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Free Things to Do: Events, Festivals & More in Washington, DC

Visitors warming by the fire at The Wharf on the Southwest Waterfront - Free winter activities in Washington, DC

Whenever you’re in Washington, DC, you can plan on enjoying plenty of museum exhibits, events and festivals for free, guaranteed.

With access to free museums, the monuments and memorials, the Library of Congress and more, Washington, DC is unrivaled for its many free attractions. But at any given time, you can also take advantage of free one-of-a-kind events, groundbreaking exhibits and unique festivals, making DC the capital of free events.

Check out the list below for some of the latest free happenings creating buzz around the city.

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Smithsonian National Postal Museum

‘In Her Words: Women’s Duty and Service in World War I’ – Through May 8
The National Postal Museum explores the role of women during World War I in this new exhibit. The letters and artifacts of four women inform In Her Words, illuminating how important the war was for women’s rights and labor in the U.S., as thousands served in and alongside the military during the struggle.
10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
National Postal Museum, 2 Massachusetts Avenue NE, Washington, DC 20002

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@teamgrayduck - Exterior of Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum on the National Mall - Free Modern Art Museum in Washington, DC

‘Brand New: Art and Commodity in the 1980s’ – Through May 13
The Hirshhorn Museum presents the first exhibition to examine the appropriation of late-20th century commercial products. You will see groundbreaking work from essential artists who worked in New York City’s East Village, including Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons and Richard Prince. Brand New will show how commerce and art became thoroughly intertwined in the 1980s, and how artists used consumer culture, advertising and television to define their own brand, and redefine creative expression.
10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Independence Avenue & 7th Street SW, Washington, DC 20560

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@ellekaysee - Couple at National Gallery of Art on the National Mall - Date idea in Washington, DC

‘Michel Sittow: Estonian Painter at the Courts of Renaissance Europe’ – Through May 13
In honor of the centennial of the Estonian Republic, the Art Museum of Estonia and the National Gallery of Art have collaborated on this exhibit dedicated to Estonia’s greatest Renaissance art, Michel Sittow. Roughly 20 of Sittow’s works will be on display, with an examination of his art in a broader context, including his relationship to his Netherlandish contemporaries, part of this fascinating exhibit.
Hours |  Free admission
National Gallery of Art, 6th & Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20565

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Horace Pippin's 'Interior' at ‘Outliers and American Vanguard Art’ Exhibit at the National Gallery of Art - Free museum in Washington, DC

‘Outliers and American Vanguard Art’ – Through May 13
Challenging popular assumptions about creativity and artistic process, this National Gallery of Art exhibit comprises 300 works by self-taught American artists such as Horace Pippen and Janet Sobel. Observing three separate time periods when popular and underground art merged, the exhibit will also examine recently made, radical work that has shifted the concept of mainstream art altogether.
Hours
National Gallery of Art, 6th & Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20565

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Child at United States Botanic Garden on Capitol Hill - Free living museum in Washington, DC

‘Wall Flowers: Botanical Murals’ – Through Oct. 15
The U.S. Botanic Garden presents this colorful new exhibit that may reframe how you view plant life. Large-scale murals from local artists will showcase plants through powerful colors and vibrant detail, highlighting the vital role that plants play in urban environments, not just suburban or rural ones. You’ll have a chance to admire botanical art in one of the country’s most amazing botanical gardens.
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
U.S. Botanic Garden, 100 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20001

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Kennedy Center Family Day - Lunar New Year Celebration – Washington, DC

Kennedy Center Family Day: Lunar New Year Celebration – Feb. 17
The Kennedy Center welcomes you and your entire family to this free Lunar New Year party. Kids will love watching footage of and writing letters to Bao Bao. There will also be a dress-up photo booth, where you can turn into a panda or don a Chinese costume, as well as live performances of folk dancing, shadow puppetry and acrobatics. You will also be able to learn paper umbrella coloring, paper cutting, block printing and Sichuan embroidery and watch masters of calligraphy, sugar painting and bamboo weaving at work.
9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F Street NW, Washington, DC 20566

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Frederick Douglass National Historic Site Cedar Hill in Anacostia - African American History and Culture Sites in Washington, DC

Frederick Douglass 200th Birthday Celebration – Feb. 17-18
Frederick Douglass is a seminal character in U.S. history, a brilliant abolitionist who happened to call DC home for many years. The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in AnacostiaAnacostia, also known as Cedar Hill, will host tours and other special activities in honor of Douglass’ 200th birthday this month, which falls during Black History Month. All events are free, but make sure to register for the meetup of your choice.
9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, 1411 W Street SE, Washington, DC 20020

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Band under Chinatown Archway during Chinese New Year Parade - Chinese New Year events in Washington, DC

DC Chinese New Year’s Parade – Feb. 18
This annual parade in Gallery Place is one of DC’s signature Chinese New Year celebrations. With dozens of entries, this year’s parade promises to be the largest and most diverse yet. Expect Chinese folk dancers, beauty queens, firecrackers, kung fu demonstrations, floats (including lions and dragons) and plenty of pageantry as the procession winds through Chinatown.
2 p.m.
Meet at Gallery Place Metro Station

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'The Prince and the Shah: Royal Portraits from Qajar Iran' at the Freer|Sackler Gallery - Free museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC

‘The Prince and the Shah: Royal Portraits from Qajar Iran’ – Feb. 24 – Aug. 5
In 19th century Iran, there were no selfies. Portraits and studio photographs were the only way to convey the appearance of rulers, so royal figures of Qajar such as Fath-Ali Shah (a contemporary of Napoleon) and Nasir al-Din Shah (a contemporary of Queen Victoria) used this form to showcase their grandeur and power. More than 30 pieces from the Freer|Sackler collections make up this exhibit that highlights how Persian artists made nobility shine.
10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Freer|Sackler Galleries, 1050 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20560

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@mattschmalzel - Visitors at the National Gallery of Art on the National Mall - Free art museum in Washington, DC

‘Heavenly Earth: Images of Saint Francis at La Verna’ – Feb. 25 – July 8
St. Francis famously received the stigmata at La Verna, and this new exhibit at the National Gallery of Art fully explores the artistic interpretations of this mystical moment. There will also be numerous other examples of Franciscan imagery from the 1400s to the 1700s, all drawn from the Gallery’s extensive holdings, that reveal significant artistic developments and important historical context.
Hours
National Gallery of Art, 6th & Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20565

No city provides as many world-class activities for free as Washington, DC. Discover 100+ free things to do in the ‘Capital of Free!’