Tudor Place Historic House & Garden
Martha Custis Peter, Martha Washingtons granddaughter, had this historic house built in 1816 by Dr. William Thornton, the architect who also built the U.S. Capitol. In addition to its gardens and home walking tours, Tudor Place has a vast array of artifacts from Martha and George Washingtons personal items, including one of only three surviving letters between George and Martha. Admission is $10 for adults $8 for seniors, military and students $3 for kids ages 6 to 17 and free for children 5 and under.
This impressive mansion built in the early 1800s was purchased in 1920 by an avid art-collecting couple, Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss. It features well-appointed galleries of Byzantine and Pre-Columbian art, European works in the Bliss-commissioned Music Room and regular programming. The exquisite on-site gardens, open mid-March through October, have been showered in praise . Admission to the museum is free.
Smithsonians National Museum Of African Art
Explore the only national museum of African Art. Take in vibrant artwork from numerous African nations and cultures.
Ouroboros sculpture in the National Museum of African Art
| Museum Website | Cost: Free | Hours: Daily 10 AM to 5:30 PM
The National Museum of African Art is a gem in Washington DCs collection of museums. Its actually the only national museum devoted to African artwork. You can get to the museum by taking a pleasant walk through the Enid Haupt Garden.
The art collection consists of both modern and contemporary art from multiple African nations. They also hold plenty of educational and cultural events throughout the year. Admission to this Washington DC museum is free and theres no need to book a timed entry pass!
Its located on the National Mall between the Smithsonian Arts & Industries building and the Sackler Gallery of Art. Metro is the easiest way to get there since street parking fills up fast. Stop at the Smithsonian station or the Lenfant station to get there and take a quick walk.
Powerful Partnerships: Civil War
From the Mathew Brady Studio comes the compelling photographs of the 19th-century’s most influential couples. The National Portrait Gallery show includes the visages of President Ulysses S. Grant and his wife Julia, as well as generals Nathaniel Banks and George McClellan and their wives Mary Banks and Ellen McClellan and explorer and military officer John C. Frémont and his wife Jessie Benton Frémont, a writer and activist. As famous as any of them was the actor Charles Stratton, better known by his stage name, Gen. Tom Thumb. He and his wife Lavinia, also a circus performer, met while they were both working for P.T. Barnum. .
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Subversive Skilled Sublime: Fiber Art By Women Smithsonian American Art Museum
Faith Ringgold, Sheila Hicks and Emma Amos are among the artists who mastered and subverted the everyday fabric materials of cotton, felt and wool to create artworks that were deeply personal and presented what the museum calls an alternative history of 20th century American art. All the pieces will be drawn from the Smithsonian American Art Museums permanent collection.
What Is The Smithsonian Institution
Collectively called the Smithsonian Institution, the world-renowned museum and research complex consists of 17 museums and galleries in Washington, DC, including the National Zoo. From the origins of man at the Natural History Museum to the future of space travel at the Air and Space Museum , Smithsonian museums are a guide to the most fascinating aspects of our world. The museum collection contains more than 150 million objects, works of art and specimens altogether. And the best part: you wont have to pay a penny to experience it as admission is free at every location.
At the center of it all is the Smithsonian Institution Building, better known as “The Castle”. The vital information point makes for a perfect meet-up spot, and its Americas Treasure Chest exhibit inspires all with a sneak peek at the types of artifacts displayed in all of the museums. Dont leave without paying your respects at the crypt of English scientist James Smithson, who, upon his death, gave every last penny he had to establish the Smithsonian Institution.
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A Turf Battle May Loom On The National Mall But Secretary Lonnie Bunch Hopes To Limit The Hurdles For Institutions Devoted To Latino Culture And Womens History
An aerial view of the National Mall in Washington, DC. Sites there are being considered for new museums devoted to Latino culture and women’s history, but space is at a premium Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution
In his book A Fools Errand, the often-harrowing tale of his 11-year mission to create the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Lonnie Bunch recalls sitting down with a Smithsonian Institution oversight committee to discuss planning. At the time, the museum, approved by Congress in 2003, had no site, architect, staff, collection or budget.
The mood was not encouraging. To me, the gathering should have been named the slow it down, we did not really want to do this committee, the African American museums founding director wrote. Often it felt as if the groups function was to criticise, grouse and stonewall while wringing their hands at the task before them. Bunch prevailed, opening the majestic $540m museum designed by David Adjaye in 2016 on the National Mall in Washington, DC, and it has proved a resounding success with visitors and scholars.
Now, the Smithsonian faces the gargantuan task of launching two more museums, the National Museum of the American Latino and the American Womens History Museum, and Bunch is determined to help their future directors navigate the bureaucratic and financial hurdles. Legislation creating the museums was approved by Congress last December after decades-long campaigns by proponents.
Art Museums & Galleries
DC has a number of art museums to cover an array of tastes. We have a guide to the art museums of DC here.
