For the capital city of the most powerful country in the world, Washington D.C. can feel pretty intimidating. It's a historic destination, sure, but since the country is known for its lively politics, it almost feels as if you can't relax here. But that's not exactly the truth! There are many places in Washington D.C. where you can find solace. The best examples are the city's museums. They offer tons of history, science, and art, many of which you'll only find in these groundbreaking galleries. Here are ten museums you simply must see in Washington D.C.
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National Museum of African American History and Culture
Looking like a work of modern art itself, the National Museum of African American History and Culture has become the most popular museum in Washington D.C. It chronicles practically everything the African-American community has gone through in the country's history, from their slave origins to their fight for Civil Rights in the 1960s. Not to mention the successes of black pioneers, many of which changed the US and the world with their innovation and creativity. These are stories that have once been forgotten, but fortunately, can now resurface for all the world to see.
National Museum of Natural History
What's so great about the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. is that it lays out the history of the world in plain view. It's as if you can learn everything about the planet when you go through the many displays, exhibits, and more in this highly educational Smithsonian museum along Constitution Avenue. Among their most notable features include the infamous 'Hope Diamond,' 45.52-carat stone that's said to be cursed. But don't worry! The curse won't affect you if you simply marvel at its beauty when you visit the museum.
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National Museum of American History
Also located on Constitution Avenue, near enough from the National Museum of Natural History that you won't need public transport
to get there, is the National Museum of American History. This place houses a whopping 1.8 million historical artifacts, all of which have their own significance to the country's colorful history. There's the original Star-Spangled Banner, which you can listen to when you visit its display. The actual ruby red slippers that Judy Garland wore as Dorothy in the 1939 film, 'The Wizard of Oz.' And the many dresses that the first ladies wore during their husbands' respective inaugurations.
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National Air & Space Museum
If you ever dreamed of becoming an astronaut, the National Air & Space Museum ought to be your first stop in Washington D.C. Featuring all sorts of air vehicles, rocketships, and the like, the entire place is a goldmine of historic engineering. It chronicles how humans ever achieved flight to begin with, as well as its venture into space and the unknown. Among its many awesome attractions, one that completely stands out is the 1903 Wright Flyer, recorded as the first piloted aircraft to ever sustain flight.
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National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery of Art is one of the biggest museums in the American capital, thanks in large part to its two monumental buildings. And they're both so massive, the area they cover can practically take up two or more neighborhoods of Washington D.C.
The first, the West Building, which looks like a Roman pantheon, houses the classic works of the world's most celebrated artists—Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer, and more. The second, the East building, which was designed by modernist architect I.M. Pei, is more about modern art. It features works by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Roy Lichtenstein, and more.
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Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery
While the Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery features many historic works by some of the most prolific American artists in history, there's no denying that the presidential portraits are what most visitors come to see. They don't just present all of the presidents that this relatively young country has had over the past few centuries, but also information of their lives and legacies in office. And because of this, the museum has become a field trip staple for many notable schools
in the city.
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Far from the imposing pantheons and architectural marvels that make up the many museums mentioned on this list, the Phillips Collection is a more intimate gallery on 21st Street. It's housed in a beautiful Georgian Revival home, which used to be the residence of Duncan Phillips, the famed art collector & critic. Part of his own collection is featured in the museum, but for the most part, the gallery is all about Impressionist and modern art. It shows off works by the likes of Georgia O’Keefe, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and more.
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Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Although it's part of the Smithsonian Museums, the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum is also a far cry from the historic grandeur of the other attractions. Although the place itself is a mansion on Pennsylvania Avenue and it's pretty grand in its own right, it's not as big nor as intimidating as the rest. And its devotion to modern art is what completely makes the Renwick Gallery stand out. It's the go-to place if you want to see new, current, and innovative art at its finest.
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National Museum of the American Indian
Want to know more about the Native Americans who are the original residents of this land? Then look no further than the National Museum of the American Indian on 4th street! This is the place where you can learn all about the indigenous communities that once populated this part of the world. From historic artifacts to the fascinating dioramas, their legacy, and impact are well-preserved within this sacred space. And if you want to taste authentic Native American cuisine, you can enjoy a meal in their now-famous cafeteria, the Mitsitam Native Foods Café
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United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is perhaps the most somber museum in Washington D.C. Displaying photographs, artifacts, and more that chronicle what is possibly the darkest moment in human history, you can almost feel how Jewish people in Europe suffered at the time. Although the US was barely affected by this, they did eventually defeat the Axis Powers during World War II. And it's pretty fitting that in the country's capital city, they put up what is essentially a shrine dedicated to all the lives that were lost during that tragic time.
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In such a historic city like the American capital, it's no surprise that there are so many museums here. But among them, there are the must-see museums in Washington D.C. that are far more fascinating than all the others.