10 Free Things You Didn’t Know About in DC

By Malee Oot

The nation’s capital is better known for pork barrel spending than frugality. But, for anyone exploring DC on a budget, there’s good news — some of the most unique and intriguing activities don’t cost a thing. So don’t worry about hitting the ATM, put those credit cards away, just get out there and see some of the best DC has to offer — it’s all on the house.

Francisco Rosario via Flickr

1. Peek inside The Fridge

Tucked away down a mural adorned alley in Eastern Market, The Fridge is one of DC’s most unique and unappreciated locations. Part-gallery, part-theatre, and part-classroom, the Fridge has an altruistic mission — making art accessible for all DC residents. The venue not only showcases work from up and coming artists (especially those tackling envelope-pushing social issues) but also provides a performance space for almost any expression of creativity. Special events here have featured everything from stand-up comedy to hip hop.

Yischon via Flickr

2. Learn to meditate.

Practice mindfulness and find a welcome respite from the pace of urban life with free meditation sitting and instruction at the Shambhala Meditation Center on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings. It’s located in Cleveland Park at 3520 Connecticut Ave NW.

Colton Brown via Flickr

3. Wander a historic country estate…in the middle of the city

Downtown Abbey fans rejoice — the capital actually has its own posh country estate called Tregaron. Nestled into one of Northwest DC’s most elegant zip codes, Cleveland Park, the historic 20-acre Tregaron Conservancy is one of the city’s best kept secrets. The nearly century-old estate was originally built on undeveloped land purchased from Alexander Graham Bell’s wife. James Parmelee and his wife Alice Maury, both generous patrons of the National Cathedral, are actually buried in the Cathedral’s crypt. Parmelee commissioned iconic architect Charles Adam Platt to construct the property with extensive gardens. Despite its lofty beginnings, today the Tregaron Conservancy’s trails are open to the public, free of charge.

Matt Penning via Flickr

4. See Stars

Rock Creek Park is a national treasure — a sprawling, sylvan urban escape with more than 32-miles of walkable trails — and the location of the only planetarium in the entire National Park System. While the city’s urban glow may seem like a foil to would-be stargazers, aspiring astronomers of any ilk can take advantage of the free weekend programs at Rock Creek Park’s Planetarium (programs for adults on Saturdays and Sundays at 1 pm and 4 pm; and for children on Wednesday afternoons at 4 pm).

Mark Freeth via Flickr

5. Carnivorous plants, enough said

Established by Congress in 1820, the U.S. Botanic Garden is literally a living, breathing museum — housing nearly 65,000 plants. In addition to carnivorous specimens, the Botanic Garden is full of fascinating flora — including medicinal varieties, 150 million-year-old primeval plants, stunning orchids, and endangered species (including specimens confiscated U.S. borders). Added bonus: during the winter months, the Botanic Garden’s lush indoor rainforest offers a more-than-welcome tropical sanctuary.

Brandi Korte via Flickr

6. See a quick million made

Even though the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is nestled amongst many of DC’s most beloved tourist attractions, the Department of the Treasury is hardly one of the city’s more bustling locations. Take the free 40-minute tour and see millions of dollars printed right before your eyes — and then spend the rest of the day fantasizing about how you would spend that much cold hard cash.

Tommy Wells via Flickr

7. Tour DC’s groundbreaking brewery

The nation’s capital has a long beer-filled history — Washington, DC’s first brewpub opened along the banks of the Potomac in 1805. However, in the 20th century DC’s beer culture waned — the victim of prohibition, the surge in nationally distributed brands, and legislation temporarily banning brewpubs in city until the early 1990s. However, after more than a half century without a beer to call its own, the city is home to DC Brau. Founded in 2009, they led the charge (since followed by other newly minted local favorites like Bluejacket, 3 Stars Brewing Company, and Atlas Brew Works, the city’s first and only solar-powered brewery).

In addition to selling its various seasonal brews by the pint, 6-pack, or growler (32 or 64 oz), DC Brau also offers free brewery tours on Saturday afternoons from 2–4 pm.

Molly Leigh via Flickr

8. Explore a historic Dupont Circle mansion

Completed in 1905, Anderson House was once the home of well-heeled Washingtonians Lars and Isabel Anderson, who used the 50-room Florentine-style villa as their base for exploring the city, and of course, for entertaining. Today, the historic mansion houses the Society of the Cincinnati, and the stunning property has been preserved as a museum, open to the public free of charge.

Bridget Samuels via Flickr

9. Watch DC’s NHL team practice

See DC’s ubiquitously beloved (although sometimes hard-luck) hometown hockey team practice at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex (actually located just across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia). ‘Caps’ practices are open to the public and free of charge.

Jennifer via Flickr

10. Free nightly concerts at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage

Perched majestically next to the Potomac River, the white marble ensconced Kennedy Center is a DC institution, drawing highly acclaimed performers from around the world, this high brow venue is hardly known for its cheap seats. But, fear not thrifty aficionados of the fine arts, a trip to the Kennedy Center doesn’t have to involve taking out a second mortgage. The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage offers free nightly performances, no tickets required.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and enjoy freedom this weekend!

Originally published on www.upout.com/DC

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