DC on a Dime

Being a Texas transplant, DC does things a little differently than I’m used to. What DC lacks in square miles it makes up for in charm, history, and delicious food! From getting stuck in motorcade traffic to stumbling upon a farmer’s markets every other day, it is impossible to have a boring day in DC. And while it is so easy to spend a lot of money here, it is by no means necessary to have great time. With minimal cash and endless possibilities, I made a major dent in my summer bucketlist. 


Astro Doughnuts is right by Metro Center; a perfect place to start your day in DC! We decided to try their Nutella and Strawberry Cream doughnuts. If you want to get your morning off to an even better start, try the doughnut & fried chicken sandwich their known for!

Total Cost: $6

Other Options
Café Mozart//Lincoln’s Waffle Shop//Rare Sweets


After delicious doughnuts, we headed down to DC’s most famous house. It's a must-do for any DC-visit and you never know who you might see! We walked by the front side of the White House, which faces the National Mall. You are a little further away than the view from the North side, but you actually see the front of the house and the National Christmas Tree. The White House is a good place to see before or after a meal since it’s a bit closer to the restaurant scene. 

Other Options

  • Visit the U.S. Capitol, located at the east end of the National Mall. You can also book a free tour through your state representative, but make sure to get it done several weeks before your visit.
  • The Washington Monument provides one of the best views of DC. Located south of the White House, the monument is in the heart of the action. To guarantee a ride to the top, reserve tickets ahead of time through the National Park Service. If you're an earlier riser, you can try to get day-of tickets the morning of your visit.
  • You can't leave DC without a visit to Honest Abe. The steps of the Lincoln Memorial provide a place to take it all in while you rest your feet. 


Something to keep in mind is that it is very, very easy to spend all day at any of DC’s museums. Doors for the Holocaust Memorial Museum open at 10, and there was already a line formed by the time we got there. In order to gain entry to the museum, you are given a free ticket with a timestamp for what time you will be allowed to enter. Beyond the exhibits, we came to hear Sylvia Rozines, author of Yellow Star and a holocaust survivor, who is part of the museum’s First Person series every Wednesday and Thursday during the summer. I recommend getting there an hour early to be a part of this powerful experience. After the talk, Mrs. Rozines was outside the auditorium to meet attendees and sign copies of her book. It was special to have the opportunity to not only see the exhibits, but also listen to the powerful, firsthand story of a survivor.


We squeezed the Smithsonian National Museum of  American History in before lunch. The food exhibit was my favorite, which included Julia Child’s kitchen exactly as it appeared in her home and the history on how U.S. foods gained their popularity. If you have more time, you can’t miss The Star Spangled Banner exhibit, which houses the American flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem in 1814. I am sure my favoritism towards the food exhibit had nothing to do with the fact I was starving!

Other Options

Museum of Natural History//National Air and Space Museum//National Museum of African American History and Culture (opening 2016)


Unless you’re near the National Museum of the American Indian, skip the museum cafes and walk a few blocks into downtown to find lunch. There’s plenty of options steps away the mall, including my favorite District Taco. It’s quick, affordable, and most of all delicious! Don’t be deterred by the line out the door; it moves quickly and you’ll get your meal in a jiffy. My Barbacoa and Pollo Asado tacos hit the spot.

Total Cost: $16.40 (4 tacos + chips + guacamole + salsa)

Other Quick Bites
&pizza//Shake Shack//Food Trucks

Sit-Down Restaurants
The Hamilton//Old Ebbit Grill//Chef Geoff’s


For only $8 a day, this is a very affordable way to see lots of sights in a short period of time! How it works:

  • Insert your credit card & how many bikes you are renting (max of 2 per card)
  • Print out a ticket with a code to unlock a bike from the dock
  • Grab a bike and you’re off!

Something important to remember: You have to re-dock your bike every 30 minutes to not pay any extra fees. Don’t worry, there’s docks everywhere especially around the Mall. Grabbing a bike is perfect for museum hopping, just make sure you re-dock your bike while you are inside! Download Spotcycle, a free app with a detailed map of all the docking stations around the city.

2.5 miles later, we biked all of the sites: Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, MLK Jr. Memorial, Tidal Basin, and Jefferson Memorial.

Total Cost: $16

Other Options
Free Tours By Foot//Segs in the City//Hop-On-Hop-Off DC Bus Tour


Our bikes made the hike from the Jefferson Memorial to the National Portrait Gallery. The Portrait Gallery houses the portraits of every president, and covers everything from traditional impressionist paintings, to a huge neon map of the United States covered in old televisions. I was bummed to miss Stephen Colbert’s portrait within a portrait within a portrait within a portrait within a portrait…within a portrait. Crowds are much smaller here, so it is a nice break from the masses of people over by the Mall. After a busy day, I took a minute to relax in the enclosed courtyard.

Other Options

FREE>> National Gallery of Art and Sculpture Garden

$$>> International Spy Museum ($21.95) // Newseum ($22.95) // Madam Tussauds ($22)

It is near impossible to see all there is to see in DC in a single day, but we were up for the challenge. The best part is we did this full agenda on less than $20 a person. If you make a game plan, give yourself some room to make changes, you can take advantage of so much the city has to offer!

Looking for more ideas on DC on a Dime? Check out Destination’s DC 100 Free and Almost Free Things to Do in DC. And it’s true, #wegotthis.

July 13, 2015