In Arts + Entertainment

Five Museums And Galleries Not To Miss In Washington, DC

One of the most appealing qualities of Washington, DC, is its dizzying array of fascinating museums and galleries to visit. But as you’ll soon discover, that abundance of choice can be both a blessing and a curse.

Suffice to say, choosing where to focus your attention can be a daunting task. There are simply too many museums and galleries to explore in one visit; how do you know you’re selecting the right ones?

For this reason, we’ve decided to simplify your planning by curating a list of five of our favourites. Consider this your introduction to the many world-class museums and galleries of DC – you’ll no doubt be wanting more once you work through this batch.

The National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art (NGA) is a DC institution that has been a part of the city’s fabric since 1937. The gallery displays works from some of history’s most prominent artists including the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Roy Lichtenstein (a handful of examples, only).

Weather permitting, a stroll through the gallery’s Sculpture Garden is a memorable addition to any art lover’s day. The garden, which sits within the National Mall, stretches roughly 2.5 hectares and is centred around the gallery’s fountain. During the winter months, this fountain is transformed into an ice rink where visitors can skate while surrounded by powerful pieces of art.

4th St. & Constitution Ave. NW Washington, DC

International Spy Museum

Image: Sam Kittner / International Spy Museum

One of the newer additions to DC’s list of attractions, the International Spy Museum offers a unique experience for guests.

The space is filled with interactive installations; all centred around the concept that you, the visitor, are a spy on a mission. Travelling through the museum, you’ll learn about the stories of important spies throughout history (like Mata Hari and Harpo Marx), as well as complete challenges along the way.

Exhibits are made up of videos, photos and artefacts that offer a window into the inner workings of the intelligence agencies and agents who deal with everything from terrorism to cyber interference.

Upon leaving the museum, guests receive a report detailing the outcome of the mission and their talents as a spy.

700 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Washington, DC 

National Geographic Museum

washington dc museums

Image: Becoming Jane Exhibit at National Geographic Museum

The National Geographic Museum is a centre dedicated to educating the public on the state of the world and the ways it can be protected.

The museum’s permanent exhibition, Exploration Starts Here, details the organisation’s incredible history of discovery. Dive into some of National Geographic’s most profound projects; from the exploration of the North Pole to an expedition to Machu Picchu, published in 1913.

Presently, there are also two rotating exhibits showing at the museum. Those are Women: A Century of Change and Becoming Jane. The first is a photo archive, installed following the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote in the US. The collection chronicles the lives of “trailblazing” women across history.

Becoming Jane explores the life and achievements of scientist and activist Dr Jane Goodall. The exhibition looks at her journey to becoming an innovator in animal behavioural science, and her work in observing chimpanzees in Tanzania.

1145 17th St. NW Washington, DC 

National Museum of African American History & Culture

Joining DC’s collection of museums and galleries in 2016, the National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC) has quickly grown to become one of the city’s most famous sites.

The 19th museum in the Smithsonian Institution documents the history, culture and experience of the African American people. Its exhibitions span the atrocities of slavery and segregation, and explore themes including African American beauty, culture, activism and art.

If you’re hoping to stop at this museum during your visit, be aware that although free to enter, you’ll likely need to pre-register for passes to ensure your entry.

1400 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC

The Newseum

washington dc museums

Image: Sam Kittner / Newseum

Centred on the value of the free press, The Newseum uses media coverage to explore the events in history that captured the attention of the masses.

The museum travels through iconic occurrences like the destruction of the Berlin Wall (there are eight concrete sections on display) and the Stonewall riots in 1969, as told by journalists of the time.

Perhaps the most moving exhibit in the museum is the Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery. The collection is made up of photographs from every Pulitzer Prize-winning entry dating back to 1942. It documents poignant moments in in everything from sport to war.

A visit to this museum is a particularly affecting one, and sadly, it’s not one that travellers can experience for much longer. The Newseum will close its doors on December 31st, 2019. If you can fit in a visit before then, it’ll undoubtedly be worth your time.

555 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC

(Lead image: The National Gallery of Art / supplied)

Published 13 December, 2019