DC’s collection of free and almost free things to do covers a wide variety of activities and neighborhoods, and lets you experience everything from engaging museums and tours to affordable happy hour hot spots. Here are 10 recommendations: Eastern Market Photo by Kate Warren 1 EXPLORE DC MARKETS Eastern Market is a Capitol Hill institution offering farm-fresh produce and famous buckwheat pancakes at Market Lunch every day of the week except Monday. On Sundays, local artisans and crafters come out and sell their wares. Across town, the FRESHFARM Dupont Circle Market is open year-round on Sunday mornings. Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture Photo by Rex Hammock 2 ENGAGE WITH THE MANY STRANDS OF AMERICAN HISTORY Experience America’s past through a wide variety of exhibits at the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, an expansive, free-to-visit addition to the National Mall. For less than $10, learn fascinating Civil War history at the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Off ice Museum. U. S. Botanic Garden 3 VISIT THE CONSERVATORY AT THE U.S. BOTANIC GARDEN Love walking through gardens in spring and summer? Do it throughout the year at the U.S. Botanic Garden, located just steps from the U.S. Capitol Building. Admire a world of orchids, desert plants and a primeval garden with ancient plants. ChurchKey 4 SIP ON AND LEARN ABOUT LOCAL SUDS The nation’s capital is in the midst of a craft beer craze. You can tour popular local breweries DC Brau and Bluejacket for free on Saturdays, then sit down and enjoy their delicious brews. Visit ChurchKey, which offers 555 different craft beers, then check out the in-house brew works at the District Chophouse & Brewery or Gordon Biersch Brewery. The National Cathedral Photo by photophiend 5 DISCOVER DC’S SPIRITUAL SIDE AT THE BASILICA & NATIONAL CATHEDRAL These two churches showcase spectacular architecture, craft smanship and acoustics. Located in Brookland, the majestic Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception offers free guided tours daily. Head to Upper Northwest to experience the Washington National Cathedral, which offers 30-minute tours every half hour at a low price or for free on Sundays. Ben’s Chili Bowl 6 FILL UP ON CHEAP EATS The half-smoke sausage at Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street is one of DC’s most famous foods, while G by Mike Isabella serves up sandwich perfection from 11 am–5 pm. Get your fast-casual fix from Le Pain Quotidien or homegrown spots like Sweetgreen and Burger Tap & Shake. Kramerbooks & Afterwords 7 KICK BACK AND DIG DC’S COOL SIDE Grab a cup of coffee at Dupont Circle cafe-bookstore mainstay Kramerbooks & Afterwords, or veg out with vinyl at Songbyrd Music House and Record Café in Adams Morgan, which oft en hosts free concerts. Over on 14th Street, dig through the crates at SomRecords. City Tap House 8 BAR HOP AT HAPPY HOUR Make your way through the vast array of downtown bars offering money-saving happy hour specials. Before a game at Verizon Center, sip craft brews and cocktails at City Tap House and Penn Commons. To savor international flavors, start at RPM for prosecco and antipasti, move to Mango Tree for inventive Thai libations and sip strong smoky cocktails at Espita Mezcaleria. Panda at the National Zoo 9 GO PANDA SPOTTING AT THE NATIONAL ZOO The Smithsonian’s National Zoo hosts more than 1,800 animals, including four giant pandas, the zoo’s most famous residents. Meet cub Bei Bei or wave to Tian Tian, who made quite a stir last year when a video of him rolling in the snow went viral. DC by Foot 10 EXPERIENCE A NATIONAL MALL TOUR Put on your walking shoes and check out DC by Foot, a walking tour company that hosts free, kid-friendly tours from fall through winter (gratuity recommended). You’ll enjoy taking in the sights while learning monument-themed fun facts and trivia. The tours go through the National Mall, Tidal Basin, Arlington Cemetery, Georgetown, Capitol Hill and the U Street corridor. EMOJI DC Download Emoji DC for free for your iPhone or Android and use a DC-themed keyboard featuring everything from local food to Smithsonian museums, monuments and motorcades.
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