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|Washington DC: A Family Vacation on a Budget – Free and Fun Stuff.
For a city destination Washington DC has a terrific high value and low cost ratio making a family vacation bargain.
When looking for entertainment in DC, one thing’s for sure: you don’t have to spend a dime. All of the city’s famous monuments are free of charge, as are the 15 museums in the Smithsonian system of museums and the National Gallery of Art.
The list of fun stuff within the Smithsonian locations is impressive. For example: At the Discovery Theater, located in the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building, you will find performances including puppetry, theatrical performance, dance, storytelling and musicals, designed to entertain, educate, and enlighten young audiences.
Or head out to the National Zoological Park, which is free to visit, since it is part of the Smithsonian Institution and visit with giant pandas, cheetah cubs, and Kandula, the Zoo's really cute Asian elephant.
Go to the Museum of Natural History with your young dino-buffs and wander the awesome Dinosaur Fossil Hall; check out the bugs and bees at Orkin Insect Zoo; visit the Discovery Room or take your rock hounds to the Hall of Gems and Minerals.
DC by Foot
offers a free walking tour six nights a week, departing from the Washington Monument. Or, get off the National Mall and take a free, self-guided tour on one of Cultural Tourism DC’s neighborhood heritage trails. Bonus points:
Kids love the high-speed elevator at the Washington Monument (although this is temporarily closed for post-earthquake repairs) and near the Jefferson Memorial it is possible to rent a paddleboat for a small fee and cruise the Tidal Basin.
At the Bureau of Engraving and Printing take a free tour and watch the money come hot off the presses and end your day with a free concert or performance on the Millennium Stage at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, offered at 6:00pm nightly.
Leave your car at your hotel – or at home altogether. Parking in DC can be hard to come by, and it’s often very expensive. Public transportation in DC fits everyone’s budget. A Metrorail one-day pass costs $9 for unlimited rides.
The newest transportation option, the DC Circulator offers bus connections between Georgetown, Union Station, the Washington Convention Center, the Southwest Waterfront and the National Mall for just $1 per ride. If you don’t mind walking, you’ll find that DC was designed with pedestrians in mind.
Family friendly sleeping spots. Your accommodation may well be the most expensive part of the vacation but it will offset by all of the free stuff available in the District. When you are choosing the Washington DC hotels that you will stay in, your main concern might just be how close you will be to what you want to see. And if family vacation your budget is a bit tight, you might find surrounding cities in Maryland and Virginia will generally be a good bet but there are also some options closer to the National Mall and the U.S. Capitol Building and Arlington hotels and Alexandria hotels on the Virginia side of the Potomac River are also worth considering. Make sure that you’re staying near a Metro station, or that the hotel provides transportation to a Metro station. Search for seasonal promotions and special rates at Washington.org. DC hotel rates are usually highest during the middle of the week. Plan your visit over the weekend to take advantage of lower prices. Want to save even more money? Schedule your trip in late summer or during the winter months.
Family vacation package ideas.
Sometimes the package deal makes the best dollars and cents. For example: The Hotel George's Undercover Washington package includes tickets to the International Spy Museum, a confidential message, "Spy Packet" with quizzes at your suite, complimentary wine, and internet access. The Hotel Rouge Panda Package includes hotel room, and zoo passes complete with metro passes to get there in addition to a Zoo Welcome Kit which includes panda doll, a children's activity booklet, a panda video, and a ZooGoer magazine.
A strict budget won’t leave your hunger lingering.
Check out our dining tips for affordable suggestions. You can find kid-friendly favorites at many of the museums on the Mall, along with more sophisticate selections to appeal to grown-up palates. You can find more information on these eateries and more here
, courtesty of Washington.org.
What to try: Dine on dishes from throughout the Americas—from buffalo burgers to roasted salmon—at the National Museum of the American Indian’s Mitisam Café. Treat yourself to a gelato at the National Gallery of Art. For additional dining options near the Mall, walk up 7th St. to downtown’s Penn Quarter for casual sandwich shops and quick-service eateries perfect for picnics. Or, check out the nearby food courts at the Old Post Office Pavilion, the Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center or the Shops at National Place.
Advice provided by Destination DC. A complete list of “100 Free (and Almost Free) Things to Do in Washington, DC” is available at www.Washington.org
Content and images provided by Destination DC with comments by FTF staff. Copyright 2013.