Museums in Washington DC Museums in Washington DC

Famous Museums in Washington DC

Do you want to explore some of the famous museums in Washington, DC? We’ve got you covered! In this article, let’s take a look at the top 15 museums in Washington DC to visit once in a lifetime. So grab your backpack and passport, and let’s get started!

1. Washington DC-The Cradle of Knowledge

Washington DC, the nation’s capital of the United States of America, is home to rich history and culture. It has many landmarks, buildings and museums that display America’s proud history.  Apart from politics, Washington, DC, educates people about the past.

 Museums in Washington DC
Photo by Harold Mendoza from Unsplash

Most of the museums were established a century ago with artefacts from different countries and are found alongside the famed National Mall. Some museums belonging to the Smithsonian Institution are free to enter, but others charge on an hourly basis. 

In addition to famous museums, there are other places too worth exploring. In this article, let us see them in detail.

1.1 Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

The museum is for all the nature lovers out there who want to explore rich flora and fauna.  It is one of the most popular museums of the world and is part of the Smithsonian.

Famous Museums in Washington DC
Photo from Official Website

It was established in 1910 to collect and preserve plant species around the world. It also displays over 146 million specimens of dinosaurs, plants, animals, rocks, and human artefacts. Entry is free to all and is open on all days except during Christmas.

1.2. Smithsonian National Museum of American History

History buffs assemble! The museum is also very popular among tourists, displaying the whole of American history in one building! Part of the Smithsonian Institution, entry is free for visitors and is open every day except on December 25.  Anyone can visit this museum without buying tickets. 

Welcome to the National Museum of American History

It displays a wide range of artefacts honouring the rich American history and preserves more than three million historical relics from colonial to modern times.  The original Star-Spangled Banner or the Great Garrison Flag is displayed along with many historical documents to show American identity.

1.3. Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

The museum, also known as Blacksonian, is a tribute to African American culture. It was founded by then-President Barack Obama in 2016 and belongs to the Smithsonian. Like all museums, it is free for everyone and is open on all days except on Christmas. 

Tour the African American Museum of Washington DC

It pays tribute to several African American personalities who had laid down their lives for emancipation. Relics belonging to slavery, inequality and racism are the highlight of the museum, which educates people to learn from the past.  It also displays award-winning paintings done by many African American artists.

1.4. National Museum of the American Indian

 The U.S. Government founded the museum in 2004, which displays a wide range of artifacts used by the indigenous people, along with a photo archive. As most of them got lost, the government decided to open the museum to collect and preserve the remaining artifacts.

Famous Museums in Washington DC
Photo from Official Website

 In addition to these, many artefacts used by Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians are also kept for public display. This museum is also free to enter, so there is no need to spend money to visit this museum. It is open on all days as well, except on Christmas Day. 

1.5. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The museum displays relics related to the tragic Holocaust incident of World War 2.  It shows the sufferings and the memories of the victims in the form of documents and testimonials to educate people about the horrors of the past. 

A visit to the US Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C.

The museum also educates future generations about genocide by hosting virtual events, and many people also volunteer as tour guides to give a more personalized experience for the visitors about the Holocaust.  So, the museum’s main aim is to prevent such incidents doesn’t happen in the future. It also has a photo archive honouring the victims of the Holocaust.  The museum is open all day except on Christmas Day. 

1.6. Smithsonian National Postal Museum

If you are a vintage stamp lover, this museum is just for you! It opened in 1993 and shows a wide stamp collection all over the world from colonial times till now.  This museum belongs to the Smithsonian and is free to enter. It also displays the late singer John Lennon’s stamp collection along with other stamp collections. 

Smithsonian National Postal Museum | Washington DC

The museum conducts stamp collection and colouring activities for kids to promote interest in stamp collection.  It has a photo archive to take us down memory lane and also presents the best achievement award every two years since 2002. Like all other museums, it is open on all days except Christmas Day.

1.7. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

This museum is for all the space lovers out there and was founded in 1946 by then-President Harry Truman.  It displays missiles, rockets, space artefacts, and a photo archive. It also displays the infamous fighter plane, Enola Gay, used in World War 2, against Japan. 

Famous Museums in Washington DC
Photo from Official Website

In addition to these, it shows the belongings of the Wright Brothers, soldiers and astronauts. Like all other museums, visitors can come for free and is open all days except on Christmas.  So, if you love space history, feel free to explore this museum! 

