History Museums Tour (Self Guided), Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. is well-known for its world-class museums. The Smithsonian Institution, the largest museum complex in the world, maintains most of the official museums in Washington, D.C. and the entrance is free of charge. Explore some of the most outstanding ones by taking this walking tour.
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History Museums Tour Map

Guide Name: History Museums Tour
Guide Location: USA » Washington D.C. (See other walking tours in Washington D.C.)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.2 Km or 3.2 Miles
Author: irene
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • National Museum of the American Indian
  • National Air and Space Museum
  • Newseum
  • National Archives
  • International Spy Museum
  • Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
  • National Museum of American History
  • National Museum of Natural History
  • Holocaust Memorial Museum
1
National Museum of the American Indian

1) National Museum of the American Indian (must see)

The National Museum of the American Indian houses over 800,000 items representing most of the indigenous populations from the Americas. This extensive collection spans 12,000 years of history. Some of the artifacts are culturally sensitive and permission must be obtained from the appropriate Native American group to display them.

The building is a nice relief from some of the other buildings around Washington that seem to overpower their environment. The museum's building complements the area; in fact, even the amenities in this museum are different. The Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe explores native foods that would have been available from five different regions and offers them up in contemporary and traditional dishes. Choices include fry bread, corn totopos, and buffalo burgers. Don’t pass up this experience.

The artifacts are divided into four components: objects, photos, media, and paper. The objects in these groups are all intertwined, but this is at least a starting point to organize the massive collections. Events offered at the museum include films, music, audio tours, and special events for children.

Tip:
Start on the top floor with a short (13min) film and then work your way down to the bottom level where you can enjoy lunch.
The café is probably the best museum lunch spot around, with stations representing cuisines of different tribal areas.
Don't miss the gift shop – many creative, beautiful hand made items. Enjoy shopping!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5:30pm
Admission is free
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
National Air and Space Museum

2) National Air and Space Museum (must see)

The National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution is a must-see for all aviation and space aficionados. It houses the largest collection of planes and spacecraft in the world. This is one of the most popular of the Smithsonian museums, so plan to go early and spend a day.

The original inception of the museum began in 1946, although some of the pieces in the museum are from the 1876 Centennial Exposition. At that time the name was to be the National Air Museum. As man ventured to the heavens and landed on the moon, the name was changed to include “Space”. In fact, the exhibition hall was opened by Director Michael Collins who has been to space on the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

The Spirit of St. Louis that Charles Lindbergh flew over the Atlantic is displayed here along with Wright Flyer that made its famous flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903 piloted by Orville Wright. The Apollo 11 Command module is here too. The Bell X-1, Mercury Friendship 7, and SpaceShipOne are also on display. More conventional aircraft include a DC-3 and a 747. Even the USS Enterprise from Star Trek fame is here.

Why You Should Visit:
Great for learning and teaching kids and adults about the science behind flying.
You learn about commercial or military jets, new technology and early technology.
The motion-based, VR, flight simulators are amazing and the Planetarium shows have awesome visual effects.

Tip:
They also have audio tours and guided tours – you can check the information counter for more info.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5:30pm
Admission is free
3
Newseum

3) Newseum (must see)

The Newseum is an interactive museum of news and journalism located at 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. The seven-level, 250,000-square-foot museum features 15 theaters and 14 galleries. The Newseum's Berlin Wall Gallery includes the largest display of sections of the Berlin Wall outside of Germany. The Today's Front Pages Gallery presents daily front pages from more than 80 international newspapers. Other galleries present topics including news history, the September 11 attacks, the First Amendment, world press freedom and the history of the Internet, TV & radio. It opened at its first location in Rosslyn, Virginia, on April 18, 1997, where it admitted visitors without charge. Its mission is "to help the public and the news media understand one another better" and to "raise public awareness of the important role of a free press in a democratic society".

Why You Should Visit:
Great 'newseum' for everyone interested in history and the media; one of the few where you have to pay, but worth the price.
The guided tour is very informative and highly recommend for adults and the view from the 6th story balcony is one of the best in DC.

