DC Travel Guide  |  Things to Do

Guide to Washington, DC: Free Activities in DC

You don’t need an expense account to take advantage of these wallet-friendly free activities.

Take Five! brings live jazz to the courtyard of the American Art Museum. Photograph courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Movie Night Mondays
The National Theatre’s Monday Night Cinema at the National series presents classic films such as Airport and Birdman of Alcatraz in the theater’s Helen Hayes Gallery (1321 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-783-3372; nationaltheatre.org/monday/monday.htm). Free tickets for the 6:30 PM screenings are distributed 30 minutes beforehand.

Stage for Small Budgets
Every evening at 6 the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage (2700 F St., NW; 202-467-4600; kennedy-center.org) hosts free performances, ranging from acoustic singer-songwriters to classical ensembles to folk dancers. Tickets not required.

Big Beats
The Meridian Hill Park (16th and Euclid sts., NW; nps.gov/mehi) drum circle is a popular attraction on warm Sunday afternoons from March through November. Dancing is open to all.

Art + Music
Each week, the National Gallery of Art (Sixth St. and Constitution Ave., NW; 202-842-6941; nga.gov) brings award-winning musicians to DC for free concerts in the West Building. On Sundays from October through May, hear pianists, violinists, vocalists, and more. Most performances are at 6:30 PM, but times vary.

Take Five!
The third Thursday of every month, the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Eighth and F sts., NW; 202-633-8490; americanart.si.edu) showcases live jazz acts as part of its Take Five! series. Shows run from 5 to 8 PM in the Kogod Courtyard.

Capital Education
If the words “silent” and “austere” come to mind when you think of the Library of Congress (Jefferson Building, First St. and Independence Ave., SE; 202-707-5502; loc.gov/concerts), think again. One of the library’s biggest draws is its extensive schedule of free classical and folk performances, lectures, poetry readings, and films.

A Good Defense
Beginning the first Monday in October, you can watch oral arguments delivered before the US Supreme Court (1 First St., NE; 202-479-3211; supremecourt.gov). You might get a chance to hear a landmark case in a one-hour session, at either 10 or 11 AM Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. It’s a good idea to join the line in the court’s front plaza early.

Book Talks
Local independent bookshops Politics and Prose (5015 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-364-1919; politics-prose.com) and Busboys and Poets (2021 14th St., NW, 202-387-7638; 1025 Fifth St., NW, 202-789-2227; busboysandpoets.com) regularly host lectures and discussions by celebrated and interesting authors.

Indie Film
Local museums and galleries boast a number of opportunities to see independent, avant-garde, and classic films for free. Look for screenings at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building (Fourth St. and Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-842-6799; nga.gov), the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Seventh St. and Independence Ave., SW; 202-633-1000; hirshhorn.si.edu), and the Freer Gallery (12th St. and Jefferson Dr., SW; 202-633-1000; asia.si.edu).