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Best Museums in Washington DC

, 29 Options Found

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.

President Wilson lived in this Georgian-Revival house after he left office, creating a comfortable, unpretentious residence with his second wife, Edith. He is the only president to remain in Washington after office. The couple collected items from all over the world, filling their home with eclectic wares. There is a baseball signed by Great Britain's King George V and a silent movie projector given to the Wilsons by the actor Douglas Fairbanks. The bedroom is modeled after the couple's White House sleeping quarters.

Designed by architect James Renwick, who also designed the Smithsonian Castle, this gallery was the home of the Corcoran Art Collection until it outgrew the building. Currently, the Renwick is among the foremost craft museums in the country. It includes a full array of the art form, from handwoven rugs to Shaker furniture. The museum shop is a treasure trove of art and books honoring fine craftsmanship. The place reopened in 2015 after undergoing 2 years of renovations.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum takes you on a journey of discovery of iconic American art and the artists that created it from the 17th Century to the present day. The building itself is of heritage value and designated a National Historic Landmark. The expansive collection is spread out over multiple levels and there is a spacious courtyard where you can take a break. Discover the works of Edward Hopper and Georgia O'Keefe on the first floor; the works of Gilbert Stuart and Albert Bierstadt on the second, and Franz Kline and Andy Warhol on the third. Various art movements and periods are well demonstrated in the carefully curated exhibits, like New Deal Art, and provide an engaging narrative for the visitor to follow. Docent-led tours are a great way to discover the highlights in an interactive way. The Renwick Gallery, the main building's sister wing, is also worth a visit.

From El Greco's "The Visitation" to Byzantine and pre-Columbian artworks, jewelry and mosaics, Dumbarton Oaks is filled with elegant treasures. Built in 1801, the estate achieved its height of glory in the wealthy 1920s when it served as the high-society showpiece of Robert Bliss and his heiress wife, Mildred. The gardens occupy 10 acres above Georgetown and include terraced lawns, winding footpaths and elaborate fountains.

Set among the fashionable Foxhall Road estates in upper northwest Washington, the former residence of Carmen and David Kreeger holds a marvelous collection of 19th and 20th-century art. Artists such as Picasso, Van Gogh, Kandinsky and Rodin are represented, among many other artists. A fine collection of African art is also housed here. The Kreeger Museum's grounds also feature a sculpture garden. However, the museum requires some advance planning to visit since reservations are required to join the docent-led tours, but the effort is well worth it.

Constructed in the mid-1700s, this Georgian manor was owned by George Mason, a statesman and one of the authors of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Guided tours of the house feature the elaborate interior woodcarvings and period furniture. Outside the house, visitors can walk through formal boxwood gardens, with a view of the Potomac River. Various outbuildings, the kitchen, schoolhouse and laundry room can be seen as well. Visitors can try their hand at archaeological excavation and have a chance to discover original artifacts.

The Phillips Collection retains the 19th-century grandeur enjoyed by the Phillips family. The collection was opened to the public in 1918 while the family was still living in the home. The collection displays mostly 19th- and 20th-century American and European paintings. Significant works by Degas, Renoir, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Bonnard and Klee are on display. One can browse at leisure and perhaps, catch an art student working on a sketch. A cafe is also on site.

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.

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.

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.

Rare books, paintings and other memorabilia, such as musical instruments, costumes and films, make this library and popular research center a treasure trove of valuables worth perusing. Home to a Conservation Lab, Elizabethan-style theater, and the Grand Hall, several special events take place here, including concerts, plays, literary readings and more. The library also boasts the largest collection of Shakespeare materials.

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