**This is a guest post from Johnny Jet
Anyone who’s been lucky enough to be in the District of Columbia for an event, meeting, or even a vacation has like many of us, come to the quick realization that this city has so much to offer. In terms of things to see, places to go, and historically relevant sites to visit, there is enough to see and do to necessitate numbers of separate visits.
But what if you only have one chance or just a handful of opportunities to visit this historically rich and incredibly educational capital of the United States? How do you choose where to begin and what – out of all the wonderful sightseeing options, should be on your must-see list?
The Sheer Number
Well, here’s a list coming from one individual who’s had the good fortune to visit frequently and see at least 50% of what this town has to offer. The Smithsonian Institution offers 17 different museums to visit, all for free. And that’s just the beginning. Other museums such as the Spy Museum and the National Gallery of Art offer visitors with unique displays of creativity and history.
Getting Around DC
Most of the must-see museums are located around the National Mall, an area of DC notorious for its severe lack of parking. Public transportation is readily available with its many Metro stations dotted throughout the town, and plentiful Metro Bus stops. You can also choose to reserve a tour bus that will let you off at any one of its many stops throughout the most popular tourist stops, and pick you up as many times as you like within your time window. You can also choose to rent a bike and get around town that way. The layout of the city is expansive, with wide sidewalks and an easy grid street design.
While almost every museum in the city is worth a look, there are a few that stand out as ones you just shouldn’t miss, whether it be for the story it tells, the people it represents, or the creativity capable of the human race. Here are a few that easily top the list.
The National Gallery Of Art
Features: A wide variety of paintings and sculptures that span different periods of expression, various geographic locations, and artistic styles.
Two separate wings of the National Gallery Of Art house traditional and modern art. In the East Building, you’ll find pieces created by modern artists. In the West Building, you’ll find traditional pieces, some that date back to 150 A.D.
The National Gallery of Art features some of the most famous pieces by Jan Van Eyck, Paul Rubens, Rembrandt van Rijn, Edgar Degas, Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, and Jackson Pollock to name a few.
Smithsonian National Museum Of American History
Features: Over three million artifacts that represent the intricately interwoven fabric of American history and culture.
The types of artifacts you’ll find at Smithsonian’s National Museum Of American History are as varied and unique as the people who inhabit the United States. All under one roof, visitors can see exhibits such as Artist Soldiers (until November 12th, 2018), Righting A Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II (until March; 5th, 2019), Snapshots of African American Communities, Sounding American Music, and much much more.
The museum is conveniently located next to the National Mall, so sightseeing at other attractions is a breeze once you’ve completed your visit to the National Museum of American History.
Smithsonian National Museum Of African American History & Culture
Features: Exhibits covering African American Art, slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, impact on athletics, musical heritage, the African American experience, and more. Periods on display cover African American history from its origins in 15th-century enslavement from Africa, through the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Civil Rights movement and beyond.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC) is an expansive building featuring over 3,500 artifacts on display of the over 35,000 artifacts in the museum’s collection. Tickets must be reserved same day beginning at 6:30 am, so plan accordingly. The museum is incredibly popular still, since opening in September 2016, so you must hop online early to reserve your tickets on the day you plan to visit.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Features: Permanent and featured exhibitions portraying the lives and stories of Holocaust victims. Searchable collections and an extensive education program both in the museum and online.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is a once in a lifetime experience, reaching inside the circumstances that led up to the Holocaust, the incendiary power of hate, and the consequences of mass genocide. To see all of what the museum has to offer, you’ll need to set aside more than one day. Current exhibitions are a mix of those that require tickets and those that do not.
The permanent exhibition: The Holocaust, takes one to three hours and requires a ticket. It features artifacts, stories, video footage, and photographs documenting the Holocaust. Americans And The Holocaust is a current exhibition that does not require tickets and takes about 45 minutes to peruse. It focuses on the American reaction and responses to the war, Nazism, and the Holocaust. A similar exhibit, American Witnesses, does not require tickets and takes about 30 minutes to view. Other exhibits currently on display include Remember The Children: Daniel’s Story, and Syria: Please Don’t Forget Us.
The Spy Museum
Cost: Between $14.95 and $22.95
Features: Covers & Legends exhibit: a look at espionage through the eyes of the world’s most famous and productive spies. School for Spies exhibit shows you what it takes to become a spy. Other exhibits include The Secret History of History, From Ballroom to Battlefield, Spies Among Us, Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains, and The 21st Century.
For a more lighthearted, interactive look into the world of espionage, you must check out the Spy Museum located a few blocks from the National Mall. This one will cost you, but it’s well worth the money. You’ll see the coolest spy gadgetry throughout the decades, profiles of the most notorious spies, and the most popular techniques behind the work. You may be surprised at the incredible array of authentic spy artifacts disguised as everyday items.