Visit one of the many Washington D.C. museums and galleries to get an unapologetic look into the history, innovation and tenacity of this young nation. From challenging modern art to space exploration and espionage, each museum and gallery provides an in-depth insight into American culture.
Many of the museums fall under the collective banner of the Smithsonian Institution, which gives you free access to 17 separate venues. Depending on which ones you visit, you can spend time broadening your horizons on subjects from the origins of man to the future of flight.
Most museums and art galleries are conveniently located within close proximity of the city centre and provide a veritable treasure chest of information and fascinating facts.
Described as a museum that goes ‘above and beyond’, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is home to exhibitions and collections that chart the history and progression of aviation. With a focus on the invention and development of flight – both in and out of this world – here you’ll find the largest and most significant collection of aviation and space artefacts in the world, including the Apollo 11 command module.
Opened in 2002, the International Spy Museum offers an intriguing glimpse into the secretive world of espionage. This usually invisible profession is laid out for all to see through a huge collection of artefacts that wouldn’t look out of place in a James Bond film – think guns disguised as torches and cameras hidden in combs. Fortunately, the museum itself isn’t difficult to find, located in the Penn Quarter.
From cursed diamonds to a life-sized display of human evolution, the National Museum of Natural History is home to over 125 impressive specimens, cultural artefacts, and most famous relics in the world. Enjoy interactive displays and enough facts to blow your mind. Find the Museum of Natural History on the National Mall.
In an era of spin and fake news, Washington D.C.’s Newseum seems more relevant than ever. Highlighting and defending the importance of free expression, there are seven levels of interactive displays to explore, including 15 galleries and 15 theatres. See exhibits from historic newsworthy events like sections of the Berlin Wall and the broadcast antenna from the top of the World Trade Centre.
Spanning the neoclassical West Building and the contemporary East Building, the National Gallery of Art features thousands of significant artworks and sculptures dating from the Renaissance up to the present day. Each piece at the gallery has been privately donated or loaned to the National Gallery of Art for display. Expect to see European and American masterpieces. The National Gallery of Art is located on Constitution Avenue.
The National Museum of African American History is another venue run by the Smithsonian Institution. Opened in 2016, it’s dedicated to documenting the African American experience –covering slavery and the civil rights movement – and tackles the bigger theme of what it means to be an American. Be prepared to spend a good amount of time here, as there are over 3,500 artefacts covering everything from African American music to politics to athletics.
As a living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is designed to inspire people to confront hatred and promote human dignity. The museum includes items, personal histories and footage from the Holocaust. It also extends to more recent events in Cambodia with a message to prevent history from repeating itself. You’ll find the Holocaust Memorial Museum on the National Mall, just south of Independence Avenue.