Are you looking for the best museums in Washington DC? You are in the right place.
In this article, we will walk you through museums to see in Washington DC, and tell you everything you need to know to enjoy your visit.
Known for its rich history and culture, this city is an ideal location for museums. The city is home to a wide variety of museums that showcase everything from art and history to science and technology.
So grab a coffee, get yourself comfy, and let us walk you through the most popular museums in Washington DC.
How Many Museums Are There In Washington DC?
According to the city’s tourist website, there are over 70 museums in Washington DC. This includes all types of museums. From the Smithsonian Institution to smaller, more specialized museums like the National Postal Museum.
It is safe to say that when it comes to museums DC has so many to explore. The ‘city of museums’ has plentiful options for you to explore.
Are The Museums In Washington DC Free?
Many of the museums in Washington are free to the public, thanks to funding from the federal government. The Smithsonian Institution, which operates 19 museums and galleries in the city, does not charge admission at any of its locations.
The list of Smithsonian museums is endless. Included are the National Museum of American History, the National Air and Space Museum, and the National Museum of Natural History.
Many other museums in the city offer free admission. Our research shows that there are 50 free museums in Washington DC.
However, some museums in the city do charge admission fees. The International Spy Museum and the National Building Museum are two examples.
It is important to note that even for museums that offer free admission, there may be additional costs. Special exhibitions, guided tours, or certain events can be charged extra. We suggest you check the museum’s website to confirm the admission policies and any potential additional fees.
What Is The Most Popular Smithsonian in DC?
It should be no surprise that one of the most popular musuem in DC is one of the Smithsonian Museums. The Smithsonian Institution is the largest museum and research complex in the world.
Based on annual visitation figures, the National Museum of Natural History is the most popular Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C. Millions of visitors flock through its doors a year.
It is the eighth most visited museum in the world according to 2021. It is also the second most visited natural History musuem in the world.
Best Museums In Washington DC You Must See
National Portrait Gallery
Part of the Smithsonian Institution the National Portrait Gallery is one of the free museums in Washington DC. No list of museums in Washington DC would be complete without this place.
Set up in 1962 by an Act Of Congress the museum showcases portraits of individuals who have made significant contributions to American history and culture. The portraits span over 500 years of history.
The museum is housed in the historic 1867 Old Patent Office Building. In the 1960s the building was renovated to house the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The gallery includes over 23,000 portraits, ranging from paintings and sculptures to photographs and video installations. The museum’s collection is divided into several categories, including “American Origins,” “The Struggle for Justice,” and “Fame and Celebrity.”
One of the most popular exhibits at the National Portrait Gallery is the “America’s Presidents” exhibit. It features portraits of every U.S. president from George Washington to Joe Biden.
The museum offers guided tours, audio tours, and interactive exhibits and has a gift shop and cafe. This is one of the best Washington DC museums.
African American Museum
This is one of Washington DC’s top museums. It is a powerful and informative museum that showcases the history and contributions of African Americans in the United States.
Established by an Act of Congress in 2003 the goal of the museum is to document and preserve the history and culture of African Americans. Designed by architect David Adjaye it opened to the public on September 24, 2016. Since its opening, the museum has welcomed millions of visitors from around the world.
The collection includes over 36,000 artifacts, ranging from photographs and documents to musical instruments and clothing. The museum’s exhibits are divided into several categories, including “Slavery and Freedom,” “Segregation and Civil Rights,” and “A Changing America.”
One of the most popular exhibits at the musuem is the “Cultural Expressions” exhibit. This exhibit showcases the contributions of African Americans to music, literature, and the arts. The exhibit includes artifacts such as Louis Armstrong’s trumpet and Langston Hughes’ typewriter.
This is one of the best museums in Washington DC and should be high on your list.
The International Spy Museum
Interested in espionage and spy craft and all things covert then this is one of the museums in the DC area that you will want to see. The museum offers a unique and immersive experience that takes visitors through the history of espionage and spycraft.
Founded in 2002 by Milton Maltz and his wife Tamar the musuem moved to bigger premises in 2019 due to its popularity. The museum’s collection includes over 7,000 artifacts related to espionage. Items range from spy gadgets and weapons to intelligence documents and photographs.
The exhibits are divided into several categories, including “The Secret History of History,” “Spies Among Us,” and “Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains.” One of the most popular exhibits is “Operation Spy,”. This is an interactive experience that allows visitors to role-play as intelligence officers and complete a mission. I mean how much fun does that sound!
When it comes to cool museums in DC they don’t get much better than this. This is one of the best DC museums. It does charge an entrance fee but most agree it is worth the price.
National Gallery Of Art
One of the premier art museums in the States this is one of the most popular museums in Washington DC. With an extensive collection of American and European art, this museum is a great way to spend an afternoon. Make sure a visit here is on your Washington itinerary.
Established in 1937 the museum opened to the public in 1941 and has since become one of the most important art institutions in the country. The art here ranges from the Middle Ages to the present day.
Some of the museum’s most famous works include Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of Ginevra de Benci, Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, and Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait. The collection also includes works by Rembrandt, Raphael, Titian, and many other famous artists.
