6 Of The Coolest D.C. Museums That Are Absolutely Free
It costs a total of zero dollars to explore the best museums in Washington, D.C. Thanks to our national museum spread, there are dozens of museums open to the public for free. And it’s not just the National Gallery of Art (although that is an art museum that rivals Europe’s big names). There are plenty of one-of-a-kind museums on and off the National Mall that will blow your mind.
If you want to live out “Night at the Museum” or just take whimsical photos with all the (taxidermied) animals in the museum, this is the place to go. It has 126 million specimens and artifacts, 285 of which are fossils specifically — and some even pieced together to recreate life-sized skeletons. Make sure to look for the supposedly cursed Hope Diamond in the Hall of Geology.
The permanent collection at the Renwick is enjoyable, but the main reason to visit is to see the temporary exhibits. You can expect multimedia, room-filling art, from the past pieces like “Murder Is Her Hobby” (creepy dollhouse crime scenes) and rainbow “Wonder.” Oh, and it’s all totally Instagrammable.
With real airplanes suspended from the ceiling, you’ll feel like you’re in the air at the National Air & Space Museum. You can see the OG flying machine, the 1903 Wright Flyer, and the Spirit of St Louis, the plane that Charles Lindbergh flew on the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. There’s also a model of the Hubble Space Telescope; the IRL version is in outer space photographing infinity and beyond for research purposes.
We know you want to hit up the National Portrait Gallery to marvel at the latest presidential entries (Barack and Michelle Obama), but besides the Obamas, you can find Andy Warhol’s color-blocked Marilyn Monroe and historic paintings of George Washington. It’s in the same building as the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where you can observe work by Georgia O’Keefe.
The sign on the side of the Holocaust Memorial Museum sums up the mood of your visit, “Think about what you saw.” In fact, you won’t be able to get it out of your mind after seeing exhibits about the Nazi’s horrific actions through the Holocaust, American responses and the aftermath once World War II ended.
One of the newest additions to D.C.’s museum lineup, the National Museum of African American History and Culture houses 35,000 objects telling the story of the African American experience (3,500 are on view). You can see everything from historic portraits of Harriet Tubman to oral histories leading from jazz to hip-hop. Also, the museum’s Sweet Home Cafe got a nod from the James Beard Foundation in 2017, so the food is worth a stop after your educational visit.
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