Washington D.C. is a popular travel destination with historic monuments, war memorials, and an array of other attractions for all ages and interests. One of its best features is the museums, libraries, and galleries that hold masterpieces of art, paintings, and sculpture.

Here’s a guide to museums in Washington D.C. to ensure you see the best attractions and make the most of your trip.

National Air and Space Museum

The National Air and Space Museum is one of the best museums in Washington D.C. and boasts three galleries of aviation and space exhibits. Wonderful for kids and adults alike, the museum has aircraft, space memorabilia, missiles, and more, all of which chronicle the history of air and space travel. Some highlights include a lunar sample from the 1972 Apollo 17 mission, Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, the 1903 Wright Flyer, and the U.S. Pershing-II nuclear missile.

national air and space museum

National Air and Space Museum

National Museum of Natural History

The National Museum of Natural History is an impressive collection with artifacts and exhibits on natural history, ranging from animal specimens to geology and botany exhibits. One of the most impressive features of the museum is the Kenneth E. Behring Hall of Mammals, which features nearly 300 taxidermy display animals in interactive exhibits. You could also see the 45.52-carat cut blue Hope Diamond, marine science exhibits in the Sant Ocean Hall, an insect petting zoo in the Insect Zoo, and the Dinosaur Hall, which features dinosaur skeletons and prehistoric animals.

natural history museum

National Museum of Natural History

National Museum of American History

Washington D.C. is an ideal destination for history buffs, especially with the National Museum of American History. A perfect complement to the monuments and memorials, it’s one of the city’s must-see museums and has 2 floors of themed exhibits about personal American stories, as well as an exclusive Star-Spangled Banner gallery. The museum is known for its diversity in capturing the long and rich history of America, and like many of the museums, has special programs for kids, including an innovation lab that combines STEM and creativity, and historical theater programs.

museum guide washington dc

The Smithsonian Institute

National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art is a national art museum in Washington that holds collections on American and European art. The National Gallery holds pieces from the Middle Ages to the present day including the only Leonardo Da Vinci painting in North America. As one of the largest museums in the United States, the National Gallery is a focal point in the art history community in the District of Columbia.

National Portrait Gallery

national portrait gallery

National Portrait Gallery

Housed in the Old Patent Office Building, the National Portrait Gallery is an art museum dedicated solely to portraiture. The museum is one of the most visited museums in the country and houses a collection of more than twenty thousand pieces of art. Some of the museums most prominent pieces include the official Presidential portraits including Kehinde Wiley’s recent portrait of former President Barack Obama.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is a living memorial to the Holocaust and its impact on the world, making it one of the essential museums to visit. The purpose of the museum is to educate the public on the atrocities of genocide and intolerance. The highlight of the museum is the permanent exhibit of artifacts, photographs, letters, and film that chronicle the events of the Holocaust. Some of the objects are pieces that belong to survivors.

Other exhibits in the museum are rotational and focus on other issues of intolerance, discrimination, and genocide throughout history and the world.

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is an eclectic space filled with unique works of modern and contemporary sculpture, paintings, and photography. The museum boasts over 12,000 pieces, and the collection continues to expand. Outside, you can see the stunning Sculpture Garden, which has works from numerous artists, such as Auguste Rodin and David Smith, showcasing art from the 19th century to contemporary pieces that span over 100 years of creative output.

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art are part of the Smithsonian Institution’s Asian art museums. The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery has decorative and devotional objects from Asian cultures, and the Freer Gallery of Art is exclusively Asian artwork. Combined, the galleries hold over 25,000 artifacts that span over 6,000 years, including Islamic, Near Eastern, Chinese, and Himalayan artwork. There are also exhibits on luxury metalwork from ancient Iran and the Perspectives series of art installations.

National Archives Museum

The National Archives Museum combines a museum and the National Archives and Records Administration. The building holds important American historical documents like the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence, as well as 3 billion records in total. You could also see exhibits on citizenship, voting rights, free speech, democracy, and more. One of the museum highlights is a surviving original of the 1297 Magna Carta.

national archives

National Archives Museum

Washington D.C. has plenty of attractions and activities to suit any traveler, but its museums are one of its biggest draws. If you’re planning a trip to Washington D.C., check out Expedia for great deals on Washington D.C. hotels to prepare for your experience!