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.
Also known as "America's attic," for its spectacular collection of nearly 154 artifacts, the Smithsonian Institution is undisputedly the world's largest museum complex and research organization. The esteemed institution is housed in a magnificent red sandstone castle where visitors where captivating video presentations, highly-interactive touchscreen displays, antique exhibits rule the roost. Commonly referred to as the Castle, it is the final resting place of the Smithsonian Institution's founder, James Smithson with his tomb being preserved in the crypt in the north entrance. The institute's most notable exhibits include the Ford Trimotor, the Douglas DC-3, the Hope Diamond, Benjamin West's 'Helen Brought to Paris' and 'Hagar' by Edmonia Lewis.
Visitors should come prepared for an experience likely to be difficult to 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. From March through August a free pass is required to enter the Permanent Exhibition, The Holocaust, a chronological history. Passes are not required to gain entrance to the museum building, or to go to any of the smaller exhibitions, memorials, or special programming.
The dinosaur skeletons on the ground floor of the National Museum of Natural History are sure to please the kids. But there is something here for everyone. The famous Hope Diamond is on display as well as a live coral reef, a walk-through mine and an insect zoo with thousands of live specimens. The Discovery Room encourages kids to touch, smell and taste the exhibits. If your feet need some rest, sit back and enjoy a film in the museum's Samuel C. Johnson IMAX Theater in the National Museum of Natural History.
Ratner Museum is a fine art museum, housing various paintings done in crayons, water colors and pencils. The frequently changing exhibits include wood work, sculptures, cloth designing and much more. The museum spans across three buildings, comprising of a conference room, a public library and children's literature center. There are various concerts, tours and lectures on various topics, that take place in the museum. So if you want to spend your day appreciating works of art and culture, Ratner Museum is your place to be.
Dedicated to free press and free speech, the Newseum showcases the history of news gathering. The displays include a video wall of live news broadcasts from around the world. Here visitors have the opportunity to anchor a news program, an exhibit especially popular with children. For a fee, children can also put their faces on the covers of famous magazines, including Life and Sports Illustrated. Interactive displays are the rule here, but there is much to see in a variety of dynamic formats. Washington visitors can also view an outdoor version of the Newseum's popular “Today's Front Pages” now on display. The museum also features the largest exhibit of Berlin Wall sections and a gallery devoted to the events of September 11th.