Top Museums in Washington DC to Visit During Your Trip

Washington, D.C. isn’t just the capital of the United States, it’s also the museum capital of America!

This delightful city is filled to the brim with art, history, science, politics, and entertainment, all of which is showcased in various museums around the District.

We put together a list of some popular Washington DC museums that you should consider visiting during your trip.

Want Passes to Top Washington DC Museums?

Admission to a few of these attractions are included on the Go Washington DC® Card.

Choose as you go from top attractions and save up to 47% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.

Browse all available Washington DC Multi-Attraction Passes.

A few of the museums available on the Go Washington DC Card include…

  • Madame Tussauds DC
  • Newseum
  • George Washington’s Mount Vernon
  • National Geographic Museum
  • and more!

If you’re interested in learning more about these top museums and several others, read on!

Madame Tussauds DC

A perennially popular attraction worldwide, the famed Madame Tussaud’s wax museum is a must-see for fans of history and popular culture.

The Washington, D.C. institution especially focuses on the history of politics and culture in our nation’s capital, so be sure to check out the unique President’s Gallery for a chance to meet your favorite American leader.

You can also enjoy the usual celebrity fare at the Glamour Room, monumentally important historical figures in the Civil Rights Room, and the most impactful journalists in the nation in the Media Room. There’s even a section featuring Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin — most recent winner of the Stanley Cup!

Getting in: Madame Tussauds DC tickets are available on the Washington DC Explorer Pass.

Newseum

newseum-washington-dcOne of D.C.’s newest museums, the Newseum emphasizes the history and context of news-making in America. It’s a very interactive experience with multiple video screens, multimedia galleries, and even a 4-D theater.

Featuring priceless artifacts and objects from significant historical events – like pieces of the Berlin Wall and photographs from the impromptu 9/11 Memorial in New York City – the Newseum is the place to go for all things media.

They also have a ton of great traveling and temporary exhibits, including features on the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the Civil War.

Getting in: Newseum tickets are available on the Washington DC Explorer Pass.

George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Image Credit: George Washington's Mount Vernon website

Image Credit: George Washington’s Mount Vernon website

Head to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and explore the estate that formerly belonged to the first president of the United States.

Originally a plantation in the eighteenth century, today George Washington’s estate is one of the most visited historic sites in the entire country.

You’ll get to go on a guided tour of the estate and then take your time exploring the grounds and gardens, visiting the tombs of George and Martha Washington, see the distillery and gristmill, walk through the exhibits in the Museum and Education Center where you can learn about the president’s changing and contradictory stance on slavery (which existed at the estate), and more.

Getting in: George Washington’s Mount Vernon tickets are available on the Washington DC Explorer Pass.

National Geographic Museum

125 Anniversary of National Geographic Exhibit

125 Anniversary of National Geographic Exhibit

Inspired by the world-famous magazine, the National Geographic Museum brings to life the culture and nature captured in its pages. Anyone who has ever flipped through the magazine with delight and wonder must pay a visit to this truly impressive institution.

Featured special exhibits epitomize the museum’s focus and interests – bringing the study of nature and culture to life in vivid, exciting ways. For example, a current special exhibit is the must-see “Titanic: The Untold Story,” which includes images, artifacts, and never-before-seen objects.

Of course, you’ll also be treated to an amazing gallery of their award-winning photography over the ages.

Getting in: National Geographic Museum tickets are available on the Washington DC Explorer Pass.

National Building Museum

National Building Museum in Washington DC

Learn about the history and impact that buildings, engineering, and design can have in a community at the National Building Museum.

You’ll explore a variety of building and architecture related topics, including sustainable design, the evolution of building materials, designing for natural disasters, and more.

Be sure to take some time to look around – the building itself features an iconic design with a Great Hall, a memorial to the Civil War veterans.

Getting in: National Building Museum tickets are available on the Washington DC Explorer Pass.

Museum of American History

The National Museum of American History couldn’t be more perfectly situated. Nestled in the heart of the National Mall within our nation’s capital, this museum features some of the most significant artifacts from all of American history. This is another big hit with families and school groups.

One of the first exhibits you’ll want to see is the original Star-Spangled Banner, beautifully restored and on display for all to see. Next, fans of popular culture will want to see artifacts like Dorothy’s ruby slippers, Archie Bunker’s chair, dresses from the First Ladies, and a fascinating miniature doll house.

Then, check out the newly opened Innovation Wing, filled with interactive exhibits, artifacts, and installations dedicated to the notion of innovation in America.

If you’re a musically-inclined person, you should also consider the Museum of American History Through Music Walking Tour, which will showcase the museum’s exhibits through song.

Getting in: National Museum of American History admission is free. Museum of American History Through Music Walking Tour tickets are available on the Washington DC Explorer Pass.

National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art is arguably one of the best art museums in the world, certainly among the most prestigious and well rounded in America. Comprised of two galleries (East and West, representing modern and classical art, respectively) the National Gallery displays work from the most iconic of all artists.

Expect everything from Monet and Van Gogh to Rubens and Blake. You’ll enjoy paintings, sculpture, sketches, experimental art installations, and much more.

Their East Galleries are especially renowned for their contemporary art collections (rivaled in the District only by the Hirshhorn). Be on the lookout for some of Alexander Calder’s most famous sculptures.

Getting in: National Gallery of Art admission is free.

Air & Space Museum

Every little kid who ever dreamed of going into space (even those of you grown-ups who have unfortunately not become astronauts) will love a visit to this awe-inspiring museum.

The National Air & Space Museum features an unparalleled collection of real aircraft, from Soviet rockets to the original Apollo 11 command module Columbia.

This is one of those places that every school trip has to hit up; it’s historical, it’s scientific, and it’s flat out amazing. If you get a chance, take a drive out to Chantilly for a visit to the Udvar Hazy Center, comprised of a huge hangar that houses even more impressive aircraft. It’s a real treat for any fan of aviation.

Getting in: Air & Space Museum admission is free.

Museum of Natural History

Home to the iconic Hope Diamond, the National Museum of Natural History is filled with wondrous and magnificent artifacts from throughout the globe. Beginning in the famed Gems & Minerals exhibit and concluding in arguably the best collection of dinosaur fossils in America, a circuit of this museum is sure to take hours.

Other featured exhibits include a live collection of bugs and plants at the Insect Zoo, the instantly recognizable African elephant from the entrance rotunda, and the preserved animals from the Mammals collection. Curious kids of all ages will love this destination.

Getting in: National Museum of Natural History admission is free.

Museum of the American Indian

Photo credit: Paul Morigi/AP Images for The Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian

Photo credit: Paul Morigi/AP Images for The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian

A one-of-a-kind institution, the National Museum of the American Indian is home to one of the largest and most diverse collections of Native American artifacts in the country. In fact, it was actually designed in conjunction with tribes and nations from across the country, so it’s truly representative of Native culture and history.

Permanent collections include over 820,000 items from over 12,00 years – that’s one heck of a résumé! We should also note that the NMAI has one of the best museum cafés in the entire city – you don’t want to miss the Mexican food at this place!

Getting in: National Museum of the American Indian admission is free.

Remember to Save on Museum Admission

So there’s our list of some of the most popular museums in Washington DC.

A few of these options are included on the Go Washington DC Card, which can help you save up to 47% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.

Washington DC Explorer Pass

The information contained in this post, to the best of the author's knowledge, was accurate at time of publishing. We do our best to ensure and maintain the accuracy of this information.

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