The Washington Post
Best free events this fall photo

Best free events this fall

Amy Orndorff | The Washington Post  |  Updated 12/12/2011

With the holidays looming and the economy still sputtering, we know you're probably watching every penny. So your friends here at Weekend and the Going Out Guide have come up with things to do that cost zilch, zip, nada. From Halloween spooks and off-the-Mall museums to take out-of-towners to zenful breaks from the seasonal bustle, we have you and your wallet covered.


U.S. Capitol

Washington, DC

Everything about this year's Capitol Christmas Tree (not to be confused with the National Christmas Tree) is big. The 60-foot-tall red fir will travel more than 4,500 miles from California's Stanislaus National Forest to reach the West Lawn of the Capitol, taking in about 60 gallons of water a day so it can be at its greenest when the lights are flipped (date TBD). For more information, see


Greater U Street Heritage Trail

Washington, DC

Playing tour guide in Washington can be tough -- especially when your guests want to visit every museum and monument on the Mall. For a change of pace, try Cultural Tourism DC's Neighborhood Heritage Trails. No matter what part of the city you love, you're not far from one of the group's 11 walks. The routes feature many helpful signs pointing out landmarks, history and other information. Find all the routes and accompanying audio tours at or call 202-661-7581.


National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum

Alexandria, VA

This museum is filled with ideas we wish we had thought of (Post-it Notes, anyone?). In addition to the hall of fame, the museum has rotating exhibits. The current one, "Exercising Ingenuity," focuses on inventions related to fitness, exercise and nutrition.


Prince George's Audubon Society Walks

+ Multiple Locations

Winter is the best time of the year to bird-watch as it is easier to spot our feathered friends when the trees are bare. But if you don't know a sparrow from a starling, consider tagging along with the Prince George's Audubon Society. Walks are the first Saturday of the month at the Fran Uhler Natural Area in Bowie; the third Saturday at Governor Bridge Natural Area in Bowie; and the first and third Thursdays at Lake Artemesia in Berwyn Heights.


The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Washington, DC

The Kennedy Center is well known for its Millennium Stage series, but that isn't the only free way to enjoy the performing arts jewel on the Potomac. Guided tours offer visitors a peek into the nooks and crannies of the grand building along with bits of history and news about the latest shows. The tours end on the Roof Terrace, where you can get an unparalleled view. Tours are about every 10 minutes from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekends. Walk-ins are welcome. Meet at the Tour Desk on the A Level.


Kettler Capitals Iceplex

Arlington, VA

With more than 100 consecutive sellouts, the Washington Capitals are arguably the city's hottest sports team, but you don't have to shell out $40 or more to see Ovechkin and crew skate at Verizon Center. Instead, head to Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington to watch the team practice. Dates and times are subject to change, but the general rule is that practice begins at 10:30 a.m. on non-game days, 10 a.m. on game days and 11 a.m. the day after a game.


Library of Congress - James Madison Bldg.

Washington, DC

You don't have to be a member of Congress to access materials and reading rooms at the Library of Congress. You must be at least 16 years old, but all you have to do is fill out a form and pick up a card. You can't take checked-out items home, but with the library's grand public reading rooms, there are plenty of places to curl up with a good book.


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