Thinking of moving to Washington, DC? Start saving. Now. Our nation's capital is a very expensive place to live. Ok, so it's not London expensive, Tokyo expensive, or even Manhattan expensive, but to a Midwestern gal who could return from whence she came and rent an entire house for what she currently pays for a one bedroom apartment, DC is a very expensive city. And it's not just housing. Food, fuel, entertainment, and dining out all cost significantly more here than they do in many other equally inhabitable areas. Thankfully, all is not lost for our beleaguered Washingtonians. In a financially favorable twist of fate, DC is positively chock full of free things to do, ensuring that residents and visitors alike can have a little fun without breaking the bank.
Wallet weary activity seekers should start with a trip to the National Mall. In addition to strolling along this grand open urban oasis, visitors can explore the Smithsonian museums, climb to the top of the Washington Monument, and pay their respects at the WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War memorials without spending a dime. Next there's the Kennedy Center, whose Millennium Stage offers a free performance (sometimes music, sometimes dance, sometimes something else) daily at 6pm. If you prefer to be outside, walk through the nature preserve on Theodore Roosevelt Island or ride your bike along the Mount Vernon Trail. Got kids? They'll love the National Zoo or morning storytime at the Politics and Prose Bookstore, and you'll love the nonexistent price tag. Don't forget about the seasonal freebies too. There's the Cherry Blossom Festival in Spring, Screen on the Green in Summer and the Dumbarton Oaks gardens are free of charge, though admittedly less colorful, from November to March.
All of this freeness is especially good for the thousands of students and unpaid interns who flock to DC for its high profile universities and career-launching reputation. Sadly, as a DC grad student myself I was too busy taking in the library to ever find time for taking in a show. Now that my studying days are behind me, I'm looking forward to nights at the Kennedy Center, weekends on the trails, and finally seeing the cherry blossoms in bloom. Anything to help me get over the sticker shock of paying rent.