Best Budget Attractions in Washington, D.C.

November 15, 2014 7:00 AM

Giant panda mom and cub. (Photo credit: Abby Wood, Smithsonian’s National Zoo)

Washington, D.C. is home to many storied monuments, museums and memorials, many of which are accessible to the public. Whether you’re a city slicker or an out-of-towner, check out this list of best budget attractions in D.C. and experience all that the nation’s capital has to offer on the cheap.

The National Mall
10th N.W. and Constitution Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20050
(202) 426-6841
www.nps.gov

Known as America’s front yard, the National Mall provides access to many budget-friendly attractions including museums, monuments and memorials. Stroll along the pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined park and visit the Washington Monument, the Lincoln, Jefferson or Franklin D. Roosevelt memorials or pay your respects at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Read text from the “I have a dream” speech at the Martin Luther King, Jr memorial or visit the famous Smithsonian Castle. Many of the attractions around the National Mall are free. Or, simply pack a picnic and enjoy a beautiful afternoon on the National Mall among the tourists and sights.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
600 Independence Ave. S.W.
Washington, DC 20560
(202) 633-2214
www.airandspace.si.edu

Home to the world’s largest collection of aviation and space artifacts, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is a great budget attraction that’s guaranteed to entertain every member of the family. Learn about the history of commercial aviation, relive the Apollo mission to the moon or read about compelling moments in spaceflight. The museum has many interactive exhibits, lectures, workshops, seminars and daily programs. Catch a film in the IMAX theater for a small fee. Admission to the museum is free.

Related: Best Hotels In DC On a Budget

The National Archives
700 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20408
(202) 357-5000
www.archives.gov

View the country’s oldest documents, including the “Constitution,” “Bill of Rights” and the “Declaration of Independence,” at the National Archives. History buffs will love the “Public Vaults,” a permanent exhibit at the Archives. See fascinating original records, including telegrams between Abraham Lincoln and his generals, and recordings from the Oval Office, plus maps, photographs and drawings. The National Archives also offers a variety of interactive events including discussions, lectures, author readings and films. A gift shop and cafe are available on-site. Admission is free.

National Gallery of Art
6th and Constitution Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20565
(202) 737-4215
www.nga.gov

Established in 1937, the National Gallery of Art boasts a collection of more than 75,000 prints including many well-known images and paintings, such as the self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh and “The Alba Madonna” by Raphael. Other highlights of the National Gallery of Art include sculptures, drawings, photographs and decorative arts. Learn about the history of famous masterpieces through the help of a self-guided tour or participate in an interactive gallery talk. The National Gallery of Art also features cafes, an espresso and gelato bar and gift shop. Admission is free.

The National Zoo
3001 Connecticut Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 633-4888
www.nationalzoo.si.edu

Come see what the animals are up to at the National Zoo. Located in the heart of DC, this 163-acre zoological park is home to a wide variety of wild animals. See giant panda cub Bao Bao as she hangs out among the trees in her outdoor exhibit or watch an American Bison, the animal that inspired the founding of the National Zoo, in the zoo’s new exhibit area. Daily programs at the zoo include fish feeding, meeting a member of the zoo staff, great cats viewing and elephant training demonstrations. Special events include Boo at the Zoo and ZooLights. Admission is free.

Related: Best Indoor Attractions In The DC Area

Susan Diranian is a freelance writer living in Ashburn, VA. She is covering Travel & Outdoors. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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