How to Tour Washington, D.C., on a Budget

The Lincoln Memorial.
The Lincoln Memorial. (Image: Images)

Washington, D.C., is the capitol of the United States. As such, it's home to many national monuments and memorials. The capitol is where the United States government operates. Several official buildings, offices and departments offer free guided tours for visitors with advance reservations. Visitors can enjoy the outdoors around Washington, D.C., as the grounds around the Capitol are well-maintained and open. To take advantage of your time in Washington, you'll want to plan ahead of time.

Things You'll Need

  • Phone
  • Map
  • Walking shoes

Contact the Washington, D.C., Convention and Visitors Association for information on local event dates and times, to learn about free tours of historic landmarks and to find maps of the city.

Washington DC Convention and Visitors Association 901 7th Street NW, 4th Floor Washington, DC 20001-3719 (202-789-7000)

Get a good map of Washington, D.C. Take time to mark the locations of historic landmarks on the map for your sightseeing tours.

Take a historic tour of the memorials in the Capitol. All of these memorials are close enough to walk to; you can make a day of it. Visit the Grant Memorial just in front of the U.S. Capitol. Move on down to the Washington Monument, then visit the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial, also called the Wall. Stand amidst the grandeur of the Lincoln Memorial, reading his profound words etched in the walls, to round out your tour. Several other memorials exist around Washington, D.C., that you can plan to stop by, too; though some are not in walking distance.

Explore the free-admission libraries, zoos and museums. The Smithsonian Institution and the National Zoo are both free to visit daily. The National Geographic Society Headquarters, the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum, and the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum are all free to visitors.

Learn about the city's political history. The nation's capitol is home to a lot of history, and there are many places that visitors can check out to learn more for free. Several of these places are still actively used for governmental work. They may require advance reservations for tours. Ford's Theatre is open to visitors and offers short plays and presentations. The Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the Department of State offer prearranged guided tours, but reservations are required 90 days in advance. The U.S. Supreme Court allows visitors to enjoy public lectures on a first-come, first-served basis when court isn't in.

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