Gallery of Art is a masterpiece in itself, spanning six city blocks and holding nearly 80 galleries. The collection is massively impressive, forcing 19th Century American landscapes and French impressionist pieces to vie for attention alongside a 6-acre sculpture garden. Constitution Ave., between 3rd and 9th Sts., NW Washington DC; Tel. +1 202.737.4215

The worldliest of explorers and researchers exhibit their photography inside Explorers Hall at the National Geographic Society. A small permanent collection is also on display. 17th and M Sts., NW Washington DC; Tel. + 1 202.857.7588

Smaller galleries are equally impressive, offering visitors a more concentrated glimpse into particular cultures and genres. The following do not charge admission.

For Asian art check out the Freer Gallery of Art at Jefferson Dr. and 12th St., SW Washington DC, and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at 1050 Independence Ave., SW; Tel. + 1 202.633.1000

See modern art at the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden; Independence Ave. and 7th St., SW Washington DC; Tel. + 1 202.633.1000

For African art, National Museum of African Art is imperative. 950 Independence Ave., SW Washington DC; Tel. + 1 202.633.1000

National Museum of the American Indian; 4th St. and Independence Ave., SW Washington DC; Tel. + 1 202.633.1000

5. Take an evening stroll

Washington DC, brimming with famous monuments and buildings, is lovely during the day, but magical at night. Start by walking west through the National Mall from the majestic Capitol Building between Constitution and Independence Avenues, as the Washington Monument towers in the distance. Finally, a rectangular reflecting pool leads to the Lincoln Memorial, a sight to be seen beneath moon and stars.

U.S. Capitol; Capitol Hill, between Independence and Constitution Aves., Washington DC; Tel. + 1 202.225.6827

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Sarah Amandolare