Washington, D.C. is known to have pretty pricey hotels and restaurants. However the budget minded traveler can find many, many fascinating and fun places in the nation's capital that are absolutely free. If you are planning a day trip or an extended stay of several days rest assured that you will find plenty of free attractions.
The District is home to our government so take advantage of the many free tours of the US Capitol that run during the day. Tickets are required and are available first come first served starting at 8:30 in the morning. Get there early enough to pick the time for your tour that fits into the rest of the your day's schedule. The Supreme Court also offers informative lectures and tours.
Grab a map of the National Mall and look for the 11 Smithsonian Museums. All have free admission. (There are actually 19 Smithsonian Museums in Washington: 11 are on the National Mall.) Personally I could spend more than one day in any of these treasure houses of American history. The original Smithsonian building is known as "the Castle" for its architecture. It was built in 1847 and still houses the headquarters of this massive organization.
If you are interested in history, art, culture, or just about any topic there will be a Smithsonian Museum for your viewing pleasure. The Smithsonian has been called "the nations' attic" for good reason. The number of artifacts and documents in these collections is staggering.
The National Air and Space Museum has the history of flight. What few words describe such an amazing collection of planes, artifacts, space craft and others too numerous to list. Make sure you touch an actual moon rock during your visit.
The Washington National Zoo also has free admission. It is also part of the Smithsonian and has a marvelous collection of animals for your viewing pleasure.
Other must see attractions in the Washington area are the many monuments. Several monuments are very familiar to the average American. The Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial and of course the obelisk erected in memory of George Washington. Take a leisurely stroll around and into these icons of our nations' capitol. There are many other monuments as well. One of the most famous may be the Vietnam War Memorial.