Celebrate fall’s crisp “tempurrratures” by spending the day watching animals at the National Zoo. From big cats, to giant pandas (and red ones, too), Asian elephants, apes and exotic birds, you can explore animals from all walks of life in one afternoon. Admission to the zoo is free, but for an additional cost you can enjoy special fall events there: Autumn Conservation Festival, Boo at the Zoo and Night of the Living Zoo.
Rock Creek Park
Become one with nature this fall with a visit to the 2,100 acres that call Rock Creek Park home. Let the kiddos release some pent up energy at one of the many playgrounds found throughout the park, followed up by a refuel with lunch at one of 30 picnic locations. Make sure to snap photos of the color-changing leaves blanketing the area this time of year. For an additional fee, enjoy a horseback ride, rent a bicycle and feel the crisp breeze take over as you coast down one of the paved bike paths or spend an afternoon playing 18 holes at the public golf course.
See the National Mall in all of its fall beauty with DC by Foot, a walking tour company that hosts free, kid-friendly tours (gratuity recommended). You’ll enjoy taking in the sights, while learning monument-themed fun facts and trivia. Tours include the Arlington Cemetery Walking Tour, the Lincoln Assassination Walking Tour and the Twilight Washington Bus Tour..
Fall is the perfect time to lace up your hiking boots and trek down the C&O Canal, which traces the Potomac from Georgetown to Cumberland, Md. The serene trek includes plenty of fall foliage around October and the soothing sounds of nature amidst the beauty of Georgetown.
U.S. National Arboretum
Let DC’s fall foliage surprise you with a visit to the U.S. National Arboretum. Take in the harvest hues on one of the many trails and see the majestic pillars from the original U.S. Capitol. A common misconception many hold is that the pillars were removed in 1814, when the building was burned by the British troops in the War of 1812. In fact, the Corinthian columns were removed in 1958 after a renovation to the U.S. Capitol Building.
Ben’s Chili Bowl
Nothing says fall comfort food like chili – and nothing says chili like Ben’s Chili Bowl. While we can’t promise a free meal, the famous chili half-smoke is happiness for your wallet and your taste buds.
When the fall evenings become too cool for late-night outdoor fun, take in a free performance at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. Showtime is 6 p.m. nightly and includes everything from performances by the National Symphony Orchestra to poetry slams.
Enjoy live music, local farm-fresh produce, handmade arts, jewelry, crafts and more than 100 merchants on weekend mornings at Eastern Market. While taking in the beautiful fall surroundings, warm up with locally made, toasty beverages and baked goods.
Old Stone House
Journey through time at the Old Stone House in Georgetown is the oldest unchanged building in the District. Why it’s still here: In 1791 George Washington met with Pierre L’Enfant to discuss the plans for the new federal city. For decades it was thought that the meeting took place at the Old Stone House, leading to its preservation. However the National Park Service discovered in the 20th century that the meeting actually took place at a tavern at K and 31st. Stroll through Georgetown and consider a stop at cafe Baked & Wired for nibbles and its fall specialty drink: Chaider.
National Gallery of Art
As days get shorter, entertainment becomes more important. Get swept away by live music with the National Gallery of Art’s free Sunday concerts. The concert usually takes place in the West Garden Court, but may also occur in the Sculpture Garden or West Building Rotunda.
Looking for more free (and almost free) things to do in DC? Find them here.