One of the great things about our nation's capital is all the free activities for families. However, there are a few top activities that will cost you money. The good news is that you don't have to pay full price for these.
You can save up to 47% on 20+ fun activities with the Go Washington DC pass from GoCity.com – formerly known as Explorer Pass.
I tried Go Washington DC on my last trip. I picked three activities and saved more than $20 on admission fees. When you multiply those savings by every member of your family, they add up quickly.
Here is how Go Washington DC works, and my tips for getting the most bang for your buck.
How it works
Choose a number of attractions – 3, 4 or 5, – and decide which participating attractions you want to do. Once you activate the card at your first attraction, you have 30 days to visit your remaining attractions. Your Go City pass is good for one year and fully refundable.
You can choose your activities as you go – no need to commit up front. Just show your Go Washington DC pass and you're in.
If you want only two attractions, or more than five, you have the option to build your own pass for 20% off the gate prices. This option includes a few activities that aren't on the standard pass. It may be the better option if you prefer the less-expensive attractions.
Related: 3 Days in Washington DC With Kids
How much will you save?
Go City claims that you will save up to 47%. The price for every attraction is different, so actual savings will vary.
If high-end activities like Big Bus Tour and International Spy Museum rank high on your list, then Go City is almost definitely a good deal. Several attractions are only about $10-15 each, and if those are your top picks, you could actually lose money with the standard pass.
I saw the savings add up when my husband and I visited Washington DC for his work conference. I bought Go Washington DC for myself, but not for him because he had meetings during the day. It turned out that he was able to do two of my three attractions with me.
At the time, I paid $54 for my 3-attraction pass. He paid regular price for the Big Bus Tour and Newseum, which came to $65. I saved $11, even before my third activity.
Related: My Review of the Big Bus Night Tour
Is it a good option for kids?
The Child Go City pass is less expensive than the Adult version and works the same way. It is intended for children ages 7-12. Teens pay adult prices. Go Card will usually be a good deal for kids, but not always.
Do the math before you buy – especially for young children and teens. Youth typically get free or reduced admission without Go Washington DC.
Which are the best attractions?
I've done about half of the Go Washington DC activities over multiple trips to Washington D.C. and each has been worthwhile. I trust that the other options on the list are solid too. The best activities are the ones that you will enjoy most.
Here are the attractions I've visited. Click the links to read my reviews.
- Mount Vernon is well worth a day. Boat transportation from Old Alexandria and admission to Mount Vernon count as two attractions. We have done the boat cruise and it's fun, but the schedule isn't flexible. I would have liked more time at Mount Vernon.
- The Big Bus Night Tour was one of the highlights of our trip. It's an easy way to see the monuments beautifully lit at night.
- The International Spy Museum is fun for a wide range of ages. It is conveniently located and you can easily spend up to half a day here.
- The National Cathedral is beautiful and peaceful. You can attend a Sunday service for free, but without the benefits of a guided tour. Either way, it's probably better with older kids.
- The National Building Museum, is small, with an excellent play area for young children. Regular admission for adults is only $10. It's worthwhile, but won't maximize your Go City savings.
- The Capital Wheel is a large ferris wheel located in National Harbor, Maryland. We enjoyed it when we were in National Harbor for a convention.
Remember D.C.'s Free Activities
Washington D.C. has more free activities than most cities. All of the Smithsonian museums, monuments and many of the visitor-friendly government buildings are free.
Several of the Go Washington DC activities are enhancements to otherwise free activities. The monuments cruise, bus tours, bike rental, and Museum of American History music tour are examples.
How to Buy
You may find Go City discounts on Groupon.com. The discount is small, and there's extra hassle in purchasing from a third party. However, every little bit can add up when you buy for a family.
Washington D.C. is one of my family's favorite cities. Between free activities and Go Washington DC, you can easily create a fun-filled and budget-friendly Washington D.C. itinerary.
How else can I help?
Planning to fly? Washington D.C. is serviced by several major airports. Ronald Reagan Washington National (DCA) is closest to the action, but Washington Dulles International (IAD) and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall (BWI) will also get you into the area.
Need transportation? I don't recommend renting a car in Washington D.C. unless you are staying or traveling outside easy reach of a Metro line. It is difficult and expensive to drive and park in Washington D.C. Public transportation, Uber/Lyft and walking have worked well for us.
Need a place to stay? I've stayed at several hotels in Washington D.C. including
- Kimpton Hotel Madera
- Omni Shoreham Hotel
- Hotel Harrington
They are all conveniently located and within a short walk of a Metro station. Click the button below to check prices and availability for Washington DC hotels at TripAdvisor.com.