Washington D.C. has a lot of museums and many of them are free! This article provides an overview of these museums, what’s in them and where to find them.
On the Mall
The area of Washington D.C. known as the mall is located between the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol. It has a large grassy area with pedestrian walkways through it and is where a number of museums are located. This list will start from the northwest corner of the mall and go counter-clockwise around the mall. The featured image on this page is an arial view of the Mall surrounded by a number of museums in this article.
Admission is free to all of the Smithsonian Museums. However, there may be special exhibits, films or other experiences that do require a fee. Also, some Smithsonian Museums require a free timed entry pass, but is not required if you have a Smithsonian Membership.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture, part of the Smithsonian Institution and located on the Mall at 1400 Constitution Ave., NW, explores the African American experience and how that has shaped our nation. Admission is free, but a free timed entry pass is required.
The National Museum of American History, part of the Smithsonian Institution and located on the Mall at 1300 Constitution Ave., NW, explores the scientific, cultural, social, technological and political development of the United States. Popular exhibits include The First Ladies Gowns, Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers from the movie “The Wizard of Oz”, Archie Bunker’s Chair from the TV show “All in the Family”, Thomas Jefferson’s Lap Desk where he wrote the Declaration of Independence, George Washington’s Uniform and much much more.
The National Museum of Natural History, part of the Smithsonian Institution and located on the Mall at 10th St. & Constitution Ave., NW, tells the story of our planet, from stones and gems to animals and insects to dinosaurs and ocean dwellers. Popular exhibits include the Hope Diamond and The Insect Zoo.
The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, located on the Mall directly between the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery, is a free outdoor sculpture garden with an ice skating rink and cafe.
The National Gallery of Art, located on the Mall at 6th & Constitution Ave., NW, has a fantastic collection of art from the pre-classical to classical to impressionism to modern art there is something to suite everyone’s taste. Admission is free.
The National Museum of the American Indian, part of the Smithsonian Institution and located on the Mall at 4th St. & Independence Ave., SW, houses one of the world’s largest collections of Native American objects, photographs and media covering the Western Hemisphere from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego.
The National Air & Space Museum, part of the Smithsonian Institute and located on the Mall at 6th St. & Independence Ave., SW, takes you on a journey through the history of flight and space exploration. Admission is free, but a free timed entry pass is required as this is the most popular museum in D.C. Click here to reserve your free timed entry pass.
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, part of the Smithsonian Institution and located on the Mall at Independence Ave. at 7th St., SW, features international modern and contemporary art in the unique Gordon Bunshaft designed cylindrical building.
The National Museum of Asian Art, housed in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art, are part of the Smithsonian Institution and located on the Mall at 1050 Independence Ave., SW and Jefferson Drive and 12th St., SW respectively. This museum is home to a premier collection of Asian art from countries like Korea, Japan and China. The collection includes art, sculpture, statues and more dating from Neolithic times to early 20th century.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, located on the Mall at 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW, takes an in-depth look at the factors leading up to the Holocaust, the horrors that took place during the holocaust and the role the U.S. played throughout the holocaust. Admission is free, but a timed entry ticket is required to see the museum’s permanent exhibitions.
South of the Mall
The International Spy Museum, located 2 blocks south of the mall at 700 L’Enfant Plaza, SW, has fun and interactive exhibits for spies of all ages. It is usually open daily, but check their website as their hours can vary. This museum has an entrance fee.
The Museum of the Bible, located 2 blocks south of the mall at 400 4th St. SW, has exhibits focused on the christian Bible, its origins, ancient Israel and other Christian and Roman Catholic related topics. This museum has an entrance fee.
North of the Mall
The National Children’s Museum, located one block north of the Mall at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW in Woodrow Wilson Plaza, has lots of fun, interactive and educational activities for young children. This museum has an entrance fee.
The National Portrait Gallery, part of the Smithsonian Institution and located about 4 blocks north of the Mall at 8th and G Streets, NW, is houses portraits people who have shaped the United States, from poets to presidents, actors to activists, visionaries to villians and many more.
The National Postal Museum, part of the Smithsonian Institution and located about 2 blocks north of the U.S. Capitol, next to Union Station at 2 Massachusetts Ave., NE, documents the evolution of the U.S. postal service, from its earliest days to modern times.
The National Zoo, part of the Smithsonian Institution and located just north of Adams Morgan at 3001 Connecticut Ave., NW, is home to over 2,700 animals representing more than 390 species. Admission is free, but a free entry pass is required and there is an additional fee for parking at the zoo. Click here to reserve an entry pass or prepay for parking.
The Anacostia Community Museum, part of the Smithsonian Institution and located southeast of downtown across the Anacostia River at 1901 Fort Place, SE, examines, documents and interprets the impact of historical and contemporary social issues on urban communities.
The Air and Space Museum Udder-Hazy Center, part of the Smithsonian Institution and located at 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway in Chantilly, Virginia just south of Dulles International Airport, has hundreds of historically significant air and space craft. Admission is free, but there is a parking fee.