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Washington D.C. is our nation’s capital and a living, breathing symbol of freedom as well. With its elegant monuments and extensive museum exhibits, this destination can also be considered the capital of free things to do. Add in a poppin’ night-life scene and a mixture of cultures, and you have a perfect cheap destination for the historically inclined college student (or really, anyone else). Here are the best things to do in Washington D.C., if you’re traveling cheap.

Enjoy some seriously iconic national monuments

Washington D.C. is much more than just the monuments it is famous for, but still, these historic landmarks are not to be missed—especially since seeing them is free. And they remain among the top things to do in D.C.

The city is covered in monuments, and the epicenter of it all is the National Mall. There, you can find such classics as the Washington, Lincoln and the Jefferson memorials, among many others.

A view of the Washington Monument, as seen from between the huge columns of the Lincoln Memorial. Both of these stately attractions are among the top things to do in Washington D.C.

Washington Monument seen from Lincoln Memorial. Courtesy Washington.org

The Washington Memorial is one of D.C.’s most iconic views. The monument is not hard to miss, thanks to its towering height (compared to the city’s famously low skyline) and the giant reflecting pool that mirrors this tribute to our nation’s first president.

What many people don’t know is that you can see the monument from the inside as well as from the outside. That means you can climb to the top of the Washington and get an aerial view of the National Mall. The best part? Tickets for this breath-taking view can be found for free!

In order to obtain free Washington Monument tickets, you must be resilient, patient and most of all early…tickets are given out on a first-come, first-served basis. Which is why attempting to score a ticket can feel a bit like Black Friday, but it’s it totally worth it once you see that view. The tickets can be found at the Washington Monument Lodge on 15th Street, adjacent to the monument.

An evening view of the Lincoln Memorial, with people sitting on the steps in front. This attraction is one of the most popular in the city, and a must-see on your list of things to do in D.C.

Photo courtesy of washington.org.

Honest Abe can always be found greeting guests at the Lincoln Memorial. While gazing at the peaceful figure, you might start to wonder if his backside is hurting after sitting inthat stone chair for so many years. His face, however, will give you no indication…

At the top of the memorial’s steps is a tile that is marked for its significance. Not only can you visit Mr. Lincoln here, you can also be a part of a pivotal event in our nation’s history, by standing where Martin Luther King Jr. stood when he gave his “I have a dream” speech to thousands of spectators.

A broke student's guide to doing Washington D.C. on the cheap

Photo courtesy of Washington.org

Across the Tidal Basin sits the Jefferson Memorial, the beautiful location is great for relaxation and enjoying the greenery of D.C. This is especially true during March and April, when the Tidal Basin’s borders are colored with romantic pink cherry blossoms.

If you take the time to walk in between these three iconic monuments, you will surely come across many many others, such as several veterans memorials, the National World War II Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

Try to catch a glimpse of the Commander in Chief

If you are making an impromptu stop at the President’s home, don’t expect to be invited in… However, if you are planning your trip in advance, you might have a chance to walk through the iconic home’s halls, which is by far one of th coolest things to do in D.C.

You can make a public tour request up to three months in advance through a member of Congress. Tours of the White House are free, if you are quick and lucky enough to snag a spot—the latest you can file a request is 21 days before your planned visit.

If you dropped the ball this time don’t worry, you can still take a selfie outside the mansion and visit the White House Visitor Center, at 1450 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Here, you can take an interactive touchscreen tour of the White House, view over 90 artifacts from the White House collection and see the short film, “White House: Reflections From Within.”

A broke student's guide to doing Washington D.C. on the cheap

Photo courtesy of washington.org

Your trip-planning keyword: Smithsonian

Here’s a good tip for your trip to Washington D.C.: Look for the word “Smithsonian,” as it usually equates to “free.” There are countless free museums in D.C., and all of them have something worth seeing. Best of all, most are within walking distance of those iconic monuments we discussed earlier.

These free Smithsonian museums include:

  • The Air and Space Museum, which offers a glimpse (or rather, a long hard look) into our country’s past, present and future in the fields of flight and aerospace technology.
  • The American History Museum, which houses an extensive collection of American artifacts, such as the first American flag, Dorothy’s ruby red slippers and even Kermit the Frog.
  • The Natural History Museum, which captures the natural wonders of the world, including several dinosaur fossil skeletons and hundreds of preserved animals that are sure to intrigue you and give you nightmares.
  • The National Zoo, where you can see many of the animals you saw in the Natural History Museum…but this time without the stuffing.
A broke student's guide to doing Washington D.C. on the cheap

Tian Tian the giant panda eating bamboo at the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Mehgan Murphy and the Smithsonian.

