In my previous post, I talked a bit about determining travel and accommodations when planning a trip. For nearly every trip, travel and accommodations will be the most expensive part of your location.
There are certainly ways this could be untrue, however. Going to the Super Bowl? Having an exotic surgery? Score Hamilton tickets? As with cruising, how you spend your waking hours has the opportunity to significantly impact the budget.
For “cheap to free” activities, there’s hardly a city with as much to offer as Washington, DC. With a few notable exceptions, much of the cities attractions, supported by tax dollars, have no admission charge. There are NINETEEN Smithsonian Institute museums and attractions, including the National Zoo, in DC. Each is free and open every day (save Christmas). (source) Most of the 19 are located on Constitution and Jefferson Dr, between the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capital.
Keep in mind, though you could easily walk between each of these dozen or so places in one day, you won’t. And you shouldn’t! I’ve been to several of these places multiple times and still have yet to see everything. The National Portrait Gallery, a few-blocks walk, never seems to stop providing things I’ve never seen before.
In addition to these “inside activities,” there are innumerable things to keep you busy outside. Washington DC is an incredibly walk-able city, though a bit hilly heading north of the mall. There are multiple stations to rent bikes for the day; valid credit card with a bit of room required. Some rentals require a large deposit (I think $300 the first time I used one); some do not, including Capital Bikeshare.
Whether you’re walking, running, or biking, some of the best and easiest paths in DC are the well traveled loop around the Tidal Basin around the monuments. Depending on how you go, and whether or not you loop up to see the White House or the Capital, the travel distance could range from just about 4 miles to nearly 13. Generally, it’s a well marked path with many opportunities to rest… or hail a cab or catch an Uber.
One word of caution. The Monument path is not especially well lit, nor busy in late fall evenings. During this recent trip, I managed to skip a major portion of the sites, turning right when I should have turned left, and had to circle back around to see it all. Which was lovely. But tiring. So watch your signs. The Monuments at night are something to see, however, and I encourage you to try to get that in.