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Budget Friendly Washington, D.C.

AAA/Sherry Mims
By AAA Travel Editor Sherry Mims
November 02, 2022
If you’re looking for cheap things to do, then consider booking a trip to Washington, D.C. The destination features many free museums and other inexpensive things to see, especially if you travel during an off-peak time.
Courtesy of Capitol Hill Hotel

Capitol Hill Hotel

200 C St. S.E.
(202) 543-6000
This boutique hotel in Washington, D.C., is the place to stay by the United States Capitol. Not only is it convenient but also offers perks, such as a complimentary breakfast and a wine hour in the library. (Many rooms also offer kitchenettes, a bonus if you plan to travel with kids.) To save money during your stay in Washington, travel in August, a slow time in the capital city.
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Mitchell Park

1801 23rd St. N.W.
This beautiful park, though slightly off the beaten path, offers lots to love since it’s a dog-friendly park with sports courts and a playground for kids. If you’re looking for things to do in the summer in Washington, D.C., watch a free movie with Mitchell Park Films in the Field. (On the way there, you’ll want to visit the cultural landmarks in Embassy Row and take pictures of the Spanish Steps and its historic fountain.)
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National Air and Space Museum

655 Jefferson Dr. S.W.
(202) 633-2214
With eight all-new galleries, you can almost feel the excitement that aviators, astronauts and scientists had when they pushed envelope to go faster, farther and higher. Powerful exhibits include The Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Aerial Age, Kenneth C. Griffin Exploring the Planets, and Thomas W. Haas We All Fly. Kids of all ages will find inspiration in the “real deal” artifacts, their stories, gallery interactives and planetarium shows (for a small fee). Museum admission is free, but timed-passes are required.
Note: Some exhibits will remain closed until renovations are completed in 2025.
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National Gallery of Art

4th St. & Constitution Ave. N.W.
(202) 737-4215
Keep your Friday evening open as this Smithsonian museum provides one of the best things to do in D.C. at night (weather permitting); nearly 2 million people have enjoyed this summer concert series since the collaboration with D.C. Jazz Festival began. Each Friday, visitors are welcomed among the works at the Sculpture Garden to hear a variety of jazz—blues, Dixieland, Latin and swing to name a few.
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National Mall

3rd to 23rd sts. N.W. between Constitution and Independence aves
(202) 426-6841
Visiting the monuments and museums along this impressive stretch of open space is among the most meaningful things to do in Washington, D.C. You may even find free events in summer, such as a performance by the United States Marine Band at the Lincoln Memorial; check the band’s calendar for precise dates. Highlights include the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and World War II Memorial.
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National Museum of African American History & Culture

1400 Constitution Ave. N.W.
(202) 633-1000
Opened in 2016, the newest Smithsonian museum features some 37,000 objects relating to the African American experience. These include items from a sunken slave ship, manacles from the 19th century, a segregated water fountain and Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves. To see the popular museum, request the free timed passes before you travel, though it’s possible to visit with “walk-up weekdays” in September or other specially announced dates if you time it right.
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United States Capitol

1st St. & Independence Ave. S.W.
(202) 226-8000
Starting with an opening film about the United States, a guided tour takes visitors through the historic structure, including the rotunda and its well-known artwork. After the tour, continue your education at Exhibition Hall, which features several models of the U.S. Capitol. Then use the tunnel to visit the nearby Library of Congress—without having to step outside. The free tour can be booked through your legislator’s office up to 90 days in advance, though sometimes you can check with the information desk about availability. (There are a number of prohibitions, such as liquids, so check what to do in advance.)
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White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.
(202) 456-7041
This historic landmark is where to go in Washington, D.C. You’ll often see a crowd in front snapping pictures, but a tour will get you special access to the East Wing, including the Blue Room, and a view of the White House rose garden. Like the United States Capitol, tours must be requested through a member of Congress (or your embassy if you’re not a citizen of the United States) at least 21 days ahead of time; restrictions on what to bring also apply.
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