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Best Free Museums in Washington DC

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National Geographic Museum

The many perspectives of the earth are examined here, including geology, oceanography, astronomy and anthropology. Enjoy creative and educational exhibits including a huge globe, a tornado simulator and a 'time machine'. Changing, lively special exhibits are also featured. A gift shop sells the National Geographic Society's videos, books and educational games.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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National Portrait Gallery

Famous and distinguished Americans are honored at the National Portrait Gallery in portraits, photographs and other visual media. A wide variety of politicians, artists, scientists and social activists are represented. This gallery is a remarkable testimony to the diverse figures the United States has produced, from Grace Kelly and Boris Karloff to George Washington, Mickey Mantle and Gertrude Stein. Photographs, prints, drawings and sculptures supplement the paintings. Of particular interest is the Hall of Presidents, which features a portrait or sculpture of each chief executive.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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National Museum of American History

Take a trip back in time and explore the much celebrated American history at the National Museum of American History. Rich in displays that depict the American journey through the ages; it resides inside a gallery that portrays the emergence of the American national anthem along with other innovative and cherished artifacts. Housed within this multi-floor building are exhibition halls and rooms that illustrate significant events pertaining to the past of America.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery houses an extensive collection of European and American art in two spectacular buildings. In the grand, neoclassical West Building, Rembrandt, Rubens and Gainsborough are well-represented. The permanent collection includes works from the 13th to 20th Centuries, including a section devoted to Impressionism. An underground concourse with a cafeteria, an excellent gift shop and a walled-in waterfall takes you to the East Building. Designed by I.M. Pei, this triangular building is a key city landmark and home to famous pieces of art and other temporary exhibitions.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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National Museum of Natural History

Established in 1910, the National Museum of Natural History aims to inform people about the natural history of earth through its exhibits. Nestled somewhere within this museum is the famous Hope Diamond, which has gained notoriety for supposedly carrying a curse. Apart from that, some of the museum's popular galleries include The Discovery Room, Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals, Dinosaurs/Hall of Paleobiology, Insect Zoo, Teleology: Hall of Bones, Ocean Hall, Hall of Human Origins and many more.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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Freer Gallery of Art

One of two Smithsonian museums that feature Asian art, the Freer Gallery houses more than 26000 works from all points of the Asian continent, including China, Japan, Korea and India. These works include Asian porcelains, Japanese screens and Islamic art. The works of American artists influenced by Asia are also featured. The most spectacular of these is James McNeill Whistler's Peacock Room, designed for a British shipping magnate and moved to the United States from London in 1904. The Sackler Gallery is interconnected with this gallery via underground exhibition space and houses an impressive collection of Chinese paintings, ceramics and jades.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Visitors should come prepared for an experience they're will not forget when visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. At the start of the tour, each visitor is given an identity card of a Holocaust victim that matches the visitor's own age and gender. Ordinary reality is skewed through off-center stairways, weird angles and the shadows of other visitors on the glass walkways overhead. An elaborate audio-visual display includes interviews, films and photographs. The Hall of Remembrance provides a calm, empty space at the end of the tour where one can reflect on the experience. The museum discourages children under 11 from attending. Admission to the museum is free. However, from March through August a free pass is required to enter the Permanent Exhibition. Passes are not required to gain entrance to the museum building, or to go to any of the smaller exhibitions, memorials, or special programming.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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National Museum of African Art

The National Museum of African Art brings the art and history of Africa to life through its comprehensive collection spanning millennia. From ancient times to the modern age, this museum takes you on a voyage of discovery of the diverse cultural and social fabric of this vast continent as you explore over 9,000 objects from virtually every African country. Beyond simply being a display room, the museum seeks to create a dialog between visitors and itself via educational talks, thematic exhibitions, films, storytelling workshops, music, and more. Highlights include the "Africa ReViewed: The Photographic Legacy of Eliot Elisofon," "African Cosmos: Stellar Arts," classical treasures, African textiles, and artful animals. A part of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of African Art is the only national level museum dedicated to preserving African art.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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National Air and Space Museum

Dating back to 1946, the National Air and Space Museum is home to quite a few aircraft that narrate fascinating stories. Everything from the iconic Wright Brothers' Flyer and Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis to World War II planes and Apollo 11 is displayed here, attracting history aficionados, science buffs and aviation fans alike. you also have the option of using the audio-visual aid to understand the technical aspects. Also found here is the Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater where you can marvel at aircraft and space films on the five-story screen. Apart from that, the National Air and Space Museum also has the original Star Trek model of the USS Enterprise on display, which is a special attraction.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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National Postal Museum

From stagecoach to Model T, learn about the techniques and technologies the U.S. Postal Service has employed to deliver mail over the years. Exhibits at the National Postal Museum also demonstrate the important role that mail has played in the country's development. Interactive computer displays and videos of train robberies are especially popular. Stamp collectors should not miss the museum shop. Admission is free.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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National Museum of the American Indian

You'll find the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall. Its structure is a throwback to adobe homes in early Native American culture. With a highly naturalistic design, the NMAI illustrates Native American history within a series of circles. Various works of art, artifacts, and other remnants of American Indian culture are on display. Changing exhibits provide a valuable addition to our understanding of American Indian culture. Past exhibits have included indigenous world views through dress, native modernism, and contemporary indigenous viewpoints as told through poetry. Admission to the museum is free. It is, however, recommended that a timed entry pass be reserved online (with a service charge) because of the popularity of this national exhibit.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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American University Museum

The American University Museum, which is located in American University's Katzen Arts Center, selects the art that is displayed based on the values of the university. International and political art makes up much of the museum's collection because the university is committed to political engagement and social justice. There is also a good deal of local art on display thanks to the university's involvement in the shaping of the regional contemporary art scene. The museum has several permanent collections, including an extensive sculpture garden, as well as rotating art exhibits that display regional, national, and international contemporary art.

Washington DC, DC, United States
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