Must-see Museums in DC

Updated: Dec 20, 2018

Feeling overwhelmed by all the museums in the city? Don't know which ones you want to visit? Don't worry - I got you.

Pictured: "No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man" at the Renwick (through Jan 21, 2019)

The Renwick Gallery

Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE the Renwick Gallery. The Renwick Gallery is a branch of the Smithsonian American Art Museum that displays American craft and decorative arts. The current exhibits include No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man (through January 21, 2019) and Disrupting Craft: Renwick Invitational 2018 (through May5, 2019).

Pictured: "No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man" at the Renwick (through Jan 21, 2019)

The Renwick Gallery is a smaller building located off Pennsylvania Ave at 17th St NW (note: this museum is not on the National Mall with the others!). It's great for modern art lovers, as well as those short on time looking to get in one last DC experience!

Pictured: "No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man" at the Renwick (through Jan 21, 2019)

The Hirshhorn

The Hirshhorn is a contemporary art and culture museum serving thought-provoking and interactive exhibits. The Hirshhorn is located on the national mall and is a great museum to bundle with other museums, as it doesn't take all that long to get through!

Pictured: "Brand New: Art and Commodity in the 1980s" at the Hirshhorn (through May 2018)

The newest exhibit at the Hirshhorn, "Pulse" by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (on display through April 28, 2019), is a must-see. Pulse is the museums largest interactive exhibit to date, with three separate interactive experiences that includes heart rate sensors and fingerprint technology. Head over to the Hirshhorn for the full experience!

Pictured: "Pulse" at the Hirshhorn (through April 28, 2019)

The National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art (NGA) is an enormous art museum located off the National Mall. The NGA has two buildings: the East building and the West building. The East building features contemporary art and a rooftop terrace.

Pictured: National Gallery of Art (East Building)

The West building is more expansive than the East building - I would highly recommend grabbing a map when trying to navigate the West building (let's just say I've gotten lost numerous times here - I'm saving you from making my mistakes).

The East building and West building are connected by an underground light tunnel that honestly is worth seeing even if you don't plan on going through both buildings.

The NGA also has an adorable sculpture garden outside of the museum (BONUS: every Friday evening during the summer the sculpture garden hosts a jazz night feat. wine + sangria).

Pictured: National Gallery of Art (East Building)

American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History is a DC bucket list item for a few reasons: first, to see the larger than life elephant you're greeted by as you walk into the museum (elephants are the cutest amiright). Second, because everyone loves the movie Night at the Museum. The American Museum of Natural History is located on the National Mall.

Freer|Sackler Gallery of Art

The Freer|Sackler Gallery is the Smithsonian's museum of Asian art. The Freer|Sackler is somewhat of a hidden gem, even though it's right off the National Mall. It's worth the trip alone to see the exhibit "Terminal" by Subodh Gupta (pictured below).

National Portrait Gallery/Smithsonian American Art Museum

The National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum are located at 9th & H St NW (not on the National Mall - but definitely worth the extra trip).

The National Portrait Gallery has an awesome display of "America's Presidents" that is worth meandering through. The National Portrait Gallery also has an adorable pavilion cafe where visitors can take a breather in between visiting the two museums.

Pictured: Luce Foundation Center in the National Portrait Gallery

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the nation's first collection of American art and houses a wide variety of rotating exhibits, including the "Electronic Superhighway" by Nam June Paik that is a video installation showcasing clips from each state. If you're visiting from out of state, swing by and see what's playing where you're from!

Pictured: "Electronic Superhighway" by Nam June Paik in the American Art Museum

National Archives

Last but not least, add National Archives to your list of must-see museums in DC. Why? Because you can get up close and personal with the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and the Bill of Rights (nooo biggie). The bad news: you aren't allowed to take pictures of anything inside the building (sorry instagram fam).



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