10 Free and Cheap Things to Do in the DC Area While Social Distancing

The National Zoo, Udvar-Hazy Center and more have reopened in the D.C. area

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There's nothing like a pandemic to make you feel cooped up during the summer.

Plenty of places in the D.C. area have reopened, often with safety measures in place. And you don't need to spend a lot of money, either.

There are ways to help keep the community healthy while you go out: Avoid crowds, stay outside when possible, wear a mask and wash your hands.

The Centers for Disease Control advises assessing your own risks: Do you or a family member have an existing health condition? Then it may still be wise to stay home.

Check out these places that are free or cheap to visit, plus are largely outdoor or have safety measures in place. Enjoy, and tag @nbcwashington and #NBC4DC on Instagram in your photos!

National Arboretum
3501 New York Ave NE, Washington, D.C.

The National Arboretum is open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1-5 p.m. It's a great place to get in a long walk (most roads in the park are currently closed).


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Only the outdoor areas and a few restrooms are open. You can access the grounds via a car through the New York Avenue entrance or via bike or foot at the R Street NE gate. Here's a map.

Be aware: There are capacity limits, so cars may have to wait to get in. 

National Zoo
3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, D.C.

The National Zoo is back! Friday is the first day you can see some of D.C.'s favorite animals. But there are some important changes to know about before you head over.

There are two ways to visit. Visitors can get a free, timed-entry ticket that's valid for up to six people (including infants).

Or, you can buy a $30 parking pass that comes with zoo admission for up to eight people. Parking pass holders can arrive anytime between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Outdoor vendors will be open.

Five thousand tickets will be released every day. Everyone is requested to wear a mask.

National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center
14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly, Virginia

Check out thousands of aviation and space artifacts, including the Discovery Space Shuttle and a Concorde, the first supersonic airliner to enter service.

You'll need a timed entry ticket to go. It's free, but parking is $10. Hours are daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Food trucks will be available on most days.

Visitors are asked to wear a face covering, wash hands often and maintain a 6-foot social distance.

Sunflower Fields
Various Locations

Take in the beauty of blooming summer flowers at numerous spots in Maryland and Virginia.

It's not too late in the season to bring family, friends or a selfie stick for a memorable photo shoot.

The McKee-Beshers Sunflower Fields are a popular free spot in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Goldpetal Farms in Chaptico allows you to pick flowers or go through a maze of bright yellow petals (general admission starts at $10 and is free for kids under 6). It's open Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Burnside Farms in Nokesville, Virginia (11008 Kettle Run Road) also has fields and a maze. Tickets for kids ages 3-12 start at $8 and adult tickets start at $12.

Union Market
1309 5th St NE, Washington, D.C.

Whether you're in the mood to catch a drive-in movie or sit down with some of D.C.'s favorite grub, Union Market has options.

Northeast's food and shopping hall has opened its rooftop and patio seating and will host weekend events including cookouts and fitness classes. You can also pick up groceries and take away food.

On Friday, July 24, at 7:30 p.m., the drive-in will be showing 2019's "The Lion King." Tickets cost $20 per car and can be purchased here.

Historic Congressional Cemetery
1801 E Street, SE, Washington, D.C.

D.C. figures including Senators, House members and two Vice Presidents are laid to rest at this cemetery that also hosts events.

Guided tours are offered on the weekends, you just need to get a ticket. The cemetery also hosts monthly movie nights and other special events — including baby goat yoga planned for September.

You can take a self-guided audio tour, too.

Masks are mandatory at the gate. Remember to keep a social distance. No bikes or scooters are allowed.

Glenstone Museum
12100 Glen Road, Potomac, Maryland

Glenstone Museum's outdoor areas are open to explore while social distancing.

Check out unique architecture, huge outdoor sculptures and natural sights. The water fountains are shut off, so bring a water bottle.

The hours are Thursday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. You must make a reservation to visit. It's free, but the slots are getting booked up quickly. All visitors must be 12 or older.

Mount Vernon
3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy, Mt Vernon, Virginia

George Washington's former home is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Visitors will be required to wear masks indoors and outdoors when a six-foot social distance can't be maintained.

Mount Vernon recommends buying tickets in advance. Tickets cost $12 for kids or $20 for adults to enter the grounds, mansion tours cost extra.

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens
1550 Anacostia Ave NE, Washington, D.C.

Wind through waterways filled with lily pads and blooming flowers and try to catch glimpses of dragonflies and frogs.

The park is opened daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Some areas are closed, including restrooms. Visitors should follow signs to enter and explore the park, wear masks and maintain a social distance.

Victura Park at the Reach
2700 F St. NW, Washington, D.C.

Sit near the Potomac and enjoy a glass of wine at the Kennedy Center's new outdoor expansion, the REACH. You can sit among the modern architecture and pick up a drink or snack from the Victura Park pop-up wine garden and cafe.

It's free to go and family-friendly. Visit on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays this summer.

Bonus! For Montgomery County Residents Only
Montgomery County Pools
Various Locations

Reserve a time slot or walk-up for a chance to exercise on the water. Outdoor pools are open from noon to 8 p.m. Here's more information.

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