- American Art Museum– This is the nation’s first collection of American art and is home to one of the largest and most inclusive collections of American art in the world. here
- African Art– This is the only national museum in the United States dedicated to the collection, exhibition, conservation, and study of the arts of Africa and the exhibits expand all of Africa in its examples of traditional and contemporary art.
- Portrait Gallery– This museum balances both traditional and contemporary art exhibits, and is best known for housing the largest collection of presidential portraits outside of the White House.
- Archives of American Art– With over 16 million items and growing, this is the world’s largest and most widely used resource dedicated to collecting and preserving the papers and primary records of the visual arts in America.
- Freer Gallery of Art & Sackler Gallery– These are the Smithsonian’s two Asian art museums.
- Hirshhorn– If you love contemporary art, this one’s for you. The unique cylindrical building is impossible to miss and houses unique contemporary art and includes a sunken sculpture garden.
- Renwick Gallery– This museum is located right across from the White House and houses contemporary art. It is also the first building in the United States built specifically to be an art museum.
Don’t Miss: Union Pacific Museum Gift Shop
Thomas Jefferson Building Library Of Congress
Where are the books? Thats the first question everyone asks when entering the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress on Capitol Hill, the worlds largest library. Indeed, the Grand Hall resembles a veritable Italian-Renaissance palazzo rather than a library, with marble statues, mural mosaics, and architectural flourishes. You can peer down on the octagonal Main Reading Room, with 250 desks beneath a towering dome, while side galleries contain permanent and temporary exhibits pulling from the librarys vast collection. More than 39 million books are tucked away on approximately 838 miles of shelves.
General Admission: Free
INSIDER TIPThe Library of Congress, perched across the street from the Capitol, is surrounded by many noble marble buildings and flowery townhouses. Take a Capitol Hill Walk, best on a sunny spring day. General Admission: Free. Timed entry passes are required sign up here.
This Present Moment: Crafting A Better World At The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery
The Renwick Gallery may be small, but it is a mighty museum hosting exhibits that always pack a punch. This Present Moment is no different, as it spotlights activism and resilience in art. The exhibit focuses in particular on women, people of color, and other underrepresented and marginalized populations, featuring nearly 150 artworks from the Smithsonian American Art Museums permanent collection and 135 new acquisitions making their public debut.Dates: Now through April 2How to visit: The museum is open daily from 10 am to 5:30 pm.
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Sport Aviation At The Steven F Udvar
At the Virginia outpost of the National Air and Space Museum, lovers of all things aerial can explore the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center and its wealth of exhibits. Sport Aviation brings together a celebration of flying for pleasure rather than military, commercial, or business purposes. Youll be able to see a range of aircrafts designed by companies including Beechcraft, Cessna, Piper, who made flying far more accessible and economical to much of the world.Dates: Ongoing
Dakota Modern: The Art Of Oscar Howe National Museum Of The American Indian Heye Center New York City
The innovative 20th century Native American artist Oscar Howe embraced abstraction in his paintings even as he included traditional elements of Sioux culture. He influenced a movement among Native artists to express their individuality rather than conforming to established styles that limited artistic expression. .
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Are Any Museums In Dc Free
Most museums in Washington DC are completely free. In many cases, you will need a timed entry pass to get in which can be found on that museums website or by going to the museum entrance in person. The museums in DC that do charge a fee are reasonably priced below $30 per person.
I hope Ive helped you find some of the best museums in DC. Have fun exploring Washington DC!
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The National Law Enforcement Museum
The National Law Enforcement Museum is a new edition to DCs renowned lineup of museums. The state-of-the-art facility memorializes American law enforcement and is aptly located in Judiciary Square, near federal and municipal courthouses. More than 20,000 objects tell the story of this countrys law enforcers, including the past, present and future. Featured historic artifacts include J. Edgar Hoovers desk and Al Capones vest. Visitors can also participate in a training simulator and pay their respects in the Hall of Remembrance. The museum is open from Sunday Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with hours extending until 9 p.m. on Thursday.
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Smithsonian American Art Museum/smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
You get two museums in one at this celebration of American art, occupying the glorious Greek Revival Old Patent Office in Penn Quarter. Smithsonians American Art Museum exults more than three centuries of art, serving as an unparalleled record of the American experience. Works range from Early America to Western Art to Impressionism to Modernism and include photography, modern folk and self-taught art, African American Art, Latino art, and video games. Highlights include the worlds largest collection of New Deal art, a fine collection of American impressionism , and Albert Bierstadts celebratory Western landscapes. Youll find the only complete collection of presidential portraits outside the White House at the adjoining Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, but these arent necessarily their official portraits. Some are staged others are just fun. Look for Grover Clevelands portrait in French Impressionist style, Bill Clintons abstract portrayal by Chuck Close, and the most recent, the hugely symbolic portraits of former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, by artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, respectively.
INSIDER TIPThe museums Kogod Courtyard, with a canopy by Norman Foster, a snack bar, and free WiFi, is a favorite hang-out spot.