Party in the eclectic D.C. neighborhoods

Washington D.C.’s neighborhoods are a mixture of diverse cultures and historical significance. The nightlife scene has really taken off in D.C. in recent years and can be found all over the city. Here is a look at the best of the best of D.C. nightlife.

The Adams Morgan neighborhood is known for its historic architecture and local boutiques by day, and its unique bars and restaurants by night. This “hipster hotspot” also features many ethnic restaurants and live music. No matter what time of day you choose to visit, 18th Street is the place to be in this neighborhood.

Want to find some of these ethnic eats for a cheap price? First, check out the Amsterdam Falafelshop for a seriously filing and unique late-night meal. A regular-sized falafel sandwich, which comes with 5 falafel balls in a large pita and as many toppings as that pita can handle, is less than $7. If empanadas are more your style, check out Julia’s Empanadas for treats that are filled to the brim with fresh ingredients. You can get a hot and juicy empanada for a mere $5 at Julia’s. What we’re getting at here is: Eating is one of the absolute best things to do in Washington D.C., and Adams Morgan is among the best places to do exactly that.

Looking for a place to chill and discover some new music? Look no further than Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe. This place offers a variety of live shows that are relatively cheap to attend—tickets can cost anywhere from free (with rsvp on their website) to $20.

If you want to combine two of life’s greatest treasures—great music and food—be sure to check out Adams Morgan Day, held on the second Sunday in September each year. This local celebration features live music and food from around the world, as well as sidewalk cafes, unique vendors, and cultural demonstrations and dances.

Logan Circle is also known for its historic architecture, and is so named for the roundabout on its southern end, and the statue of Civil War general John Logan found in the area’s park. This neighborhood’s nightlife has taken off thanks to the transformation of 14th Street NW, where dozens of restaurants, indie and national-brand shops and a hoppin’ bar scene can be found.

Here, you’ll find the legendary Black Cat, which has been offering indie bands and themed dance nights since 1993. And entry will only set you back from the gloriously cheap $0, to roughly $20 at the high end. Shows include DJ dance parties, live bands and weekly “Doctor Who” screenings, among others.

The Studio Theatre is also a place where you can catch local talent and some traveling performances, including musicals, avant garde dramas and new comedies. Although this might be a bit of a splurge, depending on the show you choose, it can be a good look into Logan Circle’s artistic draw. And you can definitely find tickets for as little as $20—just be sure to buy them in advance.

HStreet NE is a 1.5-mile stretch in Northeast D.C. that is known for its nightlife, restaurants and festivals. Rock and Roll Hotel is a local mainstay for up-and-coming indie rock bands. Tickets to shows are typically $10 to $25, and the admission to the rooftop bar is free.

If you are visiting in the summer or fall, check out Gallery OonH during its Music in the Courtyard series. The gallery offers free music concerts in the Courtyard on weekends from May 1 to October 31. The series features local musicians with genres ranging from electronic violin to zydeco, to steel bands and rock n’ roll.

H Street NE has plenty of late-night snack options for post-concert indulgences, but if you find yourself looking to recharge the next morning, take a brunch break at Bullfrog Bagels. The eatery offers fresh bagels and a deliciously simple brunch menu, which features nothing over $15.

H Street’s largest event is the annual, aptly named H Street Festival, which spans 10 blocks and attracts thousands of people each year. The September festival features musical performances and multi-cultural entertainment, art exhibits and local food trucks, making it one of the top things to do in Washington D.C. — that is, if you want a taste of local life.

A broke student's guide to doing Washington D.C. on the cheap

Night life on H Street NE. Photo courtesy of washington.com

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Tagged: Cheap City, USA, City, Family

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If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then some landmarks should be downright charmed. If you don’t have the time or money to see the real thing, then opt for one of these faux versions of tourists attractions that are often imitated and nearly duplicated.

 Related: 5 stunning U.S. scenic drives 

Leaning Tower of Pisa replica in Niles, IL

Italy isn’t the only place where you can eat great pizza and take a selfie in front of an off-kilter landmark. At 94 feet tall, this suburban Chicago knockoff stands at about half the size of the actual Italian treasure. Built as a utility tower in 1934, in the late ’90s the tower added a fountain, reflection pool and other upgrades just in time for a visit from its sister city, which is—you guessed it—Pisa, Italy.

