There are more museums in our nation’s capital city than we can count (really, we tried). D.C.’s Smithsonian Institute alone consists of 19 museums and a zoo. So which ones do you go to? Here, we’ve helped narrow it down to some of our favorites, including one that was visited by 7.5 million people last year, another that’s the newest Smithsonian to open, and an art museum that we’re absolutely obsessed with (spoiler alert—it’s the first one on our list). PS: Be sure to check out the Lincoln, Jefferson, and Martin Luther King Jr. memorials. We didn’t include these below because they’re monuments, but if you’re taking in our nation’s history, we’d suggest seeing them as well.
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
We’re sad Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors exhibition ended. (It will be at the Seattle Art Museum next and then at The Broad in October, where it currently has Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room on display. You’ve definitely seen it on Instagram). But we are excited about Linn Meyers’s installation Our View From Here Through August; Hirshhorn’s collection of masterworks through September; and The Summer of Yoko Ono beginning in June.
Independence Avenue Southwest, Washington, D.C., hirshhorn.si.edu
National Building Museum
If you love architecture and design and can only visit one museum, we’d highly encourage the National Building Museum. An ongoing exhibition here, for instance, is Around the World in 80 Models. The collection represents structures from all 50 states and various countries.
401 F Street Northwest, Washington, D.C., nbm.org
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
The latest Smithsonian, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, opened last year, and has already had 1.3 million visitors, not counting the last few months. The four-floor architectural astonishment is the only museum in the States that’s exclusively dedicated to African-American history. Observe a collection of currently 37,000 historical artifacts, documents, photography, and media.
1400 Constitution Avenue Northwest, Washington, D.C., nmaahc.si.edu
Get Museum-Ready Art at Home:
National Museum of Natural History
Last year, 7.1 million people visited this museum, making it the second most frequented Smithsonian (keep scrolling for number one). At the National Museum of Natural History, find permanent exhibits including Birds of D.C., African Elephant, The Hope Diamond, and The O. Orkin Insect Zoo. (Sidenote: After a recent trip to Nayara Springs in Costs Rica, we're kind of obsessed with bugs and also recognize how funny this sounds—but have you seen leaf cutter ants?).
10th Street and Constitution Avenue Northwest, Washington, D.C., naturalhistory.si.edu
National Air & Space Museum
This was the number one visited Smithsonian last year, when 7.5 million people walked through the museum’s doors. Browse exhibitions on the history of air transportation in the U.S.; enjoy Explore the Universe, which examines how our ideas about the world around us have evolved with the invention of astronomical instruments; and tour the solar system in an exhibition called Exploring the Planets.
600 Independence Avenue Southwest, Washington, D.C., airandspace.si.edu
National Museum of American History
What better place to visit an American history museum than in our nation’s capital? See the Star-Spangled Banner, JFK Centennial Celebration, American Ballet, and an exhibition on American jazz artist Ella Fitzgerald, among many more.
Constitution Avenue Northwest, Washington, D.C., americanhistory.si.edu
National Museum of Women in the Arts
We have the lyrics "Who run the world?" repeating in our heads. NMWA celebrates the creative contributions of women. The relatively small museum boasts a collection of 4500 artworks by more than 1000 women artists, with 10 exhibitions a year. It's currently showcasing a colorful collection of abstract work by Polly Apfelbaum, called Chromatic Scale.
1250 New York Avenue Northwest, Washington, D.C., nmwa.org
What's your favorite museum in D.C.? Share with us in the comments below!