General Admission: Free
I Dream A World: Selections From Brian Lankers Portraits Of Remarkable Black Women National Portrait Gallery
Maya Angelou, Lena Horne, Barbara Jordan, Rosa Parks, Leontyne Price and Alice Walker are among the famous faces that appeared in a popular 1989 book by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Brian Lanke,I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America. Those and other images of women who made their contributions in writing, activism, theater, athletics or journalism will be presented at the National Portrait Gallery in a two-part show that will run for more than a year. .
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Sea Monsters Unearthed: Life In Angolas Ancient Seas At The National Museum Of Natural History
Thanks to Angola scientists, we can now explore the fossils of real-life sea monsters who roamed the South Atlantic Ocean basin 120 million years ago. This exhibit allows you to explore modern Angolas fossil-filled cliffs and better understand the evolutionary, geological, and environmental forces that shaped life in the ocean.Dates: Now until 2023
Smithsonian National Museum Of Natural History
Discover the worlds greatest natural wonders! Fossils, diamonds, reptiles, super germs, and the rise of mankind. Built for curious humans of all ages.
| Museum Website | Cost: Free | Hours: seven days a week 10 AM- 5:30 PM
The natural history museum is one of the best museums in Washington DC. Upon entering the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History youre greeted by its iconic taxidermied African Bush Elephant. This is one of many natural wonders of the world contained in its three floors.
Theres everything from dinosaur fossils, mammals, sea monsters, and even live insects. Some of the main attractions here are the Hope Diamond, an Easter Island Moai statue, and the Hall of Fossils.
As one of the most popular museums on the National Mall, this place is always crowded. At any given time its filled with school groups and visiting tourists. Your best bet is to make this free museum your first stop of the day and make a beeline to the exhibits on your list.
Theyre open seven days a week and the fastest way to get there is by taking the metro to the Federal Triangle station.
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Museum Of African American History And Culture
The National Museum of African American History and Culture chronicles Americas journey toward enshrining freedom, equality and democracy for all citizens. The museum houses a collection of more than 37,000 pieces related to a variety of areas, including slavery, segregation and civil rights as well as family, religion and the performing arts.
Baseball: Americas Home Run At The National Postal Museum
This massively underrated museum deserves a visit any time of year, but now that a delayed exhibit paying homage to Americas favorite pastime is on display, theres no better time to visit the National Postal Museum. Baseball: Americas Home Run features hundreds of stamps celebrating some of baseballs brightest stars like Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth, as well as objects loaned by other Smithsonian museums and the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and some memorabilia making its first public debut.Dates: Now through January 2025How to visit: The museum is open daily from 10 am to 5:30 pm.
Elsie Yang is a contributor for Thrillist. Follow her on
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Smithsonian Museum Of Natural History
Ever wonder if theres any truth to the curse of the famous Hope Diamond? Or wish you could see for yourself the fossils of an ancient mammal or a dinosaur? Then step inside the Smithsonians National Museum of Natural History. Millions of people come each year to get a close look at some of the worlds most intriguing, beguiling specimens that the Museum has on display.
Smithsonian National Museum Of African American History & Culture
Delve into African American History with over 40,000 artifacts ranging from enslavement, emancipation, and the civil rights movement, up to modern history.
African American History Museum at Sunrise
| Museum Website | Cost: Free but requires a timed pass | Hours: Daily 10 AM to 5:30 PM
This Smithsonian museum was a highly anticipated addition to Chocolate Citys collection of museums even before it opened in 2016. Their free timed passes were almost impossible to get for the first year. Even now, you risk not getting a timed pass if you wait too long. Its quickly become one of the most visited museums on the National Mall.
There are over 85,000 feet of exhibition space, so you likely wont get through the whole thing in one day. This museum doesnt cut any cards when retelling the pained experiences of Black people in this country. It also doesnt skip over their achievements, resilience, and power. As such, you should come prepared for a moving experience.
As you work your way up the building, you make the journey from oppression to triumph. Its a masterpiece in storytelling told through a collection of over 40,000 artifacts. Your time here isnt complete without visiting The Sweet Home Cafe. It ties African American history to the food culture behind traditional dishes.
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National Museum Of African American History And Culture
The epic National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall opened in 2016 to great fanfare, immediately becoming one of the top Washington D.C. attractions. You start at the lowest level, in the depths of the earth, symbolizing the devastating journey formerly enslaved people took from Africa into a life of servitude. The exhibits spanning the Civil War, Restoration, Jim Crow era, the Civil Rights movement, and moredont shy away from the horrific realities, forcing visitors to examine some brutal truths of Americas very foundation. On the upper levels, African-American arts and culture are celebrated with original artifacts, including Louis Armstrongs trumpet and Marian Andersons red-orange silk dress, which she wore while singing at her famous Easter Sunday concert in 1939 at the Lincoln Memorial .
General Admission: free.
INSIDER TIPTimed passes are required for entry. Passes can be reserved online up to 30 days in advance reserve them here. Same-day timed-entry passes are released at 8 AM daily.