The Scene’s guide to the best museums in the District
DC newcomers can get a start on exploring the city and all it has to offer by visiting its top museums
This museum climbed its way to the top of the list when it first opened in 2008, with its numerous exhibits that appeal to all demographics. It’s a communication student’s dream with detail-oriented exhibits ranging from a map that compares freedom of the press around the globe to a gallery containing pieces of the Berlin Wall. Although the exhibits are certainly phenomenal, one of the most noteworthy parts of the museum is the view of the District from its Greenspun Family Terrace. Make sure to leave enough time—two hours or more—to check out everything in the museum, because every exhibit is worth seeing.
Address: 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Metro: Archives/Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter, Green or Yellow line
Price: $22.95, but students can receive a 10 percent discount if they show their ID, or pay $13.95 if they are 18 or under
Hours: 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. daily
Air and Space may be some DC natives’ least favorite Smithsonian, citing that it’s boring, but it is definitely packed with some high caliber exhibits, with a planetarium, IMAX theater, viewing terrace and thousands of planes, spacecrafts and other flying objects on display. The amount of knowledge the museum contains about air and space is astounding, and the sheer size of the museum is awe-inspiring. The best part is the display of planes and spacecrafts hanging from the ceiling at the entrance. Plus, the museum currently features special showings of Star Trek Beyond in IMAX 3D at 5:10pm and 7:30pm every night for just $15.
Address: 600 Independence Ave. SW
Metro: L’Enfant Plaza, Blue or Orange line
Price: Free with optional tickets to the Einstein Planetarium and IMAX shows for under $9
Hours: 10:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily
Art museums can sometimes be boring for certain audiences, but Hirshhorn is far from dull with its diverse exhibits and stunning sculpture garden. Although this museum has an impressive art collection, the sculpture garden is by far the best part of this experience. With lots of greenery and towering, astonishing sculptures and statues, the sculpture garden is a great place to admire the artwork, relax, enjoy the DC weather or even study.
Address: 700 Independence Ave. SW
Metro Stop: L’Enfant Plaza, Blue or Orange line
Hours: Museum: 10:00 a.m. -5:30 p.m., Plaza: 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Garden: 7:30 a.m.-dusk
Although there are plenty of fantastic art museums in DC, the National Gallery of Art takes the cake for the best art museum in the District. With a vast amount of exhibits, including rotating feature exhibits, and the most beautiful architecture out of all the museums on the Mall, it’s clear how the gallery has earned this title. The main rotunda is magnificent with its marble columns, and the east and west wings each have a garden in the middle where visitors can relax and enjoy the greenery. The collection includes Italian, French, Dutch, American, British and Chinese artists to name a few, ranging from the 13th century all the way to modern art. With this immense variety, there is surely something for everyone to enjoy. A final added bonus is the always fun ice skating rink, open during the winter and located in the sculpture garden.
Address: 6th and Constitution Ave. NW
Metro Stop: Archives/Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter, Green or Yellow line
The International Spy Museum was a natural pick for this list, because who doesn’t want to be a spy for a day? Although this museum is on the pricey side, there are several options for all types of people, whether you’re feeling extremely adventurous and want to take on one of the missions, or just want to learn more about international spies while pretending to be one in the process. The James Bond exhibit is huge, spanning an entire floor, and is full of fun facts about the films and books. If you visit this museum by yourself any time soon, make sure to make a second trip with lots of friends and family to join in on the missions!
Address: 800 F St. NW
Metro Stop: Gallery Place/Chinatown, Red, Yellow or Green line
Price: The museum has three separate attractions, each with its own price. General admission for the exhibits is $21.95, Operation Spy and Spy in the City are each $14.95. Visitors can also purchase combo tickets that give entry to multiple attractions; the specific prices are listed on the museum’s website.
Hours: The hours for the museum vary by season and dates. Its current hours are 10 am- 6 pm.