NEWS - Every spring, Washington, DC becomes one of the most iconic places in the U.S. to see cherry blossoms. Nearly 1.5 million people visit the nation's capitol every March and April to participate in the National Cherry Blossom Festival and see a city transformed by fluffy pink and white blooms.
However, what's there to do after you've visited the Festival and cherry blossom attractions like Tidal Basin? Well, I've lived in DC for the past three years and I'd like to share some of my favorite destinations with you!
The best part is they're all family-friendly and don't cost a cent. They're also easily accessible from the DC Metro system, so you don't have to worry about getting stuck in city traffic! To make life easier, you can purchase a 1-, 3-, or 7-day metro pass here.
So without further ado, here is my list of the five best free, family-friendly activities in Washington, DC!
Catch A Free Show At The Kennedy Center
If you enjoy the arts, there's a good chance you've heard of the Kennedy Center, the United State's premiere performing arts venue. Named for the late President John F. Kennedy, the Kennedy Center offers a wide variety of world-class performances, including theater, music, dance, and comedy.
But, did you know that the Kennedy Center offers multiple free shows every week? Yes, that's right! The Center's Millennium Stage features shows every Wednesday-Saturday evening that encompass a range of music, dance, film, and more.
You can sign up for a free ticket online, but even if there are no more available seats, it's easy to find standing room in Millennium Hall. See something you like on the schedule for after you've gone home? You can catch a live stream on the Kennedy Center's YouTube channel!
The Kennedy Center is about a 10-minute walk from the Foggy Bottom Red Line Metro Station, and also operates frequent shuttles between the Center and the metro.
Experience Nature In The City At Rock Creek Park
Almost everyone knows about New York City's green oasis of Central Park, but did you know that DC has one, too? At 1,745 acres, Rock Creek Park is more than twice the size of Central Park. Full of nature, wildlife, 32 miles of trails, and multiple historic landmarks, Rock Creek Park is the perfect place to get away from the bustle of the city for a few hours.
Learn about history through Peirce Mill or Old Stone House, explore the scenic Boulder Bridge Loop, or check out the park's indoor or outdoor activities. Rock Creek park can be easily accessed from several neighborhoods around the city, including Georgetown, Cleveland Park, and Chevy Chase.
If you're arriving by train, Friendship Heights on the Red Line and Fort Totten on the Yellow/Green Lines are the closest metro stops. Take the E4 bus from either station to the Military + Glover stop (if arriving from Friendship Heights) or Military + Oregon (if arriving from Fort Totten).
Explore Popular DC Neighborhoods
Washington, DC is certainly better known for its government buildings than friendly neighborhoods, leading some people to wonder, "Do people actually live in DC?" I know I wondered that before I moved here! The answer is yes, they do! DC is actually full of regular American citizens who live in neighborhoods full of history, culture, and lots to see and do.
For safety, walkability, and fun activities, I recommend checking out Georgetown, Union Station, Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, and Embassy Row. Each one offers different vibes and sides of DC, but all are full of unique attractions and worth a visit. Plus, all but Georgetown and Embassy Row are metro stops, making them easy to access.
Georgetown's M Street has some of DC's classiest shops, while the surrounding streets are lined with cherry trees and beautiful brick homes. Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle have more of a "big city" vibe, with funky-colored buildings and tons of unique, independent shops and restaurants.
Union Station is home to Amtrak's headquarters, a bustling neighborhood, and hop-on hop-off bus tours to see more of the city. Finally, for some international flavor, visit Embassy Row to walk past embassies from a diverse array of countries.
Take A Breath Of Fresh Air At The U.S. Botanic Garden
Yes, you just finished looking at flowers during the Cherry Blossom Festival, but if you just can't get enough plants, the U.S. Botanic Garden is well worth a visit! Located near the National Mall, the Botanic Garden is made up of two outdoor gardens and a huge climate-controlled conservatory.
During your visit, you can check out the current exhibit; experience different climates including desert, Mediterranean, and tropical; or take an audio tour of the gardens. Whether you want to learn more about plants or simply relax in a quiet, lush atmosphere for a few hours, the U.S. Botanic Garden is a must-see.
The easiest way to access the Botanic Garden is by taking the Orange, Blue, or Silver line to Federal Center. It's a short walk from the station, or you can take the 32, 34, 36, or DC Circulator bus.
Visit DC's World-Famous Museums and Monuments
A list of DC's free, family-friendly activities would be incomplete without mentioning the museums! Whether you're interested in art, history, science, animals, outer space, air travel, or sociology, you'll enjoy a few hours spent browsing one of the many museums lining the National Mall. They're all completely free of charge!
While you're on the Mall, it's an easy walk or bus ride to the monuments, including the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and my personal favorite, the fountain-filled World War II Memorial.
You can access the National Mall from a number of metro stops, but one of the easiest is the Smithsonian/National Mall. You'll walk off the escalator directly onto the Mall itself and can walk or take the Circulator bus to other locations.
I hope this list got you excited to start planning your next visit to Washington, DC!
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A boarding pass salute to OpenAI's ChatGPT for charting the course of this article.