Winter in DC – Fun Things to Do on a Budget

DC in winter

 It definitely is getting chilly here in DC right now, and one of the best times of the year is coming – winter! Snow in the nation’s Capitol looks pretty awesome, but even without any snow, there’s tons for you to explore while here during winter in DC. From holiday events to staying warm, here are my favorite things to do in DC in winter – and they all cost $10 or less! Most of them are free because I’m all about finding the best things to do on a budget in DC!

1. Check out the Zoo Lights at the National Zoo free

The whole month of December, you can check out the different light displays all over the National Zoo with special events going on throughout the whole month. Specific parts of the zoo stay open late, they sell warm drinks (alcoholic and not), and there is a fun slide to ride down. It is always a fun way to spend an evening. Plan ahead for parking or take the metro because this is a really popular event happening every night!

2. Visit one of the Christmas trees on the White House or Capitol lawns  free

If you are lucky enough to be in town November 30, this does require tickets, you can attend the lighting of the national Christmas tree too. The Capitol Christmas tree will be lit on December 6 and is free to attend. The trees look so pretty around DC and are easy to find. As you explore DC and walk around, take time to stop and watch.

3. Get a Christmas tree and do some shopping at Eastern Market gifts for as little as $3

Eastern Market is full of delicious food, drinks, and awesome gifts for people at a great price. It’s the perfect spot to walk around on a Saturday morning and getting all those unique and fun gifts for people while you do. Plus, they have excellent Christmas trees for sale right outside.

4. Head to City Center to shop and check out their light display free

Center City has an awesome light display that is especially beautiful in the snow! The shopping there is pretty pricey, but there are some great shops near by and the light display is worth the short walk.

5. Visit the Downtown Holiday Market and go to a museum free – gifts as low as $3

The Downtown Holiday Market is definitely a spot to visit if you’re in DC in December! Tons of local shops, live music, and delicious bites are available. Spend an afternoon here and when you get cold, head into the National Portrait Gallery right beside it to get warm and enjoy some art work.

6. Go iceskating at one of the many spots around town $8

I love going ice skating at least once every winter. I’m not that coordinated, but it’s fun. There are lots of locations to choose from, but my favorites are the ice skating rink in the Sculpture Garden and in Navy Yard at the Capitol River Front.

7. Here during a big snow storm? free

  • sled on the US Capitol (tons of locals come out to enjoy sledding on the Nation’s Captiol, you won’t want to miss it! Get something to sled on at the nearby Walmart on H Street)
  • go to a giant snowball fight (check the DC Snowball Fight Facebook Page for the location and details when a storm hits!)

8. Warm up with an espresso from Dolcezza or chili from Ben’s Chili Bowl $3 – $6

Both these spots are DC institutions with tons of delicious drinks and food. Dolcezza stores are located all over DC and never far from the most heavily trafficked spots in DC. If you’re at Center City – head to the one right next to the lights! Ben’s Chili Bowl has two locations, one on U Street and one on H Street. U Street is the original where you will find lots about the history of Ben’s in DC, but the H Street location has a full restaurant with a bar called Ben’s Upstairs. Either spot serves delicious and cheap chili in many forms.

9. Enjoy Chinese New Year in Chinatown free 

Each year, DC celebrates Chinese New Year with a large parade, performances, and more. Make sure you check the website

10. Get inside and enjoy one of the many museums! free

Most Smithsonian museums have coat check and all have heating. This makes them the perfect escape from the cold and something that is touristy and fun to do in the winter in DC! Plus, you don’t have to worry about walking very far between museums because they’re all so close!

11. Visit DC’s very own Holiday Bar Miracle on 7th Street $10 – $12

I couldn’t make a list of things to do without adding this one to it. I actually didn’t have a great experience here, but have some tips to help you enjoy it! First, get there as early as possible. Even on weekdays people wait sometimes more than two hours. Then, when you order a drink, if something sounds like it won’t be very good, it probably isn’t so stick to the basic winter drinks like cider with bourbon or hot chocolate and liquor. Some of their more fancy drinks were not worth the price!

There is my list of the best things to do this winter in DC! No matter what season you visit DC in, you’ll have a blast! For more about DC, make sure you check out my other posts here.