Vacations can be expensive. Whether it’s airfare, amusement park tickets, or even the cost of gas, finding fun things to do can be pretty expensive. Fortunately for the residents of the DC Metro area, there is a plethora of activities that can be accessed for the price of a one-day Metro pass – $9.00.
Let’s start our day on the Red Line. Take the Red line to Woodley Park or Cleveland Park. A few blocks of walking and you’ll arrive at the National Zoo. Admission is FREE. Spend a few hours or an entire afternoon at the zoo, where they have over 400 different species of animals, including elephants, monkeys, giraffes, and the always popular giant pandas. Sitting on 163 acres, the National Zoo also has some places where you can picnic on the grass if you want to bring your own lunch.
After frolicking with the animals, hop back onto the Red line and head towards downtown with a quick transfer onto the Blue/Orange lines. Our next stop is the Mall. When I was younger, I used to think that the Mall was a shopping mall. In DC, the mall is a large patch of grass from which you can see museums and monuments. If you exit at the Smithsonian stop, you’ll be on the south side of the mall. From there, you can enjoy just relaxing in the park, or you can visit one of the following Smithsonian museums that are within walking distance (and all have free admission):
- National Air and Space Museum
- National Museum of Natural History
- National Museum of American History
If the weather is really nice, another option is to take a tour of the national monuments and memorials that are in downtown DC. First, check out the US Botanic Garden, which is open every day from 10AM to 5PM. It is located near the U.S. Capitol Building. (So make sure you grab a few pictures of our the building where laws get made as you walk by.) The Botanic Garden has an indoor conservatory and outdoor gardens that make for some great flora photo opportunities. After visiting the garden, head west across the mall, making a quick stop by the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden to take in some sculptures and rest your feet by the fountain if you need. Then, continue westward towards that big white obelisk, also known as the Washington Monument. If you are there early, you can pick up free tickets to go inside the monument, but lines can be long at times, so have a back-up plan.
As we keep moving west towards the Potomac, you’ll find the west side of the National Mall is home to many memorials. In the middle of the mall is the famous Reflecting Pool, and you can navigate around the pool to see the WWII Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. At the very end of the reflecting pool is the Lincoln Memorial. All of these memorials are outdoors so make sure you’re wearing comfortable walking shoes and have plenty of water to drink. The below shot was taken in the winter, but you can see the Lincoln Memorial in the back, with the Reflecting Pool in front of it, flanked by the WWII Memorial (with the wreaths.) In the summer, imagine it with no snow, lots of green, blue skies, and water in the pool. 🙂
After touring downtown, you can hop back onto the metro and use your pass to return home. Between the zoo, the museums, and the monuments and memorials, there are many, many options for you to enjoy the nation’s capitol with very little money out of pocket, making Washington D.C. an excellent place to have a family staycation.