Washington, DC is more than just our nation’s capital—it is home to some of the most unique museum collections in the world. If you’re lucky enough to live in DC (maybe you snagged one of the most popular Washington, DC luxury apartments?), then you might already know just how special DC is—but what to see first? We’ve got the list of the top museums you don’t want to miss, plus a few tips to help make your museum visits perfect.
National Botanic Gardens
If the word “gardens” makes you wonder why this treasure is on this list, then you clearly haven’t been yet. Think of the botanic gardens as a living plant museum—your own free-to-visit-anytime rainforest. Yes, this year-round rainforest and outdoor gardens combo features rare exhibits of global flora, and it is right by the Capitol building.
Our tip: Don’t forget a hat and sunscreen for touring the grounds, and remember to take your allergy meds!
National Museum of American History
With their recent renovation finally complete, the National Museum of American History is open again to the public—and still at no cost. Whether you’re interested in seeing the first microwave in the food exhibit or are looking for Dorothy’s iconic red slippers, this is the place for you.
Our tip: Be sure to set aside plenty of time (a whole day, maybe) to visit this museum!
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Another free-to-visit gem of a museum is the NMNH. This incredible collection hosts an array of well-preserved taxidermy, priceless gems and minerals (the Hope Diamond, for one), and a recently renovated fossil collection, which will reopen on June 8th. The NMNH is the most visited museum in the world, and with reason—who can resist a live insect zoo with daily tarantula feedings? Located on the national mall, this one can’t be missed.
Our tip: Be sure to review the museum’s security policies before going. They have quite a list of non-permitted items, so you don’t want to accidentally bring one.
National Holocaust Museum
On a sobering note, the National Holocaust Museum is not for everyone. Some parts of the museum are off-limits to those under 11, though there is an area for younger children to partake. Home to an unbelievable number of artifacts, personal stories, photographs, and film, this museum aims to encourage remembrance and respect while educating and enlightening those who visit.
Our tips: Note that tickets are free half the year, with a small charge the remaining months. Prepare to be deeply moved—bring tissues and plan to do something to cheer yourself up afterward.
National Gallery of Art
No one would blame you for moving to DC just for this gallery. The National Gallery of Art is host to one of Leonardo DaVinci’s earlier works, a giant Calder mobile, and it has equally stunning rotating art exhibits. As with the other museums so far, this gallery also is free to visit, but be sure to check out the gift shop on your way out (or online, to save time).
Our tip: Plan your visit around the traveling art exhibits—they have several new ones each year.
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