Washington DC is a hub for American politics and history. Attracting as many school field trips as it does travelers the district offers a peek into the country’s democratic origin. There are plenty of free museums to take advantage of but the real draw here is the memorials and monuments dedicated to great American leaders. Spend some contemplative time at the Reflecting Pool within the National Mall, among the most patriotic places in the country.
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4.5 based on 369 reviews
Founded in 1981 and opened in 1987, the National Museum of Women in the Arts is the only museum solely dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women in the visual, performing and literary arts. The museum's collection features 4,500 works from the 16th century to the present created by more than 1,000 artists, including Mary Cassatt, Frida Kahlo, Alma Thomas, Lee Krasner, Louise Bourgeois, Chakaia Booker and Nan Goldin, along with special collections of 18th-century silver tableware and botanical prints. NMWA is located at 1250 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C., In a landmark building near the White House.
We love this museum. They have a small but sensational gift shop which celebrates a mix of beautiful art objects and tstotchkes with liberal feminist attitude and humor (two things that don’t always go together). They had a special exhibit of Judy Chicago’s work on meditations about her own (and the planet’s) death. Not my favorite show of hers, but always worth seeing. The staff are friendly and helpful. The displays are easy to take in in an afternoon. And they have special events such as Sunday brunches once a month and weddings many weekends.
4.5 based on 4,278 reviews
The site of the April 14, 1865, assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, Ford's Theatre is a working theatre, historical monument, world-class museum and learning center. The theatre produces musicals and plays reflecting the unique, diverse character of American life. With its inspiring theatrical productions, live historic interpretation, and rich collection of artifacts, Ford’s is the premier destination in the nation’s capital to explore and celebrate the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln. A daytime visit can include the museum, theatre, Petersen House (the house where Lincoln died) and Aftermath Exhibits at the Center for Education and Leadership. Advance tickets are required (convenience fee). From September to May, Ford’s presents evening and matinee productions of renowned plays, vibrant musicals, and newly commissioned works that captivate and entertain while examining political and social issues related to Lincoln’s life and legacy.
I have been to DC many times but not taken the opportunity to visit Ford's Theater before now. The museum and park sevice tours are open to the public, tickets based on donations (at the visitors choice), and provide a combination of self guided museum tour and a ranger talk about the last day of Lincoln's life. The tour includes a visit to the house where Lincoln died, and a center for education exhibit on Lincoln's legacy. Take the time to see this site.
4.5 based on 194 reviews
A statue of The Lone Sailor peers over this memorial, which consists of a plaza bearing a granite world map flanked by waterfalls and fountains. The heritage center contains exhibits on naval history.
This Navy Memorial honors everyone who served in a US naval capacity. I entered my submariner husband in the Navy Log there so that his grandchildren, great grandchildren and those who come after will be able to connect with him and who he was, in years ahead. Registration was easy to do: just need a photo, with time and location noted, and basic information ( name, rank, serial number, etc). . Once entered in this archive the information can be brought up on computer’s there, and on your computer devices at home, anytime, anywhere. If you’ve been a Navy family the two statues there will be an emotional tug. The Lone Sailor and his Seabag stands outside on the Seven Seas plaza; and the “ Homecomig” statue of sailor, wife and child is inside in the archives area. Have a tissue in your pocket if they are a poingnant reminder of ‘ been there, done that’.
4.5 based on 3,498 reviews
Visitors can view the portraits of all the U.S. presidents.
You intended to visit the much-hyped International Spy Museum, only to discover the entrance mobbed with tourists and the $22.95/adult a bit above budget. So you glance across the street to a hulking Greek Revival style building apparently ignored by the mobs. Better take a closer look. You’ve stumbled onto the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum, unencumbered by the multitudes and…free. These two art galleries in the sprawling ex-U.S. patent office tend to be missed perhaps because the building is several blocks off Smithsonian central on the National Mall. Some people who have visited Washington over the years also may remember its location in a once-dubious neighborhood surrounded by pimps and addicts. Well, that was then. Now the area between F and G streets has been cleaned up and this museum ought to move to everyone’s A list. It’s become one of the city’s top art museums. The portrait gallery features American history as told through the presidents, George Washington to Barack Obama. That newest portrait is so popular staff had to set up ropes to control the line. The American art gallery side houses a vast collection of just about any kind of work you want to see, from Renaissance art (European but with a connection to the New World) to contemporary abstracts. Pottery, sculpture, folk art, glass-walled conservation demo room, charming covered courtyard—well, it’s clearly too much for the limited space. In fact, some of the art has been squeezed together top to bottom hanging from back-to-back boards on the nearly-ignored third level. Don’t miss that. The building itself features grand staircases, marble floors and dramatic skylights, architecture alone is worth a look. That it barely survived a tear-down plan during the philistine ‘50s makes it all the more amazing. To see everything requires several hours. But what the heck—come back again later. After all, it’s free. And mob-less. One possible concern: it doesn’t open until almost lunch time, 11:30 a.m. But it stays open until 7 p.m.
