Washington DC On The Cheap


Very Budget Friendly If You Know What To Do.

Washington, D.C. Travel Tips 

Washington, DC, the U.S. capital, is a compact city on the Potomac River, bordering the states of Maryland and Virginia. It’s defined by imposing neoclassical monuments and buildings – including the iconic ones that house the federal government’s 3 branches: the Capitol, White House and Supreme Court.

It’s also home to iconic museums and performing-arts venues such as the Kennedy Center.

The best times to visit Washington, D.C., are from September to November and March to May.

Second to fall is spring, which is also a mini high season thanks to the National Cherry Blossom Festival in late March and early April. Summer in D.C. is hot and sticky, making less than ideal conditions for exploring the great outdoors.

That said, many museums blast air conditioning, so if you can stand the heat, you’ll find plenty of free attractions to keep you entertained. Winter is definitely low season. Although the chance to find lower hotel rates is high and the weather is mild compared to other destinations along the East Coast, the city is prone to freezing cold temperatures and snowstorms.

Fall is an excellent time to visit D.C. and temperatures usually remain mild until Thanksgiving. If you can catch a warm weekend between Thanksgiving and New Years this will be the cheapest time to visit D.C. because business travel is down.







Places to Stay and Save

It really pays to check Washington room rates prior to your trip. Websites such as Booking.com  and TripAdvior can help you find some good prices along the Mall or near Reagan National Airport for a fraction of the rack rate. Be certain your hotel is within walking distance of a Metro stop. When it’s not rush hour, taking the Metro into the District to enjoy the sights will be a fun, and reasonably-priced way to tour.

There are less-expensive hotels located throughout the city. As an example, you can stay for $210 per night at the Mason & Rook Hotel on Rhode Island Avenue between Logan and Scott Circles.

If you are traveling with family, the all-suites hotels are ideal and most all include breakfast and, at a minimum, refrigerator and microwave in the rooms where you can heat up leftovers or make a simple meal.

Where to Eat


Couple dining in DC's Brookland neighborhood - Fast casual and affordable places to eat in Washington, DC

The District’s dining excellence extends to its wealth of fast-casual spots and affordable places to eat.

You don’t have to spend an entire paycheck in order to eat an unforgettable meal in Washington, DC. The nation’s capital has spawned a host of successful fast-casual eateries from sweetgreen to CAVA, and is also home to affordable restaurants that have practically become institutions in the city. Check out some of our favorite cheap and budget-friendly places to eat in the District.

Down a chili-smothered half-smoke at Ben’s Chili Bowl

Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street - Landmark restaurant in Washington, DC

Ben’s Chili Bowl is a staple of the DC experience. Its iconic storefront is a symbol of the U Street neighborhood and the nation’s capital at-large. No trip to the District is complete without dining on one of Ben’s famous half-smokes, which you can purchase for just $5.95.

Eat at local, fast-casual spot CAVA

CAVA offers a Mediterranean mix customized just for your taste buds – and at an affordable price, too. Three friends started the company in the DC metro area, and made putting a delicious bowl together easy: you begin with a base, throw in a few delicious dips and spreads, stack it with a protein like braised beef or lamb, then top it off with crumbled feta, pita crisps, cucumber salad … there’s more, but we’re too hungry to keep going.

Discover what naturally fast food means at LEON

It’s a British invasion of the best kind as LEON, the budget-friendly, all-day cafe, descends upon the District with two locations and more in the works. This London-based chain offers fresh, sustainably sourced, healthy options for any diet, and everything on the menu is under $10 (seriously). We’re talking gluten-free chicken nuggets, a Moroccan meatballs hot box and even vegan sweet potato falafel for less than an Alexander Hamilton.

4Dig in to fast-casual Italian at Stellina Pizzeria

You’ll find some of the best pizza in the nation’s capital just around the corner from Union Market at Stellina Pizzeria, where DC dining veterans Antonio Matarazzo and Matteo Venini have brought to life “neo-Neapolitan” pies in a fast-casual setting. Stellina’s menu also pays homage to coastal Italian street food (such as fried seafood served in paper cones, also known as a “cuoppo”), while every item on the menu is under $20. You’ll want to make sure Stellina – which is named after Matarazzo’s daughter and means “little star” in Italian – is the star of your next trip to bustling Union Market.

5Find an affordable sandwich at Potbelly’s

Potbelly Sandwich Shop has locations all over the District, and its flavorful sandwiches, milkshakes, soups and salads make it the perfect fast-casual pit stop as you explore the nation’s capital. The shop also caters, in case you need lunch for a large group.

