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Aug. 27, 2015

Priceless adventures

by Eleanor Cook, Online Editor-in-Chief
Living in the Washington, DC area has several perks, from the large array of food options to the nearly never-ending list of cultural events to attend. Another major benefit of living near the nation's capital is the cost-free access to a plethora of information and unique experiences through DC's museums and monuments.
A ticket to the Washington Monument (free if acquired on-site and at a small convenience fee if purchased online) offers the best view of the city and a unique historical experience. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
A ticket to the Washington Monument (free if acquired on-site and at a small convenience fee if purchased online) offers the best view of the city and a unique historical experience.

In most cities, everyone but the youngest visitors must pay to visit museums. In New York City, all of the major museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, charge for admission. The same applies to many of the museums in Chicago, Philadelphia and around the world. In Washington, however, entrance to almost all of the major museums is free.

Free admission to museums not only makes their wealth of information accessible to everyone, but also makes revisiting museums easy. In a city where the cost of living is 24.6% above the national average, free options for a day out are especially valuable.

Because high school students have limited budgets, free attractions offer immediate appeal. There is more to museums for high schoolers besides the price, however. Especially during the summer, when students have more time on their hands, museums are a great way to appreciate what they have learned in the classroom. After having spent months learning and studying, students can better understand exhibits. Museums can also be a way to refresh students' memories while they spend so much time away from school. DC's museums particularly cater to this because of the breadth of subjects that they cover, from many different aspects of history to numerous styles of art to several branches of science. Because there is no need to make the most of one's ticket and see everything in the museum in one day, the experience can be more relaxing and fulfilling.

It is easy to explore the many facets of American and world history and culture in free museums in downtown DC. The several Smithsonian Museums are open almost every day of the year, as is the National Gallery of Art. Apart from the well-known, and unfortunately quite crowded, Museum of American History, Air and Space Museum, and Museum of Natural History, there are also several other Smithsonian Museums that fit more specific niches. From the Postal Museum to the African Art Museum there are enough exhibits to fill many days with adventures.

There are also several monuments and memorials in the heart of Washington that one can visit for free. Many of DC's monuments are picturesque and peaceful. They are a nice way to appreciate the city, and often the outdoors, while also learning and respecting American historical figures. The Capitol Building houses a museum that is also open for free. Tours are available for visitors to venture through the Capitol and learn about the building's and nation's history. A bit more off the beaten path, but also free, are the National Archives and the Library of Congress, both of which house incredible historical artifacts in beautiful buildings with histories of their own. In the Archives are displayed the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution, among other important building blocks of American history. The Library of Congress, which is the largest library in the world, houses one of the first Gutenberg Bibles and some of Thomas Jefferson's original collection of books.

As the summer winds down and school floats back to the top of everyone's minds, students should take advantage of their last few days of freedom. A great way to ease back into the idea of learning would be by spending a day in Downtown DC visiting museums and monuments. Although one can always hang out closer to home, visiting museums can also be a great way to spend time with friends. No matter what, there will be something interesting to visit for free.



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