May 22, 2019

D.C. on a Dime: Frugal Ways to Enjoy a Visit to Washington

Along with Washington’s free museums and national zoo comes a reputation for being really expensive when it comes to food, beverages and affordable vacation lodging. For those who want to experience this national gem without wiping out their savings account, the following tips should prove helpful. (See also: Thrifty Things to Do in Quito, Ecuador)

Food: Pauline Frommer, author of Pauline Frommer’s Washington, D.C., loves the Ethiopian scene along the U Street Corridor for frugal food, and points specifically to The Dukem Restaurant, which offers a cultural show most evenings for only $1 more than the regular dining cost. For cheap, basic food and a bit of history, she recommends Ben’s Chili Bowl. Having served the likes of Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole, they offer basic breakfast and lunch options for less than $5.

Andrea Poe, author of The Red Thread – a popular adoption column – and editor for The Washington Times Communities, hails happy hour as her strategy for great deals in D.C. Her top picks? The tapas and $4 house-made sangria at Jaleo, and the free sushi, shrimp tempura and other snacks during the Buddha Bar’s Monday-Thursday happy hour from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. “For the price of a cocktail, you can have a free meal in a hip downtown location,” says Poe .

Lodging: For affordable accommodations during family vacations, Poe picks The Eldon Suites. Conveniently located with full kitchens to save on meal costs, the suites allow kids a chance to relax at the end of a busy day. Summer rates are as low as $144, and even the smallest suite can easily handle a family of four. For an old-fashioned inn experience, Pauline Frommer recommends the Kalorama Guest House at Woodley Park with rooms starting at less than $80. They offer complimentary sherry in a cut glass decanter, and afternoon lemonade or hot cider with cookies. She’s also loves the Taft Bridge Inn, which offers antique-decorated rooms with a full breakfast. Rooms with shared bath start at $93.

Fun: Jan Schroder, managing editor of Travelgirl magazine recommends DC by Foot for their four free walking tours. They are hilarious and informative, according to Schroder. For a list of free and cheap things to do while visiting the city, check out

Do you have experience visiting Washington, D.C.? What penny-pinching strategies did you use to make the most of your tourist time?

Photo Credit: eGuide Travel