Leaning Tower is Pisa replica in Niles, Illinois. Credit Jimmy Thomas/Flickr.

Leaning Tower is Pisa replica in Niles, Illinois. Credit Jimmy Thomas/Flickr.

Trevi Fountain replica in Las Vegas, NV

What happens in Vegas… originally happened in Rome, Italy. Sin City is home to several clones of the Baroque masterpiece. The best-known sits outside Caesars Palace, where you can dine at—wait for it—Trevi Italian Restaurant. There’s also a lesser-known version of the ornate fountain inside the Fendi boutique at Crystals at CityCenter, where the handbags are legit but the fountain is most definitely a knockoff.

Trevi Fountain replica at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Credit Bert Kaufmann/Flickr.

Trevi Fountain replica at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Credit Bert Kaufmann/Flickr.

Statue of Liberty replica in Birmingham, AL

About 2 million tourists flock to Ellis Island each year. Skip the lines and ferry ride by heading south to this bronze duplicate that’s one-fifth the size of the real statue. Like the New York statue, Birmingham’s version of Lady Liberty was made in France and has a continuously burning flame. In 1958, businessman Frank Park Samford commissioned the clone to sit atop the building of his company, Liberty National Life Insurance. Today, the statue stands in Liberty Park.

Statue of Liberty replica in Birmingham, Alabama. Credit Wikipedia.

Statue of Liberty replica in Birmingham, Alabama. Credit Wikipedia.

White House replica in McClean, VA

You can’t buy an election, but you can buy the White House—or at least a private home just outside Washington, DC, that’s modeled after the real thing. The 15,000-square-foot replica has six bedrooms and seven bathrooms, compared to the actual White House’s 55,000 square feet, 16 bedrooms and 35 bathrooms. In 2012, the foreclosured property sold for just $865,000.

Eiffel Tower replica in Paris, TX

Not everything’s bigger in Texas. This iron structure stands at 65 feet tall, compared to the French icon, which boasts a staggering 986 feet. But the Texas version is topped with a giant red cowboy hat, which makes for a kitschy photo op as you stretch your legs along U.S. Highway 82. The Boiler Makers Local #902 in built it there in 1995, more than a century after the French landmark was erected.

Eiffel Tower replica in Paris, Texas. Credit Kevin/Flickr.

Eiffel Tower replica in Paris, Texas. Credit Kevin/Flickr.

Parthenon replica in Nashville, TN

This Southern gem was built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition—which sounds old, until you realize that construction on the actual Parthenon in Greece began in 447 BC. But Nashville’s full-scale replica is more than just a pretty facade; it also houses the city’s art museum.

Parthenon replica in Nashville. Credit Will Powell/Flickr.

Parthenon replica in Nashville. Credit Will Powell/Flickr.

Stonehedge replica in Maryhill, WA

While the purpose behind England’s Stonehenge remain a mystery—altar? astronomical observatory? burial site?—the origins of this knockoff are more certain. In 1918, land developer Sam Hill erected his version of Stonehenge as a memorial to the fallen soldiers of World War 1. The Druids used actual stones, but 5,000 years later, Hill opted for the convenience of reinforced concrete slabs.

Stonehenge replica. Credit Wikipedia.

Stonehenge replica. Credit Wikipedia.

Tagged: International, Las Vegas

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In this age of online shopping, it’s easy to forget that our favorite goods come from actual, you know, places. See where everyday items are born during one of these made-in-America factory tours.

Crayola Factory in Pennsylvania

Photo courtesy of Frances MacLeod

Crayola Experience, Easton, PA

Let your imagination run wild through four floors of colorful fun at this attraction about a 90-minute drive from Philadelphia or New York City. Watch a live-action theater show that explains how crayons are brought to life, create custom crayons and run wild in the two-story color-themed playground.

Photo courtesy of Darah Thomas

Photo courtesy of Darah Thomas

Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory Tour, Louisville, KY

This bat factory will score a home run with baseball fans. As you enter the building, you’ll walk past the world’s largest bat—a 120-feet-tall replica of Babe Ruth’s own Louisville Slugger. Then it’s onto the factory and museum, where you can watch bats being made, hold bats used by Major League Baseball legends and test out the batting cages. At the end of the factory tour, take home a free miniature bat or order a full-size personalized Slugger.

