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Five Free Things to Do in Washington, DC

- Matthew Long,

Washington, D.C. is famous for its monuments, memorials and museums. However, there are many things to do and see in the District that few tourists know about, much less visit. Best part, they don’t require the other “m” word (money).

1. The Exorcist Steps – Anyone who has seen the 1970s classic horror film The Exorcist, will remember the steps that were the location of two pivotal deaths in the film. The actual steps are located in the posh Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The 97 steps will take the wind out of anyone not in top shape, but are a must for any film fanatic. To see these famous steps, head towards the Key Bridge on M Street NW. The base of the steps, which used to be called the “Hitchcock steps,” is next
to a gas station across from the bridge.

2. National Building Museum – Created by an Act of Congress in 1980, the National Building Museum offers a wide range of exhibits related to architecture, development, engineering, construction, interior design, landscape architecture, and urban planning. Their permanent exhibits are excellent, but be sure to check for the temporary ones which can sometimes be fairly unusual.

3. Longest Escalator in the Western Hemisphere – While the location may not be all that stimulating, the escalator located at the Wheaton station of the MetroRail is an impressive site. Located at the end of the Red line, the Wheaton escalator is over 500 feet in length and 200 feet high. The ride takes over three minutes to get to the top.

4. National Museum of Health and Medicine at Walter Reed Army Medical Center – This fascinating and slightly creepy museum is often neglected due to its location in the Maryland ‘burbs, but is well worth the trek. The museum was originally established during the Civil War as the Army Medical Museum. Not to be missed is the Abraham Lincoln exhibit with odd and curious relics from the 16th President’s final hours.

5. Eastern Market – Eastern Market is a D.C. treasure and a secret we locals tend to keep to ourselves. Located just a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol, the market offers fantastic fresh meats, cheeses and produce from a variety of local farmers and vendors during the week. Every Saturday and Sunday, vendors from around the region descend on Washington to sell their arts and crafts, antiques and, of course, food.

Matt is the editor of travel blog, Landlopers and a featured Lonely Planet blogger.

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  1. Sinda says:

    I spent a wonderful mini-trip in D. C. after my husband and I extended a lay-over on our way to Europe. I have friends in nearby Maryland and we spent time with them taking in the sites. It is literaly amazing how many free and low cost adventures you can have in this city. Stroll the National Mall, enjoy the reflecting pool and meditate on the expression of Lincoln’s gaze at the Lincoln Memorial. My husband and I had such a great time and we tell others to visit when they can, because it is so worth it. The National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space musuem are so worth the time and effort of visiting. Fans of the movie, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian will see several elements from the film upon their visit. Many of the museums are completely free, or available for viewing by nominal donation. The food (try Zaytinya for delicious Greek upscale food) is incredible in the city and the fashions at Peruvian Connections are a must for anyone looking for a key piece of clothing to inspire them. I found a Parisian style dress to take with me on my trip to the south of France, that had everyone thinking I was a local girl. Don’t miss the sale rack!

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