Tip:
Don't miss the Pulitzer photo collection, the VR experience, the studio tour and the history of how newspapers shaped the nation.
Don't worry, they have the ticket valid for two consecutive days – plenty of time to enjoy each exhibit.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 9am-5pm; Sun: 10am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
National Archives

4) National Archives

The National Archives houses some of USA's most beloved document treasures. It is home to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. These powerful documents are known as the Charters of Freedom and are housed in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom. They are on permanent display here.

There are also public vaults that can be visited. This vault holds over 1,000 records relating to the American democracy. Some of Abraham Lincoln’s telegrams that were sent to his general’s are here, as well as handwritten notes by George Washington. There are an additional five vaults that take their names from the preamble to the Constitution and deal with law, citizenship, war, firsts and keeping records for future generations to enjoy.

The William G. McGowan Theater shows an informative film about the National Archives and another film on the Charters of Freedom. There are also various exhibits in the Lawrence F. O’Brian Gallery.

The National Archives and Records Administration is located at 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, between 7th and 9th streets. The Rotunda entrance is on Constitution Avenue. Admission is free however; a ticket can be reserved during the busy tourist season. The cost is a $1.50 and is nonrefundable. The entrance for those with tickets is the special events door on Constitution Ave.

Hours: Monday-Sunday: 10:00 am – 5:30 pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
International Spy Museum

5) International Spy Museum (must see)

The International Spy Museum is a must-see for all who find the spy business intriguing. It is the only museum of its kind in America. It may also be one of the most fun museums in Washington. When entering the museum, guests are asked to assume an identity and enter the spy game.

In the museum are exhibits on tiny buttonhole cameras, microdots, bugs and disguises. Stories about famous and not so famous spies – even a nod to Julia Child – are all part of the intrigue. Civil War spies and Cold War spies, the exhibits will open up some of the most interesting secrets. Along the way, guests will learn how to keep their cover and work with the tools of spycraft. New gadgets are also discovered in the modern spy game, the Cyberspies.

In addition to the exhibits, there are some spy experiences. No, not really going on a mission, but it almost feels that real. For an extra fee, there are four experiences that a budding spy can participate in. These adventures take from one to two hours and some can be purchased without purchasing a museum ticket. There will be a time on the ticket as to when the experience starts; do not show up late, or the ticket will be forfeited.

There are some rules to visit the museum – no strollers; no photography or videography; no food, drink, gum, or smoking; no use of phones of any kind. There is also an entrance charge for this museum; even so, tickets are assigned an entry time because the crowds can be large. Plan to be there early to get a ticket with a good time.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-6pm
6
Madame Tussauds Wax Museum

6) Madame Tussauds Wax Museum

If you are tired of the all the “usual” museums in Washington, you might want to try Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. While there are political figures portrayed in wax in the museum, there are entertainers, cultural figures, sports stars, and of course presidents. The original Madame Tussauds wax Museum is found in London. Madame Tussaud was a wax sculptor who was born in France in 1761. Her mother worked for a physician who was skilled in wax sculpting and taught young Anna the skill. In 1835 Madame Tussaud was married and living in London. She opened a museum to house all her wax figures.

Madame Tussauds Wax Museums are found world wide. The Washington museum features the likenesses of all 44 Presidents. A new gallery was just open that features 14 rooms and allows for an interactive experience. Captain Jack Sparrow is also just arrived at the museum.

Additional characters include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Will Smith, Angelina Jolie, Rosa Parks, Buzz Aldrin, Babe Ruth, Tiger Woods, Beyonce, Ella Fitzgerald, and Hillary Clinton. There is someone here for everyone.

The museum is open 365 days a year and it does charge a fee to enter. The museum is located at 1001 F Street NW which is at the corner of 10th and F Street. Parking is available.

Hours: Monday-Sunday: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
National Museum of American History

7) National Museum of American History (must see)

The National Museum of American History is an eclectic collection of all things American. It is part of the Smithsonian Institution and it is located on the National Mall. It was opened in 1964 and was called The Museum of History and Technology. Over the years the mission of the museum changed and it was renamed. The present collection features the original Star Spangled Banner, the ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz, the Phyllis Diller gag file, and a Buffalo Soldier coat. An abstract sculpture made of granite and stainless steel stands outside the museum.