6Grab healthy eats at José Andrés’ Beefsteak

José Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup got into the fast-casual game with this vegetable-based eatery that has multiple locations in the District. Put together a colorful bowl full of tasty veggies that will fill you up, too. You can also throw in grains, greens, fresh sauces and slices of meat or protein. As with Andrés’ many other restaurants, Beefsteak features outstanding seasonal ingredients and a comfortable dine-in experience.

Sample some Lucky Buns

In the market for bold flavors and toasty buns? Look no further than chef Alex McCoy’s globally inspired, late-night burger joint Lucky Buns, which doles out a delicious culinary trip around the world until the wee hours of the morning. The former pop-up proved to be such a hit that McCoy has given it a permanent home on 18th Street in Adams Morgan. The hot spot’s tantalizing creations include a runny-egg burger topped with gouda, pickled beetroot and grilled onions and pineapple, grilled tandoori chicken sandwiches and even a British breakfast burger comprised of sausage and bacon (we recommend adding bacon XO jam to that).

Build the pie of your dreams at &pizza

Founded in the District, &pizza is a pizza lover’s dream. You can pick your sauce, cheese types and an array of toppings (Over-easy egg! Beef meatball! Garlic sauce!) that go on the shop’s organic dough, leading to a personal pie that comes out fresh for a maximum “wow” factor. Of course, you can also opt for one of The Hits, also sure to satisfy your craving.

Get a taste of India at Rasa

The vibrant colors and flavors of India are on full display at Rasa, the fast-casual restaurant in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood from first-time restaurateurs Sahil Rahman and Rahul Vinod. Diners can choose to build their own bowl from an array of tantalizing, locally sourced ingredients, or pick from Rasa’s cleverly named creations – we’re talking Tikka Chance on Me and Aloo Need is Love. Wash that down with a homemade juice or kombucha and you’ve got a delightful meal, all for under $15.

10Go to Le Pain Quotidien for bread and baked goods

Le Pain Quotidien literally translates to “the daily bread,” so expect fresh open-faced sandwiches, healthy helpings of organic bread and pastries prepared with flair (you can order a salad, too). The restaurant’s communal table concept makes sitting down and devouring with friends a must. Numerous locations in DC makes finding a place to do so easy.

If you want to find reasonably priced food in Washington, think like a college student. Many visitors forget that this the Washington, D.C. area is one of America’s premier college towns. Restaurants near the various campuses must keep their prices within reason, and many cater to the cosmopolitan make-up of those student bodies. 

If you are visiting the National Mall, note that the museum cafes are expensive and often crowded but are the most convenient places to dine on the National Mall. There are a variety of restaurants and eateries within walking distance of the museums.

Getting Around

Airport trains

make ground transportation cheaper in the District. It is possible to fly into Washington and see everything on your itinerary without renting a car or stepping into a taxi. The excellent Metro

system delivers you from Washington airports 

to your destination with minimal expense and solid efficiency. During peak hours, most fares range from $2.25 to $6 per trip. During off-peak hours, fares typically range from $1.85 to $3.85. Metro riders must pay via SmarTrip card.

It’s good at peak commuter times.

SmarTrip Deals & Discounts is a free program. Show your SmarTrip card at participating museums, restaurants and stores around the District, Maryland, and Virginia service area to get discounts on admission, dining, and more.

If your itinerary is complicated or shaped by business needs, shop for a best rates on link below.

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Sightseeing on a Budget


One of the greatest things about a visit to Washington is all government buildings, Smithsonian Museums, memorials, and monuments do not charge for admission. You will spend valuable time in lines, so prioritize carefully. For a good list of Capitol Hill planning links, visit Trip Advisor

Requests for free Public Tours of the White House

 must be submitted through a member of Congress and are usually approved about a month before the planned visit. Tours form in groups of 10.

50 Free Things to Do in Washington, D.C. includes the National Botanical Garden, the African-American Civil War Memorial and Museum, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing 30-minute tour, free concerts, and art museums.

The Cultural Alliance offers half-price, day-of-show tickets to the public. There are many fine events on Washington’s cultural calendar. So many cultures are represented there, and their finest representatives often consider Washington a must-stop on any U.S. tour. It’s also worth checking with the Smithsonian Institution for a schedule of their cultural offerings during your stay. 






Beyond Washington, D.C.

