SUBWAY: Washington’s subway system, popularly known as the Metro, is clean and easy to use. Fares vary depending on your travel time and distance. You can buy a one-day Metrorail pass for $6.50. If you’re staying for several days, consider purchasing a rechargeable SmarTrip card.
While Metro stations are equipped with escalators and elevators, it’s best to travel light. During peak travel times, Metro trains are extremely crowded. You may arrive at a station only to find both the elevator and escalator out of service.
BUS: Washington’s Metrobus system covers the entire city. Regular bus fare is $1.25 and express fare is $3.00. You must pay for your trip with exact change, a SmarTrip card or a bus pass. One day passes are $3.00 and are valid on all regular buses. You’ll pay a $1.75 surcharge if you take an express bus.
The DC Circulator bus will take you to many popular sights for just $1.00. One route circles the Mall, passing the Washington Monument and Smithsonian museums (weekends only). Another takes you from Union Station to the ever-trendy Georgetown area. The third navigates between the Convention Center and the Southwest Waterfront. You can pay for your trip aboard the Circulator bus (exact change only), get tickets at multi-space meters along the Circulator route or use a SmarTrip card. A one day pass is only $3.00.
Free Washington DC
The National Mall
Spend an afternoon wandering among the presidential and war memorials. Climb the Washington Monument (tickets are free, but there is a small charge to reserve tickets in advance) and look down on the Mall’s winding pathways, rippling flags and colorful flowers. Walk the length of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and see the loving tributes visitors have left at the Wall. (Metro stops: Capitol South, L’Enfant Plaza, Smithsonian, Foggy Bottom/GWU)
The Smithsonian Institution Museums
The Smithsonian’s sixteen museums showcase every aspect of American life from prehistory to the Space Age and they’re all free. The National Air and Space Museum contains the Wright Flyer, the Spirit of St. Louis and many other famous airplanes and spacecraft. The National Museum of Natural History will delight lovers of dinosaurs, gemstones and animals. If you’re an art aficionado, check out the American Art Museum, the newly-renovated National Portrait Gallery or the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, which features modern art. The National Museum of American History is closed until September 2008.(Metro: Smithsonian or L’Enfant Plaza)
The National Zoo
This famous zoo is best known for its giant pandas. The Zoo’s Asia Trail brings together seven Asian animal species in newly-constructed habitats. The giant pandas and their cub, Tai Shan, are the stars of the Trail. The Zoo is also a great picnic location. (Metro: Woodley Park-Zoo)
These are just a few of the free and cheap things to do in Washington DC. For more ideas, including cheap lodging and restaurants, please visit our website at [http://www.onthecheaptravel.com]