This is one of the best art museums in Washington DC and should be high on your list of must-visits.
Natural History Museum
This is the most popular Smithsonian museum and when you visit you will see why. Dedicated to the study of the natural world it is the best Smithsonian museum and one of the big museums in Washington DC.
Founded in 1910 it is one of the oldest and largest museums in the world.
The museum has over 145 million specimens, including plants, animals, fossils, minerals, and cultural artifacts. Some of the museum’s most famous exhibits include the Hope Diamond, the giant squid, and the African elephant. It also features exhibits on human evolution, the oceans, and the diversity of life on Earth.
Whether you’re interested in dinosaurs, gems, or human evolution, the National Museum of Natural History is worth a visit. It is one of Washington DC’s top museums.
Museum Of The American Indian
This is a unique and informative institution that explores the history and culture of Native American peoples. Founded in 1989 it is part of the Smithsonian Institution. It is one of the free museums to see in Washington DC.
The museum has an extensive collection of over 800,000 objects. This includes traditional clothing, jewelry, tools, and artwork created by Native American communities from across North, Central, and South America. The museum’s collection also includes documents and photographs that shed light on the history and cultural practices of Indigenous peoples.
It’s an informative museum that is important to visit considering America’s past. This is one of the best museums in Washington DC.
National Air And Space Museum
Founded in 1946 this is one of the most popular Smithsonian museums and is free to enter.
The National Air and Space Museum has an extensive collection of over 60,000 objects, including aircraft, spacecraft, rockets, satellites, and related equipment. The museum’s exhibits cover the history of flight and space exploration, from the early days of aviation to the latest advances in technology.
Some of the best exhibits in Washington DC are here. The collection includes the original Wright Brothers’ Flyer, the Apollo 11 Command Module, and the Space Shuttle Discovery. Like most museums, it also hosts a variety of temporary exhibits throughout the year. Recent exhibitions have included “Destination Moon,” which featured artifacts from the Apollo 11 mission.
This is the best Smithsonian museum for anyone interested in the history of flight and space exploration. Whether you’re interested in learning more about the Wright Brothers’ pioneering flight, the Space Race, or the latest advances in aviation and space technology, this musuem is worth a visit.
Museum Of The Bible
Yes, there is a bible museum in Washington DC. It explores the history, impact, and narrative of the Bible.
Established by the Green family, the owners of the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts store chain, it was founded in 2017 and has an extensive collection of artifacts related to the Bible.
The museum’s exhibits cover the history of the Bible, including its origins, translation, and interpretation. The collection includes fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a Gutenberg Bible, and a rare copy of the Wicked Bible, which famously omitted the word “not” from the commandment “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
It’s one of the most interesting and informative museums in Washington DC. This musuem offers a unique and thought-provoking experience for visitors of all backgrounds and beliefs
Whether you’re interested in learning more about the origins of the Bible, its translation and interpretation, or its influence on art, literature, and culture, this musuem has it all.
National Museum Of Asian Art
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art is a collection of The Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. The gallery preserves and exhibits Asian art.
The Freer Gallery of Art was founded in 1906 by Charles Lang Freer, an American businessman and art collector. The gallery was originally designed to house Freer’s collection of American and Asian art, but over time it became primarily focused on Asian art. In 1923, Freer donated his collection and the gallery building to the Smithsonian Institution, which later merged it with the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery to create the National Museum of Asian Art.
The museum includes over 40,000 works of art from Asia, spanning 6,000 years of history. The collection includes works from China, Japan, Korea, India, and other countries throughout Asia ranging from ancient artifacts to contemporary art.
Some of the most famous works in the collection include the Peacock Room, a decorative interior designed by James McNeill Whistler, and the world’s largest collection of ancient Chinese jades.
This is one of the best art museums in Washington DC. It also has some of the best exhibits in Washington DC.
National Postal Museum
One of the more unusual and cool museums in DC is the National Postal Museum. The museum is dedicated to the history of the United States Postal Service and the role it has played in American life. This is one of the must-visit list of museums in Washington DC.
Established in 1990 this museum is a partnership between the United States Postal Service and the Smithsonian Institution. Located in the historic City Post Office Building, which was built in 1914 and served as the main post office for Washington, D.C., until 1986
The collection includes over 6 million objects ranging from stamps and postal stationery to postal vehicles and mailbags. Some of the most notable objects in the National Postal Museum’s collection include the first stamp ever issued in the United States, the 1847 5-cent Franklin stamp; a rare 1918 Inverted Jenny stamp; and the Pony Express Bible, which was carried on the famous mail delivery service in the mid-19th century.
The museum also has a research library with over 45,000 volumes of books, periodicals, and archival materials related to postal history and philately.
If you are after a more unique musuem then this might be what you are looking for. It is one of the best DC museums.
As you can see when it comes to the best museums in Washington DC there are so many to choose from. Whether you are looking for free museums in Washington DC or a list of Smithsonian museums we have covered them all.
The best Washington DC museums are of course always up for debate and a lot of it depends on personal preferences. What we do know is that the museums in Washington are amazing and you won’t regret visiting any of them.
I hope you have an amazing time and I can’t wait for you to come back and tell us all about your visit.