There are some great places to visit in the surrounding area for a quick day-trip.
Escape to Historic Annapolis

If heavy traffic and big-city noise get you down, you might want to trade a day in the nation’s capital for a day in Maryland’s compact and walkable capital of Annapolis. It’s a 35-mile drive from Washington. Annapolis is a beautiful small city that is also home to the U.S. Naval Academy. A fascinating tour of the academy

is available for $12 (discounts for children and seniors), and walks through the city’s historic district are a treat.

Beyond the “Official” Washington
The National Zoo

is part of the Smithsonian Institution but is often overlooked as visitors plan their trips. Admission is free. On the Virginia side of the Potomac, Alexandria and Arlington offer some pleasant shopping areas and historic districts. About 40 miles to the north, Baltimore offers the Inner Harbor, Fells Point, the National Aquarium, and Fort McHenry.

Washington, D.C., welcomes the arrival of spring with the National Cherry Blossom Festival, an annual tradition that showcases the beautiful gift of 3,000 cherry trees that the city of Tokyo gave to our nation’s capital in 1912. The annual multi-week, city-wide event features over 150 daily international cultural performances and more than 90 other special events.From arts and exhibits to cuisine and sports, there is something for everyone to enjoy at this event that runs from March 20 through April 12, 2020.

Getting to the Cherry Blossom Festival

Getting around the city during this popular event can be challenging, especially on the weekends. Parking is limited in the city, so the best way to get to the Tidal Basin and the National Mall is by public transportation.

Explore the Cherry Trees Around the Tidal Basin

The cherry trees on the Tidal Basinare the main attraction during Washington, D.C.’s National Cherry Blossom Festival. Take a stroll along the Basin and enjoy the breathtaking views of the trees and the city’s most iconic landmarks. Be sure to sharpen your photography skills so you can take some great photos. The best time to walk around and avoid the crowds is early morning. The East side of the Tidal Basin (between the National Mall and the Jefferson Memorial) tends to get the most congested.

Visit the Memorials on the Tidal Basin

The cherry blossom season is the most beautiful time of year to see the memorials on the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. The Jefferson Memorial sits at a prime spot on the Basin.

Learn about the life and contributions of our third president and writer of the Declaration of Independence. Sit on the steps of the Memorial and you will see some great views of the National Mall. You can even see the White House if you look directly ahead.

Take a walk over to the FDR Memorial to enjoy the park-like atmosphere with its waterfalls and bronze statues that honor President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. If you follow the Tidal Basin around farther, you will come across the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial,

where visitors honor the contributions of the most recognized Civil Rights leader in the U.S. All of the memorials have National Park Service programs that provide insight about the historic sites.

As long as one of the passengers is at least 16 years old, visitors can rent a pedal boat for two or four passengers and enjoy spectacular views of the cherry trees and the monuments from the water. Advanced reservations are recommended during the National Cherry Blossom Festival due to high demand. This is a fun activity for all ages and is a good way to entertain kids while attending the festival.

Take a Guided Sightseeing Tour


During the National Cherry Blossom Festival, guided tours are very popular so it is helpful to plan ahead and book your tour in advance. You can enjoy a wide range of excursions.

Try Some Cherry-Infused Food and Drink
Cherry Food

Enjoy a special meal at one of the eateries in the Washington’s Cherry Picks program. Restaurants around Washington, D.C., add cherries to many of their recipes during the National Cherry Blossom Festival in everything from entrees to cocktails and desserts. Past dishes have included brie and prosciutto crostini with cherry chutney, Atlantic salmon couscous pistachio, dried cherries, or sherry cherry crispy goat cheese salad.

Enjoy some specialty cocktails like Pisco Macerado, a twist on the classic Pisco Sour with dried sour cherries soaked in Pisco.

Enjoy Free Cultural Performances

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is a celebration of spring but also a cultural event that honors the Japanese culture. More than 150 cultural performances and demonstrations are held daily during the festival featuring traditional and contemporary music, dance, song, and martial arts demonstrations.

The stage is located at the Tidal Basin Welcome Area with daily performances from noon to 6 p.m. The lineup will include a wide variety of cultural offerings including vocalists, bands, dancers, drum performances, exhibitions, and more.

 Live entertainment is also a big part of many of the special events that are held throughout the festival.

Do you fish the Potomac River in and around Washington, DC? Yes, the Potomac River is in fact a fine fishery, home to Striped Bass, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, varieties of Shad, Catfish and even the recent addition of Snakehead.

DC Museums You Have to Visit If You’re a Science and Nature Nerd

Lions, rocket ships, and spies, oh my! Washington is bursting at the seams with museums (many of them free!) catering to your every interest.

The National Air and Space Museum offers a comprehensive look at the history and evolution of flight.