Photo courtesy of Jelly Belly Candy Company

Photo courtesy of Jelly Belly Candy Company

Jelly Belly Factory Tour, Fairfield, CA 

You’ll feel like a kid in a candy store at this factory located between San Francisco and Sacramento. See what goes into making jelly beans that taste like buttered popcorn, toasted marshmallow and A&W Root Beer, and discover why it takes up to 20 days to create a single bean. But don’t fill up on the free samples; save room for bean-shaped burger or bean-shaped pizza in the Jelly Belly Cafe.

Stuffington Bear Factory Tour, Phoenix, AZ

Before there was Build-A-Bear, there was Stuffington Bear. Watch bears and other stuffed animals come to life as they are cut, sewn and stuffed, and learn about the history of teddy bears. After the tour, stop by the retail store to take home a cuddly companion of your own.

Ben and Jerry's Factory Tour in Vermont

Photo courtesy of Nick Caruso

Ben and Jerry’s Factory TourWaterbury, VT

How could an ice cream factory tour not be fun? Learn about the history of the company, watch as sweet treats come to life on the factory floor and, yes, indulge in free samples. Find even more sweet treats in the Scoop Shop, which offers traditional ice cream treats and specialty desserts. 

Photo courtesy of: linearclassic | Flickr Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of  linearclassic | Flickr Creative Commons

Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Washington, DC, and Fort Worth, TX

Anyone can make money, but not everyone make money. In each of these tours, you can stand above the production floor as millions of dollars roll off the printing press, watch a video about the production process and, ironically, buy souvenir currency in the gift shop.

Photo courtesy of Becky Musgrove.

Photo courtesy of Becky Musgrove

Tabasco Pepper Sauce Factory Tour, Avery Island, LA

The hottest tour in the South starts with a visit to this lush Louisiana island. Watch a film about the history of the spicy condiment, see where Tabasco is aged in white oak barrels and look on as the sauce is bottled and packaged to begin its journey to kitchen tables across America.

Photo courtesy of Harinder Singh

Photo courtesyof Harinder Singh

Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing TourEverett, WA

Take your knowledge of air travel to new heights during this rare public tour of a commercial jet assembly plant just north of Seattle. Interact with exhibits, walk through tunnels and ride a freight elevator to a balcony high above the factory floor as you watch 747s and other aircraft being assembled.

Photo courtesy of Tillamook.

Photo courtesy of Tillamook

Tillamook Cheese Factory, Tillamook, OR

Tillamook ages its cheeses for up to three year,s but you won’t need to wait that long to sample the goods during a self-guided tour of its Pacific Coast factory. Get a bird’s eye view as milk is transformed into 171,000 pounds of cheddar, pepper jack and more every day. After the tour, nosh on grilled cheese sandwiches, ice cream and other dairy delights in the on-site restaurant.

Photo courtesy of: ooitschristina | Flickr Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of ooitschristina | Flickr Creative Commons

Gibson Guitar Factory Tour, Memphis, TN

First come the instruments; then comes the music. Watch and listen as the legendary guitars are bound, neck-fitted, painted, buffed and tuned on at this famed Beale Street factory. After the tour, stop by the retail shop for a guitar of your own, and start singin’ the blues.

Photo courtesy of: Matt Lehrer | Flickr Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Matt Lehrer | Flickr Creative Commons

Budweiser Brewery Tour, St. Louis, MO

Before the craft beer phenomenon took off, there was good ol’ Budweiser. Learn about the company’s century-old brewing process as you walk through its historic building. Save room for a cold one at the end of the tour. Additional tours are available at these Anheuser-Busch factory locations: Fort Collins, Colorado; Jacksonville, Florida; Merrimack, New Hampshire; and Fairfield, California.

Tagged: California, Family, Food & drink

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Tired of the same old weekend routine? Spice things up with cheap vacations from CheapTickets. With dozens of cheap vacation packages under $500 (located at the bottom of the page), you are sure to find travel deals and top vacation packages to fit your needs. Hit the beach, ski the slopes or win big at the slots when you take advantage of cheap vacation packages under $500. Here are some exciting ideas for your next cheap weekend getaway:

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New Orleans

Take it easy in the Big Easy, when you take a cheap weekend getaway to one of the most charming cities on the Gulf Coast. Cheap flights and cheap hotels let you experience Southern hospitality for less than $500. During your stay in New Orleans you can sample fabulous food, cruise the Mississippi River or explore the French Quarter.

