Must-See D.C.: The Smithsonian Museums
How can you see all of the exhibits in all of the museums of the Smithsonian? You can’t! But, I was determined to knock a huge dent in the list.
Luckily, the Smithsonian Museums are very aware that most people are visiting with limited time to enjoy the exhibits, so each brochure has highlights for each museum! Nifty!
See Related: 41 Things To Do in Washington, D.C.
National Air and Space Museum-
We wanted to start with a museum that would be super interesting to both Mark and myself. You can’t go wrong with astronauts and planes!
Our favorite items at the National Air and Space Museum:
Spirit of St. Louis
The Wright Flyer
Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega
Apollo II Columbia
Apollo Lunar Module
Touching an actual moon rock(!)
National Museum of American History-
This museum might have been my favorite (They’re all so awesome, it’s hard to choose!).
Many of the items are so iconic. Many I have seen or read about in text books in school. The history of my country came to life in front of me, and it was amazing.
See Related: Exploring History in Washington, D.C.
Our favorite items at the National Museum of American History:
The Star-Spangled Banner
Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers
Greensboro Lunch Counter
Lincoln’s Top Hat
Thomas Jefferson’s Desk (where he wrote the Declaration of Independence)
Julia Child’s Kitchen
Museum of Natural History-
I knew right away that this museum would be a favorite (can we say, “Night at the Museum”?!).
Our favorite items at the Museum of Natural History:
The instantly recognized African Elephant in the Rotunda
The Hope Diamond
Easter Island Stone Statue
Skeletons of a man and his dog (I teared up)
Recreation of Lucy- the first known human
The ORIGINAL Smithsonian building.
Stop by to get info, brochures, recommendations, see their small exhibit (including a collection of hair from the presidents!), and pay respects at the tomb of Mr. Smithson himself.
We STARTED our tour of the Smithsonian galleries with a visit here. It just made sense to us to start where it all began.
National Portrait Gallery-
Stop by to see the portraits of the Presidents, but be prepared to stay longer. I will definitely go back and wander at my own pace.
Smithsonian American Art Museum-
We were only able to view very little of their collection, but it was all amazing.
*THE ART MUSEUMS ARE AWESOME. However, not everyone appreciates art, and those that DO are probably like me and can spend hours in front of one painting alone (not so efficient if you’re trying to see a good mix of everything in DC!).
If you ARE an art lover, move ALL art museums to your “Must-See” list. We went to the galleries at the end of each day with our remaining time. I knew there was no way to see it all, didn’t even try to, and was scared that if we went early in the day, I would get caught up looking at brush strokes and the day would be gone. So, this method worked well for us to keep us moving!*
National Museum of the American Indian-
The building that houses this museum is beautiful. Maybe it looked out of place in downtown Washington, but it would have blended beautifully into a landscape of canyons out West. I would love to go back and spend more time looking around.
There is a special place in my heart for Native American art. I bought a good many souvenirs on our Route 66 trip that were handmade by local tribes, and I also have a small collection of Oaxacan Folk Art from Mexico. I really had to control myself in this museum gift shop!
National Postal Museum-
This is another museum that may not sound appealing to all. My opinion? Go. Just go.
If you don’t have an interest in stamps, you may leave with one!
They have a great exhibit on rare stamps, one of Amelia Earhart’s flight suits, and we got to see a very interesting exhibit, titled “Fire and Ice,” with mail from the Titanic and the Hindenburg.
I also completely and totally fell in love with a dog named Owney. He was the mascot of the railway mail back in the 1880’s and was so dedicated to the mail that he often hopped on the trains and rode with it. The postal workers put tags from all the places he’d been on his little harness.
A dog who loved to travel and had a souvenir collection. I just love him.
What are you most excited to see? Have you been to these museums? What was your favorite item? Have you visited any of the OTHER museums? Let us know what we missed and what we should see next time in the comments below!
Pin it! Share this post on Pinterest!
Jennifer is the founder of Just Chasing Rabbits travel blog. She lives in Mississippi with husband/travel companion, Mark, and doggie-daughter, Gizmo. After obtaining a BA degree in studio art and working in the field of photography for years, Jenni has combined her love of travel and photography to form this blog. Mark and Jenni share their experiences in hopes of inspiring others to have wonderful adventures and see the world.
You can follow Jenni on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.