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Free is good: making the most of Washington, DC

There’s nothing worse than forking over a lot of money to take kids to a museum or city attraction only to have them want to leave after 10 minutes.

That’s one reason visiting Washington, D.C. is such a good bet. Thirty of the city’s 50 museums are free.  So are the monuments and memorials and the National Zoo. (Check out those Pandas!)  It also doesn’t cost anything to walk, run or turn cartwheels on the National Mall. 

Don’t forget your umbrella. When we interviewed kids for my just-released Kid’s Guide to Washington, D.C., one suggested going to the National Mall when it is raining “because no one is there,” explained 11-year-old Sean, who is from suburban, Va.  Eleven-year-old Greta, meanwhile, who is from Idaho, told us that seeing the monuments lit up at night was her favorite Washington, D.C. memory.  That’s free too.

Here are five  other  suggestions of free things to do that you might not have thought of:

1. Explore the African American Heritage Trail to learn about both popular and lesser-known sites of significance to DC’s Black history.

2. Catch a free performance at 6 pm at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts at the Millennium Stage.

3. Run, walk, bike or join a ranger program  in Rock Creek Park—1,754 acres that shows off the best of D.C.’s green side.

4. Bring your future litigators to the Supreme Court of the United States.

5. Let your animal lovers talk to keepers at the National Zoo who care for Zebras, birds, and Great Apes among others.

Eileen Ogintz is a nationally syndicated columnist and creator of TakingtheKids.com. Her new  Kids Guide to Boston is available online and from major booksellers, along with the Kids Guides to NYC, Washington, DC, Orlando,  LA and Chicago. Coming  later this year: San Diego, San Francisco and Denver.