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9 free (or almost free) New Year's events in Washington, D.C.

From an augmented reality experience to comedy nights to an architectural tour

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Forget the bars and the restaurants. Ditch the expensive cover charges. It’s time to let go a little, but not break the bank while doing it. If interested in searching for events this weekend in Washington, D.C., that are fun and unique, but affordable, Curbed DC has put together this map.

Expect everything from comedy nights to interactive art installations to a refreshing 5K worth joining the Mayor in. Were there any events left off? Let Curbed DC know in the comments.

Note: The following events have been ordered geographically, from the most north to the most south.

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Eater maps are curated by editors and aim to reflect a diversity of neighborhoods, cuisines, and prices. Learn more about our editorial process.

Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Planetarium

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On Saturday and Sunday, the Rock Creek Park planetarium will offer two free events, “Winter Night Sky” at 1 p.m. and “Exploring the Universe” at 4 p.m. Here, guests will be able to explore the planets, constellations, and galaxies of the night sky.

Photo via Shutterstock/TooTallEd

Washington National Cathedral

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On Friday, one of Washington, D.C.’s tallest and most magnificent houses of worship will open its doors with a tour. This tour will discuss the history of the National Cathedral’s gargoyles as well as Constantine Seferlis, the sculptor who devoted nearly 20 years to carving the church’s stone. The cost of the tour is $25.

Photo via Shutterstock/Orhan Cam

The Wonderland Ballroom

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At the end of the year, why not laugh it up at one of D.C.’s most popular dive bars? On December 31 at 8 p.m., there will be a free comedy show. Seating is on a first come, first served basis.

A post shared by Patrick Landis (@poodzlife) on

ZooLights

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Once again, the Smithsonian National Zoological Park is aglow with more than 500,000 LED lights, offering a dazzling display of festive exhibits and kid-friendly games and activities. The light display will be closed on December 31, but will be open on January 1, which is the final day of the annual event.

Smithsonian National Zoological Park Holds 'Zoolights' Holiday Display Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Georgetown GLOW

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Through January 7, Georgetown will light up the night at several locations with a variety of art installations, including neon sculptures and projected videos. These free public displays are lit from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. every night, presented by the Georgetown Business Improvement District. For a look at where all of the installations are located and what to expect from each of them, head to Curbed DC here.

“Open Lounge,” created by Géraud Périole in collaboration with Light Art Collection and Amsterdam Light Festival.
Photo via Geraud Periole, courtesy of the Georgetown Business Improvement District

The Big Hunt

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For $25, enjoy the final moments of 2017 at one of Dupont Circle’s dive bars, The Big Hunt, with this comedy show. The show is on December 29 at 8 p.m. with seating on a first come, first served basis.

U.S. Botanic Garden

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Every year, the U.S. Botanic Garden hosts a no-cost holiday exhibit, called “Season’s Greenings,” that transforms the conservatory into a festive display with miniature D.C. landmarks and a variety of poinsettias. This year, the theme is “Roadside Attractions,” offering guests the chance to see model trains traveling through 40 recreations of national tourist sites, made from plants and other natural materials. The event will run through January 1 and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Botanic Garden Photo via Bob Stovall

ARTECHOUSE

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Get your tickets early for this interactive installation, located in the recently opened digital art space, known as ARTECHOUSE. Running through January 7, this immersive venue is equipped with augmented reality experiences, digital graphics, and holiday-themed cocktails.

A post shared by Kelly McLaughlin (@kellymcl) on

FitDC Fresh Start 5K

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Mayor Muriel Bowser will join hundreds of D.C. residents on this 5K on Monday, January 1. The free walk and run event will have registration begin at 9 a.m. with the run starting at 10 a.m. Every participant will receive a commemorative shirt and a free one day membership pass to any of the VIDA Fitness locations in Washington, D.C.

Anacostia Park Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Tim Evanson

Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Planetarium

On Saturday and Sunday, the Rock Creek Park planetarium will offer two free events, “Winter Night Sky” at 1 p.m. and “Exploring the Universe” at 4 p.m. Here, guests will be able to explore the planets, constellations, and galaxies of the night sky.

Photo via Shutterstock/TooTallEd

Washington National Cathedral

On Friday, one of Washington, D.C.’s tallest and most magnificent houses of worship will open its doors with a tour. This tour will discuss the history of the National Cathedral’s gargoyles as well as Constantine Seferlis, the sculptor who devoted nearly 20 years to carving the church’s stone. The cost of the tour is $25.

Photo via Shutterstock/Orhan Cam

The Wonderland Ballroom

At the end of the year, why not laugh it up at one of D.C.’s most popular dive bars? On December 31 at 8 p.m., there will be a free comedy show. Seating is on a first come, first served basis.

A post shared by Patrick Landis (@poodzlife) on

ZooLights

Once again, the Smithsonian National Zoological Park is aglow with more than 500,000 LED lights, offering a dazzling display of festive exhibits and kid-friendly games and activities. The light display will be closed on December 31, but will be open on January 1, which is the final day of the annual event.

Smithsonian National Zoological Park Holds 'Zoolights' Holiday Display Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Georgetown GLOW

Through January 7, Georgetown will light up the night at several locations with a variety of art installations, including neon sculptures and projected videos. These free public displays are lit from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. every night, presented by the Georgetown Business Improvement District. For a look at where all of the installations are located and what to expect from each of them, head to Curbed DC here.

“Open Lounge,” created by Géraud Périole in collaboration with Light Art Collection and Amsterdam Light Festival.
Photo via Geraud Periole, courtesy of the Georgetown Business Improvement District

The Big Hunt

For $25, enjoy the final moments of 2017 at one of Dupont Circle’s dive bars, The Big Hunt, with this comedy show. The show is on December 29 at 8 p.m. with seating on a first come, first served basis.

U.S. Botanic Garden

Every year, the U.S. Botanic Garden hosts a no-cost holiday exhibit, called “Season’s Greenings,” that transforms the conservatory into a festive display with miniature D.C. landmarks and a variety of poinsettias. This year, the theme is “Roadside Attractions,” offering guests the chance to see model trains traveling through 40 recreations of national tourist sites, made from plants and other natural materials. The event will run through January 1 and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Botanic Garden Photo via Bob Stovall

ARTECHOUSE

Get your tickets early for this interactive installation, located in the recently opened digital art space, known as ARTECHOUSE. Running through January 7, this immersive venue is equipped with augmented reality experiences, digital graphics, and holiday-themed cocktails.

A post shared by Kelly McLaughlin (@kellymcl) on

FitDC Fresh Start 5K

Mayor Muriel Bowser will join hundreds of D.C. residents on this 5K on Monday, January 1. The free walk and run event will have registration begin at 9 a.m. with the run starting at 10 a.m. Every participant will receive a commemorative shirt and a free one day membership pass to any of the VIDA Fitness locations in Washington, D.C.

Anacostia Park Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Tim Evanson