If you love art, whether it is traditional or modern, check this out!  Established in 1937, the National Gallery of Art has a wide range of art collections from various eras. It came into existence in 1937 and is the only gallery in the U.S. to have a Leonardo Da Vinci painting. 

Our National Gallery: Of the Nation, For the People

Modern art, African art and Asian art are some of the popular displays in the museum. It is also attached with a beautiful Sculpture Garden, covered with lush greens that is worth visiting. Both buildings have free entry but is not a part of the Smithsonian. 

The Gallery came into existence in 1962 and opened to the public in 1968. It has thousands of art collections, ranging from the pre-colonial era to the modern age.  It also displays portraits of famous celebrities like politicians and film stars. 


The art speaks about various inequalities prevalent in American history, like slavery, racism and inequality. Also, the museum is famous for the life-sized portrait of the late President Abraham Lincoln. Like all other museums, this place is also free for visitors and is open on all days except Christmas.

1.10. National Building Museum

The museum came into existence in 1980 and is exclusive for American architecture, urban planning and design.  It has buildings and sculptures of both old and contemporary styles of design and is very helpful for students to learn more about various designs.

Famous Museums in Washington DC
Photo from Official Website

Entry is free and open on all days except Thanksgiving and Christmas. The museum also hosted the Annual Christmas Program, which was organised by the First Family, till it got cancelled in 2015.

1.11. Ford’s Theater

The theatre turned museum is the site where then President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on 14 April 1865 by John Wilkes Booth, the lead actor.  This place is also available for free entry and is open year-round, except on Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

Ford's Theater Tour In Washington DC Where Lincoln Was Assassinated

It displays the late President’s belongings, including the blood-stained pillow and the pistol used to shoot. So, if you love history and love Abraham Lincoln even more, make sure to visit!

1.12. International Spy Museum

Have you ever wanted to be a spy when growing up? If you visit the International Spy Museum, you could become one! In the museum, you can have your own badge and an undercover mission, followed by debriefing! 

International Spy Museum | Things to Do In Washington, DC

The spy museum came into existence in 2002 and also displays espionage gadgets and tools used by secret service agents belonging to several countries. The museum also telecasts interviews of former spies. Amazing, right? Unlike other museums, entry is not free but is open on all days except on Christmas. 

1.13. National Bonsai Museum

To honor the friendship among the U.S., Japan and China, the museum has a wide collection of bonsai and Penjing trees. It has two pavilions, the Chinese and Japanese pavilions, and Native plant species. 

Famous Museums in Washington DC
Photo from Official Website

The Chinese pavilion displays ‘Penjing’ (miniature art form of tree growth), while the Japanese pavilion displays Bonsai. In addition to these, it also displays other plants and trees offered to the U.S. as a symbol of friendship.  Like all museums, it is also free for visitors and is open on all days except Christmas. 

1.14. Planet Word Museum 

Dedicated to word lovers, this museum has galleries and exhibits displaying different words from various languages in the form of interactive puzzles and games. It was established in 2020 and attracts people of all age groups. Word lovers will have a blast in this museum! The gift shop is filled with exciting books, games and stationery to splurge on. 

Welcome to Planet Word

The museum also hosts interactive exhibits and tutorial sessions to encourage children, in addition to songwriting and poetry booths. Like all other museums, entry is free and open on all days except Monday and Tuesday. 

1.15. National Children’s Museum

Kids will surely enjoy themselves in this museum with many fun exhibits.  It also encourages kids’ interest in STEAM with fun-filled games and puzzles. It also has cartoon character exhibits which interact with the children. The museum also has spaces to host birthday parties and fun events.

It also has a fun-filled digital experience by allowing the visitors to ‘control’ the weather with their hand gestures.  The museum also hosts dance parties for children.  Unlike other museums, entry is not free in this museum, but it is free for one-year-old children.  Also, it is open on all days except Tuesdays and Christmas.

2. Conclusion

To sum it up, most museums have free entry and are open every day. So, there is no need to spend so much money to visit these places. Washington, DC, is filled with rich history and culture that transcends borders.  Apart from the above-mentioned museums, many unexplored historical sites and museums are worth exploring. So, next time you are in Washington, DC, make sure to check these all out and channel your inner Indiana Jones!

Check here for similar articles.

Last Updated on August 19, 2023 by SushmitaBiswas