4.5 based on 24 reviews
I have stayed nearby this museum multiple trips without ever knowing this museum was here. I am sorry I missed it until now. The upstairs is a working office for National Guard and veteran support efforts, but the downstairs is the museum. The front doors are buzz in only, so ask at the intercom to be let in. The lobby of the downstairs museum has miniatures in glass cases showing national guard representations from each of the represented states. The Medal of Honor area was excellent with dioramas to help show the scenes in various stories about soldiers and what they did to receive the honor. The library is a nice area with many historical works. The main museum display is more like many other museums with displays and descriptions of the different approach to National Guard service through the ages. Quiet place with very few people wandering through at the same time.
4.5 based on 1,543 reviews
The Smithsonian American Art Museum shares its collections, programs, and exhibitions in two locations in Washington, DC. SAAM’s main building is located at the heart of a vibrant downtown cultural district.
I absolutely LOVED this museum, and could have stayed here for an entire day! The art they have on display is absolutely amazing and truly unique! The best piece in my opinion is the Electronic Superhighway: Continental USA-- completely amazing and different, I could have stayed and stared at it for hours! The portrait museum that's attached is equally outstanding-- between the two one could easily spend a solid day or two looking at everything. This is probably my favorite Smithsonian, and I guarantee that there is something here for everybody to enjoy!
4.5 based on 35 reviews
This former U.S. Patent Office houses the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
This historic building is a treasure trove of American art and portraiture. I love their annual exhibit, "One Life", which devotes a room to one famous person. This year it is Marian Anderson. They have an excellent exhibit on the suffragists who fought for "Votes for Women" as we prepare to celebrate the centenary of the 19th Amendment. As this museum is located off the National Mall in Penn Quarter, it is open later than the other Smithsonian museums. Enjoy the museum and then have dinner in Penn Quarter.
4.0 based on 653 reviews
The National Building Museum tells the stories of the world we design and build. We’re one of the most family-friendly, awe-inspiring spots in Washington, D.C. The Museum offers something for everyone, from children to design buffs to building professionals. Learn about the Museum’s historic home during a free docent-led tour, offered daily. Docents also lead tours of exhibitions. Our 75-foot Corinthian columns are the country’s tallest.
Great place to visit on any day, in any weather. The beautiful atrium is a sight to behold, and fun for an indoor picnic, and place for kids to run around and play. The exhibitions range from hands-on play areas (fun for everyone), to the history of Washington D.C. architecture, to rotating exhibits that are sure the fascinate the artist, historian and architect inside you.
4.0 based on 5,391 reviews
The new International Spy Museum at L'Enfant Plaza is now open! With interactive exhibitions and installations, the foremost collection of spy artifacts in the world, and first-person accounts from top intelligence officers and experts, the reimagined Spy Museum offers interactive experiences for adults and children alike to step into the shoes of a spy and test their skills!
Took our kids and grandkids to Washington, DC for two weeks. We got advance tickets on line for this attraction, and did the Mission as well as the Museum. The staff make the Mission a lot of fun, and the museum is really well done with displays and story boards. At the end, there is a special room where clips of James Bond movies are shown. Very entertaining.
4.0 based on 3 reviews
Built in 1876 and restored and rededicated in 1970, the historic synagogue is now stewarded by the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington. It is open for educational tours, programs, and life-cycle events. Our exhibitions are displayed in venues throughout the region to preserve the authentic feel of the historic space. Contact us to book a tour or rent the sanctuary! The historic synagogue, the oldest in the Washington area, is home to the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum. Built by Adas Israel Congregation, President Ulysses S. Grant attended the synagogue's dedication in 1876. The congregation outgrew the building in a few decades and sold the building.It stood at Sixth & G Streets, NW, for more than 90 years before being slated for demolition. The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington helped save the building from the wrecking ball, and in 1969, it was moved three blocks to its present site. Community contributions and a gift from Lillian and Albert Small helped restore the synagogue.
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