If you’re a culture vulture, or you just want to kill some time strolling through an exhibition, you’d have to go some way to beat Washington DC. With the Smithsonian Institute stretching along the Mall, it seems like the whole city is a museum. So which are the jewels in the crown?
1) Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
Apollo 11 command module? Check. The Wright brothers’ plane? Check. The Telstar Satellite? Check. If it made aviation history, it’s made it into the National Air and Space Museum. Face it, you’re just not going to be able to see it all in one go. If it all gets too much, just sit back and watch the planets glide by in the vast Planetarium
Of all the Museums in Washington DC, here’s one that makes the headlines. The Newseum takes you through the history of reporting the news, right from when people started reading newspapers through to the digital age. From 4D immersive theaters through to a display of award-winning press photography, this museum gets front page billing on any itinerary.
3) Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
If you’re visiting Washington DC as a family, it’s only natural you’d want to come here. This is a museum all ages can enjoy, with a special hands-on Discovery Room for the kids, and incredible dinosaurs for the grown-up kids too. And if you want a full on IMAX spectacular experience, get here with plenty of time to buy your tickets as it can get very busy.
4) The National Gallery of Art
Think of a famous painter. Van Gogh. Leonardo. Rembrandt. Well, you name them, they’re here. This is one of the finest collections of art in the world, and entrance is completely free of charge. There’s plenty of home-grown American art here too, including Winslow Homer and George Bellows. Even if you don’t know much about art, you’re bound to recognize many of the famous paintings and images on these walls.
5) The National Museum of the American Indian
This is actually three museums in one. The five-story building on the Mall is an exhibit in itself, designed to look like a natural rock formation. Once you’re inside the building you’ll find something a little different from the mainstream, as the outdoor landscape flows into the building. There are organic curves, fluid spaces and quite often performances too. And don’t miss the Native regional foods in the café.
6) United States Capitol
It’s a symbol of democracy. But did you know it’s open to the public too? Your tour will start with a short film about the establishment of democracy and the history of the building. You’ll then see the Crypt, the Rotunda and the National Statuary Hall. If you want to see the Senate or Congress in session, you might be able to get a pass at the House and Senate Appointment Desks.
7) Ford’s Theatre
On April 14th 1865, President Abraham Lincoln and his wife were watching a performance of Our American Cousin. The actor John Wilkes Booth entered their theater box and fatally wounded one of America’s greatest ever presidents. Visit Ford’s Theatre and you can see where it all happened, and also find out what life was like in the Lincoln White House, in the fascinating theatre museum.
8) The White House
Well you couldn't come to Washington DC without visiting its most famous address could you? Actually it’s more of a Mansion than a House, with 132 rooms and 35 bathrooms. You won’t be able to visit them all on your tour, but you will gain a fascinating insight into life behind the scenes at one of the world’s most famous seats of power. You’ll have to book tickets in advance – entrance isn’t always guaranteed, so good luck!
9) National Building Museum
You’d expect any museum about buildings to be an architectural marvel in itself, and the National Building Museum doesn’t disappoint. Just stand in the Great Hall and look up at the ceiling, 75 feet above you. The vast central fountain and Corinthian columns certainly create a bit of a statement, and there are fascinating exhibits on architects and households too.
10) The National Museum of American History
See the original Star-Spangled Banner. Thomas Edison’s first light bulb. Or how about Kermit the Frog? This museum is jam-packed full of historical objects and artefacts that will grab your interest, or perhaps raise a smile. One must-see exhibit is ‘America on the Move’, showing how transport has evolved from 1903 to the present day.