A Day in D.C. for Teens on a Budget

By: MacKenzie Butler
LEESBURG- Being a teen can be financially tough. It can be frustrating as well, not being able to do what you want, like going to the movies or bowling, because the money isn’t there. This can lead to another boring Saturday and not much to look forward to. Well, if you’re a teen in the Northern Virginia area, there might be a solution to your problem.
Living next to Washington D.C. doesn’t sound like a hangout place, but there are a few places you probably haven’t heard about that can really make your Saturday worthwhile. This is a simple, quick, and most importantly, cheap itinerary of how you and a friend can spend a day in D.C. for under 30 bucks. It is recommended to visit D.C. in a warmer time of year, because the walking will be more enjoyable without the cold.
There are only a few things you need to start this adventure, and that is a car, 30 bucks for each friend, and your cell phone. Don’t worry, there is an alternative if your parents won’t let you drive to D.C., just ask for a ride to the Metro station in Arlington called Court House station, ride the Orange line that will zip you to either the Verizon center stop or the National Lawn stop- your call. If you choose the Verizon center, there are a few places to shop and look around, but being on a budget, the National Lawn is a good idea. Once you arrive around noon or so, this place is pretty vibrant. Along the big grass fields, the National Lawn, are the infamous Smithsonian Museums. There are so many to choose from and the admission for them is FREE. So go ahead and pick something you like; how about art, dinosaurs, planes, or space? Well, take a look at the big maps alongside the sidewalk to choose one and dare to explore. Each holds unique and incredible exhibits. For example, the National Museum of Natural History houses the biggest diamond in the world and a complete T. Rex skeleton, something you don’t get to see every day.
After expanding your mind a little bit you should get some brain food. Why not take a walk to Union Station? It is a beautiful Roman style working train station, with the arches representing a gateway to your future. Go down the escalator to see a floor level dedicated to food. The food court has great choices, and the prices are pretty tough to beat, an average of 6 bucks or less for each food stand, not bad for a whole plate filled with your choice of a meal. After a satisfying lunch, take a peak around the station, which holds several popular brand name stores; it’s like a mini- mall. After checking out some fashion, how about taking a walk just down the street to go inside the Library of Congress? This is only recommended if you’re into architecture and books, and it is FREE. An alternative path could be walking back to the National Lawn, from which you can walk right up to the Capital building and stare in awe. Keep on the lawn towards the unmistakable memorials: first the Washington Monument, then the Lincoln Monument and the Word War II Memorial. Each is absolutely beautiful close up and is FREE yet again. This would be about a 2 mile walk, which should not be that tough, since it is flat terrain. While you’re walking, notice all the Federal buildings and the architecture. DC is very unique in this way; it is a law that no building in D.C. can be taller than the Washington Memorial. Take your time, there is no rush- no plans or parents to tell you to hurry up, this is all at your own pace. You might spy the Jefferson Memorial across the street from the Lincoln Memorial. This scenic spot is a quick walk from the Lincoln and offers paddle boat rides in the spring and summer. The cost is 12 bucks an hour and the last rental is at 5 pm.
If you’re not interested, you can sit on the steps and enjoy the view, or be the unstoppable adventurer and walk back up the street to the nearest Metro station to hop on the Green line. Ride this until the stop called U Street/ Cardozo Station (it’s all one name, don’t worry there is an announcement made on board before every stop). This place is a vibrant location, teeming with street life, and home to the Original Ben’s Chili Bowl. So far, this place has received great reviews and is quite a hot spot- so why not pick up a $4 famous chili dog here? Walk east on U street and turn left on Sherman Ave NW and you will run into the 9:30 Club. Yep, this club has underage shows all the time, and is more than welcome as a host to teens under 18 years old. It is a highly recommended and respectable club; artists such as The Smashing Pumpkins, R.E.M., and Radiohead have performed there. Show prices vary from 8 bucks to 32 bucks, but it is not a waste of money; it is a small venue, which means you are going to be close to the stage and the view is great from any standing point. After rocking out the night, jump back on the metro to your original stop, then hop on the Orange line and ride it to Court House station, which takes you back to Arlington. There it is- a trip to D.C. that any teen can afford, now go out and explore!