Many of the attractions that Washington, D.C. has to offer can be experienced without prior reservations. Most of these options are open to the public and free of charge.
- Arlington National Cemetery: Arlington National Cemetery is open to the public at 8 a.m. 365 days a year. From April 1 to September 30, the cemetery closes at 7 p.m.; the other six months it closes at 5 p.m. The cemetery is located in Arlington, VA, walking distance from the Lincoln Memorial.
- Supreme Court: The United States Supreme Court is open to the public Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Although the Court does not offer guided walking tours, visitors are encouraged to tour the building on their own. For more information, visit the Supreme Court website.
- Pentagon: This massive building is the headquarters of the Department of Defense and serves as the location for planning and executing the defense of the nation. Tours of the Pentagon are available to the public by reservation only, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. To book a tour of the Pentagon click, here or go to https://pentagontours.osd.mil/Tours/tour-selection.jsp. Reservations may be booked from 14 to 90 days in advance. Reservations will not be accepted for tour dates within 13 days or more than 90 days away.
- Kennedy Center: The Kennedy Center offers walk in tours every 10 minutes throughout the day. Stop by the Tour Desk and a tour guide will be waiting to help you embark on your tour. Group tours are also available at the Kennedy Center. These tours are for groups of 20 to 60 people and run every half hour until 4:30 p.m. weekdays and 12:30 p.m. weekends. To book your group tour of the Kennedy Center please visit the group tour website.
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: Tours of the Holocaust Memorial Museum are self-guided and require passes for admission March through August. Passes are distributed on a first-come first-served basis on the day of your visit and have specific assigned tour time. Please note that some exhibits are not recommend for children under the age of eleven. Groups of 40 or more people need to schedule their tour visit at the Holocaust Memorial Museum's website.
- National Cathedral: The National Cathedral offers both guided and self-guided tours seven days a week. Audio tour rentals are also available. For more information, please visit the Washington National Cathedral website.
- Smithsonian Institution: The Smithsonian Institution, comprised of 19 museums and a zoo, is the largest museum complex in the world. Smithsonian museums are free of charge and open all year round. For hours and locations, please visit the Smithsonian visitor's website. Museums include:?
- Anacostia Community Museum: The Anacostia Community museum focuses on the diverse population of the greater Washington D.C. area in search of mutual understanding. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is free.
- National Museum of African Art: Located on the National Mall, the National Museum of African Art offers a collection of modern and contemporary artworks from Africa, the first museum in the United States to do so as part of its mission. Tours are available on the museum website, and it is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. Admission is free.
- National Museum of African American History and Culture: The newest Smithsonian Institution here in Washington, and among the most popular, the National Museum of African American History and Culture is the only national museum to focus on documentation of African American history and culture. Due to its popularity, tickets are required and available on the NMAAHC website. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission is free.
- National Air and Space Museum: The National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. contains the world’s largest collection of space artifacts, including the Apollo 11 command module and the Wright Brothers’ 1903 Flyer. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tours are available on the museum website and admission is free.
- American Art Museum: The American Art Museum in Washington D.C. features American artwork from the colonial era to the present. The museum splits the collection between two locations; the main location at 8th and F Street NW, and the Renwick Gallery (information included below). It is open from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and admission is free.
- National Museum of American History: The National Museum of American History focuses on artifacts from the entirety of our nation’s story, housing (among others) the original Star-Spangled Banner and Dorothy’s ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and admission is free.
- The National Museum of the American Indian: The National Museum of the American Indian houses a vast collection of Native American art and artifacts, representing virtually all tribes in the modern United States. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission is free.
- Freer Gallery of Art: The Freer Gallery is one of two galleries in the Smithsonian Institution dedicated to Asian art (the other is the Sackler Gallery, please see below). The Freer Gallery houses the works of James McNeill Whistler and a variety of art ranging from Neolithic objects to works of the 20th century. It is located between Jefferson Drive and 12th Street SW. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and admission is free.
- The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery: The Sackler Gallery is one of two galleries in the Smithsonian Institution dedicated to Asian art (the other is the Freer Gallery, please see above). The Sackler houses a variety of collections, including a vast selection of ancient Chinese jades and bronzes. It is located at 1050 Independence Avenue SW. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and admission is free.
- Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden: The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is the contemporary art museum of the Smithsonian collection. Located on the National Mall, the Hirshhorn offers daily tours but no reservations are necessary. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and admission is free.
- National Museum of Natural History: The National Museum of Natural History in Washington offers a collection of wonders from the natural world, including the Hope Diamond and dinosaur fossils. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and admission is free.
- National Zoo: The National Zoo is located near Washington D.C.’s Rock Creek Park and houses over 1,500 animals on over 163 acres. Admission to the grounds is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. but subject to change based on seasonal availability, weather, and other factors. Admission is free.
- National Postal Museum: The National Postal Museum houses a collection of philately and postal artifacts from throughout American History. Located near Union Station, the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and admission is free.
- Renwick Gallery: The collection of the American Art Museum in Washington is partially housed at the Renwick Gallery, located between Pennsylvania Avenue and 17th Street NW, near the White House. The Renwick collection includes contemporary craft and decorative arts. For more information about the entirety of the American Art collection, please see above under “American Art Museum”. The Renwick is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and admission is free.
- S. Dillion Ripley Center: The S. Dillon Ripley Center, located on Jefferson Drive, houses the Discovery Theater and the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service. The Ripley Center is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and admission is free.