National Air and Space Museum


More than 8 million visitors frequent the Air and Space Museum each year, making it one of the most popular museum in the country. It isn’t hard to assess its appeal—the place is home to the world’s largest collection of air and spacecraft, as well as interactive flight simulators, a planetarium, Imax movies, and more.

Just inside the Mall entrance the Milestones of Flight hall, which just finished a renovation, gives a visual history of aviation by displaying Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, the Bell X-1 in which Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, and the North American X-15. Don’t miss the Golden Age of Flight gallery, which includes Howard Hughes’s H-1 racer.

Sixth St. and Independence Ave., SW; 202-633-1000. Free.

National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Located near Dulles Airport, the Air and Space Museum’s annex includes some of the larger items from the collection spread out over 340,000 square feet. Open since 2003, the center includes the Enola Gay, the Boeing airplane that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima; an Air France Concorde; and the Gemini VII space capsule.

The Udvar-Hazy Center also has flight simulators and an Imax theater, as well as an observation tower from which visitors can watch planes land at Dulles. In April 2012, the Udvar-Hazy Center welcomed the space shuttle Discovery, which landed in Florida in 2011 after its final mission.

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, 14390 Air and Space Pkwy., Chantilly; 202-633-1000. Free.

Fossilized dinosaur skeletons at the National Museum of Natural History. Photograph by Donald E. Hurlbert.
Fossilized dinosaur skeletons at the National Museum of Natural History. Photograph by Donald E. Hurlbert.

National Museum of Natural History

Rivaling the Air and Space Museum in terms of popularity, the Natural History Museum owns more than 126 million items in upward of 1.5 million square feet of exhibitions. The Constitution Avenue entrance leads to a lobby where an Easter Island statue stands guard. On the first floor, a 13-foot Fénykövi elephant from Angola sits under the central dome in the rotunda, while the adjacent Sant Ocean Hall is dominated by the model of a North Atlantic right whale. On the second floor, the 45.52-­carat Hope Diamond is the centerpiece of the Geology, Gems, and Minerals gallery, and the Butterfly Pavilion allows visitors to walk through an indoor garden surrounded by hundreds of live butterflies and moths (tickets are $6).

Tenth St. and Constitution Ave., NW; 202-633-1000. Free.





National Geographic Museum

Housed on the first floor of the National Geographic Society downtown, this museum hosts exhibits that are often hands-on and high-tech.

As you’d expect from the esteemed century-old society, shows focus on science, nature, history, and global cultures, with lots of child-­friendly features.

1145 17th St., NW; 202-857-7588. $8.

United States Botanic Garden

One of the oldest botanic gardens in the country, this giant “national greenhouse” on the Mall consists of three parts: a conservatory containing more than 4,000 plants, the National Garden outside, and Bartholdi Park across the street. Built in 1933, the conservatory features almost 30,000 square feet of space and includes an orchid court, a desert garden, a seasonal children’s garden with activities, and an oversize jungle area in the center with a viewing balcony from which to observe the tropical plants and vines.

The National Garden includes a rose garden and an amphitheater made from the marble steps of the Capitol’s old east portico, a butterfly garden, and a water garden dedicated to the First Ladies of the United States, while Bartholdi Park has a spectacular, recently restored fountain as its centerpiece.

100 Maryland Ave., SW; 202-225-8333. Free.

The space shuttle Discovery at the National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Photograph by Dane Penland/National Air and Space Museum.
The space shuttle Discovery at the National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Photograph by Dane Penland/National Air and Space Museum.

United States National Arboretum

Visitors can bike, walk, or drive through the National Arboretum’s 446 acres to see dogwood and magnolia collections, a bonsai and penjing museum, and a grove of state trees.

As at the Botanic Garden, remnants of the Capitol’s old east portico can be found here; marble columns stand among a reflecting pool near the center of the grounds. The arboretum is especially well known for its magnificent collection of azaleas, which typically bloom between April and May.

The Perennial Collection includes flowering peonies, day lilies, and daffodils; the National Herb Garden is home to holly, juniper, pansies, and more than 100 varieties of roses.

3501 New York Ave., NE; 202-245-2726. Free.

Marian Koshland Science Museum

Often overlooked in a rush toward Washington’s flashier museums, this private institution run by the National Academy of Sciences explores scientific issues that affect daily life, from weather to disease control.

Named after the groundbreaking immunologist, the Koshland museum has interactive displays on climate change and the brain, among others.

Exhibitions include an Idea Lab, which allows visitors to explore the theme of resilience through video clips, interactive games, and puzzles.








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