Anyone traveling in the United States will absolutely love visiting America’s capital, Washington DC. DC isn’t just home to American politics, the city has tons of interesting and fun history, food, culture and art.
Of course, staying in DC can also be expensive, and for any traveler trying to make the most of their trip, it can be difficult to know where to stay or what to do. But don’t you worry, as a frequent visitor to DC and previous resident, I know all the best tips and tricks to making the most of your visit! And, luckily DC can actually be incredibly affordable and offers tons of free activities for all interests, as long as you know where to look.
First and foremost, the best way to explore DC on a budget is to use their metro system. It’s fast, cheap and gets you all throughout DC, as well as the surrounding areas just outside of DC. Having a car in DC can get expensive with a combination of high gas prices, expensive parking fees and the incredibly busy traffic.
Save on DC Hotels
Next, when you’re looking for places to stay there are a few options you should consider. Like I mentioned before… using the metro system makes traveling a whole lot easier and affordable, so try to stay close to a metro station. For cheaper hotel prices, consider staying just outside the Washington DC area in places like Rosslyn and Ballston in Arlington, Virginia or the suburbs of Bethesda, Maryland. Not only will you have easy access to all of DC’s sights, but you’ll also be able to find really cheap deals, sometimes under $100.
Airbnb in DC
If you’re looking to stay in DC for more than a few days, you should take advantage of Airbnbs near Capitol Hill, Dupont Circle and Shaw. There are lots of people who have to travel for business, so they like to rent out their homes for extra income. You can find cheap Airbnbs for as low as $45 per night for the whole home, with most averaging closer to $100 per night. This also means you can save on food expenses by cooking your own meals (and splurge for a nice dinner or lunch). Plus, the areas I highlighted are right in the city, within five minutes to all of DC’s major sights and attractions, and are affluent urban neighborhoods with their own amazing food and nightlife. Win win!
For a really unique experience with Airbnb, take a look at some of the houseboats available for rent. You can go full yacht or choose a more intimate home on the water for an incredible view of the Potomac River and DC. In most cases, they’re even cheaper than regular Airbnbs, and a lot more interesting!
The Mansion on O Street
If you don’t mind splurging and want the most interesting stay of your life, then check out the “Mansion on O Street”. From the outside it just looks like 5 regular row houses side by side, but the inside is converted into one giant mansion/museum/music venue/art gallery/hotel (it’s a lot I know).
The most interesting thing about the Mansion on O Street, whether you just visit or you stay there, are the number of rooms filled with incredible antiques, art, signed guitars by famous musicians and priceless objects. Well, that’s the second most interesting thing. Actually, the MOST interesting thing about the mansion are the secret doors and passages. Yup, there are 70 hidden doors throughout the mansion for you to discover, that will lead you to incredible new rooms and interesting passageways. From things like rotating bookcases, false walls and mirror doors, it’ll take a veeeery looooong time to find every single one, even for the best sleuths and detectives.
Free Things to Do in Washington DC
One of the best things about DC is the number of free activities to enjoy. The biggest attraction is definitely the National Mall, right in the heart of DC. The National Mall is a massive urban park with a collection of free Smithsonian museums like the National Air and Space Museum, National Gallery of Art and National Museum of American History. Nature lovers will love the United States Botanic Garden and Constitution Gardens. The western portion of the National Mall also has the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial (the location of Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech) and of course the White House. Everything in the National Mall is free to the public, and a full loop through all the museums, memorials and government buildings can take a full day or two (well worth it I might add).
Another free offering in DC is the National Zoo just north of Downtown Washington DC in Woodley Park. The zoo is also a free Smithsonian offering and is a popular destination for first-time DC travelers. The main attractions are the three Giant Pandas, beloved and famous to all DC residents, as well as the newly born cheetah cubs (they’re incredibly cute!).
Sassy Peeps! Do you love traveling as much as I do? Which place(s) are on your bucket list? Is Washington DC one of them? Inquiring minds want to know.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kate Howard is a mother, wife and preschool teacher. When she’s not helping people find cheap accommodations and advice for travelers going to Washington, DC, she’s planning her next trip to a new city to explore as much as possible. Kate’s goal is to visit every city in the US, and to experience everything like a local. Website: www.hotelsneardcmetro.com