Awash with culture and history, it's no surprise that the museums in D.C. are the best in the country. It is our nation's capital, after all. Few cities have museums so vast that have as much to offer as Washington, D.C. does. The district has dozens of free, fun, and family-friendly museums to visit. Washington has two museums on the World's Top 20 Most Visited Museums list. When visiting, you'll find no shortage of influential and informative exhibits in D.C.
One of the most sought-after experiences in D.C., the Air & Space museum tops to-do list year-after-year. Within three skylit galleries is a host of aircraft and spacecraft memorabilia. From Soviet-era missiles and space stations to a sample of moon rock, it has just about everything. You can learn about the history of jet aviation, of space travel, and communications all in one incredible place.
Two extensive buildings connect with a moving underground walkway making up the National Gallery of Art. This is a world-class museum has artwork from every corner of the globe. Spanning decades, you'll find everything from 13th Century art to renaissance and Flemish in the West Building. The East Building, on the other hand, caters to modern art including a 32-foot long installation by Alexander Calder. Unconvinced? The National Gallery of Art is also the only place in the Americas where you can see one of Leonardo da Vinci's works.
Part of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Portrait Gallery features iconic and historical figures who shaped our nation. The National Portrait Gallery is where you'll be able to see Andy Warhol's original Marilyn print. Not only that, portraits of anyone who was anyone, from George Washington to Pocahontas, are on the walls here. It also joins the American Art Museum where you'll find prominent works from American artists like Georgia O'Keefe.
The National Mall's newest edition, the Musem of African American History and Culture is already drawing in massive crowds. This is a collection that pays homage to historical figures and events that shape the African American experience. With 85,000 square feet of space and thousands of objects, it'll take a couple of days to see everything. The museum's exhibits are plentiful, and one of its biggest draws is the Musical Crossroads Exhibit. In this exhibit, you'll see Chuck Berry's legendary red Cadillac and Parliament Funkadelic's one-and-only Mothership.
Opening in 1993, the Holocaust Memorial Museum attracts thousands of yearly visitors. Over 900 artifacts occupy the themed exhibits of this three-story museum. These themes include tough, but necessary-to-learn topics like Nazi eugenics and the atrocities unfolded during WWII. Four theaters show archival footage and the testimony of survivors, bringing life to the photographs and items on display. The National Holocaust museum can be upsetting, but it's also an integral part of world history we all need to remember.
Found on the National Mall, visitors can explore every avenue of American history under a glorious atrium. Entertaining exhibits take visitors through the history of film and the country. From the original star-spangled banner Mary Pickersgill stitched to the ruby slippers Judy Garland wore in The Wizard of Oz, it has it all. Furthermore, the National Museum of American History is one of the most fun museums in the country. As a result, kids love it.
America's indigenous people have dealt with colonization and abuse, and the National Museum of the American Indian dedicates itself to them. Significant Native American artifacts such as ceremonial garments and headdresses line the walls of the flooring structure. Designed by a Native American team to resemble a wind-carved mesa, these extraordinary walls are a most noteworthy tribute. As a result, the actual building is as much of a message as its exhibitions. With more than 800,000 items, you'll need to take plenty of time out of your day to see it all.
With its instantly recognizable cylindrical design, the Hirshhorn Museum stands out from other museums on the National Mall. Originally built to house Wall Street millionaire Joseph Hirshhorn's art collection, it now contains an array of artistic media. Works on paper join paintings and digital art to make up one of America's primary contemporary art museums. Works by Picasso, Pollok, and Rothko feature in the collection, and its accompanying sculpture garden features works by Rodin and Koons.
Housing works by over 1000 women, the Museum of Women in the Arts is a unique look at the too-often-ignored. On top of that, it's also the only major museum in the world that exclusively celebrates the artistic achievements of women. Featured works stretch from the 16th century to more contemporary pieces all by a fascinating roster of female artists. Lavinia Fontana's dynamic Renaissance offering, "Holy Family with St. John" joins other iconic pieces like Frida Kahlo's "Between the Curtains" are museum highlights. Other artists also in the collection are Nan Goldin, Joan Snyder, Louise Bourgeois, and Alma Thomas.
Every important city has its Museum of Natural History. That said, even the domed appearance of D.C.'s contributes to its popularity. Washington's receives more foot traffic than even NYC's. Furthermore, this is before we even scratch the surface of the treasures that are inside. Its gem—a state-of-the-art IMAX theater—and an 80,000-square-foot steel and granite Discovery Center are just two of its best features. Inside of the museum, you'll find an eight-ton African elephant. It harks to the museum's 2003 extension: the Hall of Mammals which features almost 300 taxidermied animals. As well as animals, you can take a peek at the iconic Hope Diamond, bought by King Louis XIV of France. He bought it in 1668 and, to this day, it's one of the museum's most visited artifacts.