The nation’s capital boasts some of the best museums in the world. And thankfully, many of them are free! Whether you are looking for some tried and true favorites, or some off the beaten path museums, this list of the best museums in DC will definitely help you plan your next visit to Washington, D.C.
And, as you browse through our collection, remember, even though you may have visited one of these museums in the past, temporary and traveling exhibits ensure that many of these museums are fresh year after year. Another great city filled with some amazing museums as well is New York City. So after you finish reading this article, checkout our list of the best museums in NYC as well.
List of the Best Museums in DC
Three floors high, the Holocaust Museum’s permanent exhibition showcases a narrative history of the Holocaust complete with photographs, film footage, personal objects, and eyewitness testimonies. The museum also details some of the other horrific genocides the modern world has seen and teaches visitors about the dangers of hatred and the necessity of preventing future genocides.
From presidents to villains, the National Portrait Gallery features individuals who have shaped the culture of the United States. Visitors can learn more about these individuals through art, theater, artifacts, and media. The National Portrait Gallery is a must see for anyone interested in America’s culture.
With over 1.5 million square feet, the National Museum of Natural History, a part of the Smithsonian Institution, features everything from dinosaurs to gemstones. As the site of the popular movie “Night at the Museum”, the Natural History Museum is also an easily recognizable space that kids will enjoy.
With one of the most extensive Native American art and artifacts collections in the world, the National Museum of the American Indian showcases over 1200 indigenous cultures from the Americas. With collaborations from tribes and communities across the Americas, the museum is a great way to gain a sense and spirit of Native America.
Located on the National Mall, the National Gallery of Art, along with its attached sculpture garden, is home to the only da Vinci painting in the Americas. Free to the public, the gallery traces the development of Western Art beginning from the Middle Ages and stretching to the present. For an impressive collection of Western Art, the National Gallery is definitely a must-see.
Housed in two buildings (the larger in DC), the National Air and Space Museum features aviation, space, and planetary science exhibits. With full-scale flight artifacts and a number of programs, educational activities, performances, and lectures, the Air and Space Museum is a hit with both children and adults.
With six levels, Newseum highlights the history of news reporting from the 16th century to the present. Extremely interactive, the museum features 15 different theaters, as well as a 4D immersive movie experience. While the entrance fee ($20) can be off putting, the quality of the museum definitely makes for a good investment.
Originally located in the former home of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, the National Museum of African Art is now a part of the National Mall. With an emphasis on the visual arts of Africa, the museum also houses the Warren M. Robbins Library, one of the premier research centers for African visual arts.
With innovative and interactive multimedia exhibits, the Koshland Science Museum is a thought provoking museum that appeals to both teens and adults. The museum’s design encourages visitors to work collaboratively and solve problems scientifically. Exhibits include an earth lab, a life lab, and an idea lab.
With more than 3 million artifacts collected and preserved, the National Museum of American History houses iconic American artifacts like Abe Lincoln’s top hat and Dorothy’s ruby slippers. On top of the already massive collection, the museum also showcases a number of temporary and traveling exhibitions, allowing return visitors to experience something new on almost every visit.
Housed in the former Washington DC post office (1914-1986), the National Postal Museum features five different permanent exhibits that give the postal history of the United States. In addition to exhibition space, the museum also features a 6000 square foot research library, as well as a stamp store.
Best Museums in DC Conclusion
Whether you are planning a trip to the nations capital or already reside there, this list of the best museums in DC should not be overlooked. So decide on a few of the museums listed above and make a trip out of it, we promise that you will not be disappointed!
We would love to hear how your experience was in the comments below, so please feel free to share.