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Denver

Take a cheap weekend trip to Denver and hit the slopes for less. Some of the best Colorado ski resorts are less than 75 miles from Denver, making it easy to hit the slopes during the day and get back just in time to enjoy the bustling nightlife. With two-night vacation packages under $500, you will have plenty of cash left over for lift tickets, ski rentals, and the ever-important cup of hot chocolate!

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Washington, D.C.

Experience history with a cheap vacation to Washington, D.C. From tours of the White House to free admission to the Smithsonian museums, you are guaranteed to have an exciting weekend in our nation’s capital.

The famous Las Vegas sign, welcoming you to possibly the best destination to snag vacation packages under $500.

Las Vegas

Even if you don’t win big at the table, you’re still a winner with vacation packages under $500 from CheapTickets! Whether you enjoy lounging at one of the many fabulous see-and-be-seen Las Vegas pools, or sipping Champagne at the high-rollers table, CheapTickets will get you there for less and leave you with plenty of money left to gamble.

CheapTicketsknows how to make your money count. This winter add a little spice to your life with a cheap vacation. From the slots to the slopes, cheap travel has never been more fun or affordable. Oh, and don’t forget to tack on a promo code when you can!

CheapTickets resources:  Vacation packages under $500

Kate Schwartz is a marketing coordinator for CheapTickets. When she’s not searching for the best travel deals, she’s out taking advantage of them!  From hiking the Rockies to lounging on the beaches of Barcelona, Kate is always looking for adventure.

Tagged: Vacation packages

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Washington hotels
That’s right. Tickets to the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama are free. In fact, inauguration tickets are distributed by members of Congress. So if you want one, you must contact your U.S. Senator or Representative. Officials warn that Web sites and ticket brokers do not have tickets to sell. Get more details about inauguration tickets.

If you’re planning to head to the inauguration, CheapTickets can help you plan your Washington, D.C. vacation with cheap flights and hotel reservations.

While many downtown Washington hotels say they are already booked, you can look for rooms in other neighborhoods or nearby suburbs like Alexandria, Va., and Arlington, Va. The Washington Metrorail provides convenient and affordable public transportation throughout the metro area, so it should be relatively easy to get downtown, no matter where you stay.

CheapTickets resources:

Tagged: FREE!, Tips & advice

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Cheap hotels There may be no such thing as a free lunch, butwhen you travel and stay at Marriott hotels, there is free breakfast.

Marriott hotels across the U.S. are offering free breakfast for up to two adults and children ages 12 and under staying in the same room. That’s free food, plus CheapTickets’ low rates on hotels. Consider these participating hotels for your next vacation:

Scottsdale:
Marriott Scottsdale McDowell Mountain
Marriott Scottsdale Suites Old Town

Denver:
Marriott Denver City Center
JW Marriott Denver at Cherry Creek

San Diego:
Marriott San Diego Del Mar
Marriott San Diego Mission Valley


Los Angeles:
Marriott Marina del Ray

Los Angeles Marriott Downtown

Florida:
Marriott South Beach
Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa (Fort Lauderdale)
JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes
Marriott Orlando Airport
Marriott Orlando Downtown

Las Vegas:
JW Marriott Las Vegas Reort &Spa

Marriott Las Vegas Suites

Washington, D.C.:
JW Marriott Washington Pennsylvania Avenue
Marriott Washington
Marriott Wardman Park Hotel

You can have a cheap vacation, with cheap flights from CheapTickets and free breakfast at Marriott hotels. The free breakfast offer is good for travel through December 27, 2008.

CheapTickets resources:

Tagged: City, FREE!

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Perhaps no U.S. travel destination is better known for free attractions than Washington, D.C.

The Washington Monument, the National Zoo and the museums of the Smithsonian Institution — all 19 of them — are free. That means you can view spacecraft that have been on the moon, walk through a living butterfly house, and see famous sculpture, African art, historic documents and more — all for free.

And some of the Smithsonian’s most popular items will be on view once again when the National Museum of American History reopens November 21 after an extensive renovation. The highlight of the renovation is a new gallery for the nearly 200-year-old Star Spangled Banner. The museum includes collections of everything from popular entertainment and health to food and furnishings. Some notable items include a Kermit the Frog puppet, the first electro-hydraulic artificial heart implanted in a human and a 1950s-era doughnut machine used by the Krispy Kreme company.

For a limited time the National Museum of American History also will display the White House copy of the Gettysburg Address, the last known draft version to have been written in President Lincoln’s hand.

The National Museum of American History is on the National Mall, close to plenty of downtown Washington, D.C. hotels.

CheapTickets resources:

Tagged: City, FREE!