A lot of people who live in Washington DC take for granted all the things there are to do here. But if your budget is tight, you should consider a staycation in DC and fully take advantage of everything the city has to offer.
The Library of Congress
As a local you probably know the best times to visit the Social Safeway and when to avoid driving through Georgetown traffic (all the time). But did you know that you can actually sit in the main reading room of the Library of Congress and not just see it from the little glass box at the top? All you have to do is register as a reader, get your own ID card and you have access to any reading room in the library. So if it’s too hot to sit outside, you can head inside and do your summer reading in the largest library in the world. It’s located at 101 Independence Avenue SE, and it’s open from 10 AM to 5:30 PM daily, though the reading room hours vary.
Government building tours
A huge advantage to living in DC is that you don’t have time constraints for certain things, so things like White House and Capitol Building tours are extremely convenient compared to tourists coming from out of town for only a short time. You’ll need to contact your representative to get passes and the process can take weeks while they run a background check, but once you get cleared, you can spend a lovely afternoon checking out the president’s home and the rooms where our policymakers vote and make laws. It’s a lot more interesting than it looks on C-SPAN.
The National Mall
You might not be interested in taking a ridiculous amount of pictures atop the Lincoln Memorial but you can grab some friends and have a picnic in the National Mall. Afterward, you can stroll through a couple of museums. Unlike other metropolitan areas, most DC museums are free. And they’re all close together, so if you go into one that isn’t your cup of tea, you can just head next door to a better one. It’s a lot like going to Adams Morgan on a Saturday night. These spots are usually more crowded on the weekends, but if you have some time in the middle of the week, you’ll enjoy it a lot more. The Smithsonian museums are open from 10 AM to 5:30 PM.
The north part of NW DC
If you head a little bit north of downtown, you can check out the National Zoo, also free. It’s at 3001 Connecticut Avenue NW and it’s open from 6 AM to 6 PM. And though it’s notorious for being less than spectacular, it’s a great way to kill a few hours. And if you get to see more than three animals, consider your trip a success. Just north of that, you’ll find the National Cathedral, the second largest in the country and the sixth largest in the world. You can attend mass or explore its winding catacombs. It’s located at 3101 Wisconsin Ave, NW and it’s open from 10 AM to 5:30 PM Monday through Friday, 10 AM to 4:30 PM on Saturdays, and from 8 AM to 5 PM on Sundays.
Paid museums and attractions
If you’re willing to spend a little extra on your staycation in DC, you can always stop by some of the museums that cost money in the city. The Spy Museum and and the Newseum are popular spots. You can also treat yourself to a night at the theatre. The Warner Theatre often hosts Broadway productions and comedians like Lewis Black and Margaret Cho. Or you can catch a show at Ford’s Theatre, because you probably don’t want the walking tour, but it would still be pretty cool to see a show where Lincoln was shot. The Spy Museum is located at 800 F St NW and it’s open daily from 9 AM to 7 PM. The Newseum can be found at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW and it’s open every day from 9 AM to 5 PM. The Warner Theatre is located at 1299 Pennsylvania Avenue NW and Ford’s Theatre is just a few blocks away at 511 10th Street NW.
These are just a few suggestions but the possibilities are endless if you’re inventive enough. So get out there and soak up the history and the culture. If you’re not interested in that, plant a towel on the bank of the Potomac and soak up the sun!
Get the GPS-guided version of this and other Washington DC guides on GPSmyCity here.