There are three floors of historical treasures plus films, rides, programs and special events. The east wing of the first floor focuses on transportation and technology, while the west wing focus is on science and technology. The second floor is dedicated to American ideals and lives. The third floor east wing deals with American wars and politics. In contrast, the west wing deals with entertainment, sports and music.

Artifact walls are on the first and second floors and they have small exhibits. One is devoted to the rise over the century of Chinese food in America. These walls line the center cores of the two floors. There are also two cafes and several stores. Plan to come for the whole day as there is so much to see and do.

Why You Should Visit:
To learn or relive American history; to appreciate what growing up in early American history was like compared to today.

Tip:
It is advisable to spend some time becoming familiar with the museum layout and featured halls. This way you can target specific areas of the museum to visit and better maximize your time here.
To better navigate your way around the museum, use the free maps including the museum layout and where to find each gallery.
Also, check the museum website beforehand for extended hours information!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
8
National Museum of Natural History

8) National Museum of Natural History (must see)

The National Museum of Natural History, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., opened in 1910 under the administration of the Smithsonian Institution, the world's premier museum and research complex. In its 325,000 square feet exhibition space, the museum features over 500 million species of plants, fossils, minerals, rocks, animals, meteorites and other artifacts. Some of its most appreciated collections are featured in the Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals, the Hall of Paleobiology, the Ocean Hall and other temporary exhibitions. The National Museum of Natural History incorporates an IMAX Theater and a fun Discovery Room on the first floor. Its research facility is home to more than 185 natural history scientists, which is the world's largest group of professionals dedicated to the study of natural and cultural history.

Why You Should Visit:
Great choice for eclectic viewing, as there's much more on display than expected: including, e.g., the Hope diamond.
Also, definitely a great place for kids because they'll be in awe the whole time with the many levels to check out.
The gift shops are awesome: one that gears towards children and one gearing more towards adults.

Tip:
If you don't mind walking outside, the food trucks on the mall will give you a better deal on food items.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5:30pm
9
Holocaust Memorial Museum

9) Holocaust Memorial Museum (must see)

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) is the United States' official memorial to the Holocaust. Adjacent to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the USHMM provides for the documentation, study, and interpretation of Holocaust history. It is dedicated to helping leaders and citizens of the world confront hatred, prevent genocide, promote human dignity, and strengthen democracy.

The USHMM’s collections contain more than 12,750 artifacts, 49 million pages of archival documents, 80,000 historical photographs, 200,000 registered survivors, 1,000 hours of archival footage, 84,000 library items, and 9,000 oral history testimonies. It also has teacher fellows in every state in the United States and has welcomed almost 400 university fellows from 26 countries since 1994.

Tip:
To get tickets (needed Mar-Sep), log in at 6am on the day you wish to go. You'll probably get them. They are free but there's a small convenience charge. You can show the tickets on your phone, so no need to print them. Once you have your arrival time, be prepared to wait outside for at least an hour, so make sure you build that into your time table.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5:20pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Washington D.C., USA

Create Your Own Walk in Washington D.C.

Create Your Own Walk in Washington D.C.

Creating your own self-guided walk in Washington D.C. is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Gardens and Parks Walking Tour

Gardens and Parks Walking Tour

If you are looking for getaway spots from the hustle and bustle of politics and city life, this walking tour in Washington D.C. offers plenty of opportunities for that. There are many large parks and gorgeous gardens where you can admire beautiful flowers, landscape and even learn various historical facts.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.6 Km or 2.9 Miles
Nightclubs Tour

Nightclubs Tour

Washington D.C. offers a great nightlife. You can dance all night long in any of the clubs from its liveliest neighborhoods, playing rock, hip hop, punk, jazz, country, gospel or alternative music. Make sure not to miss such an exciting opportunity by checking out the tour below with the suggested music and dance clubs.

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.9 Km or 4.3 Miles
Art Galleries and Museums Tour

Art Galleries and Museums Tour

Looking for inspiring and notable art venues? Washington D.C. is well-appreciated for the wide range of art museums and galleries that it offers. Take this self-guided tour and discover the treasures hidden by these art institutions.

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.1 Km or 3.2 Miles
Federal Buildings Walking Tour

Federal Buildings Walking Tour

Washington D.C. is a federal district and serves as the permanent national capital. It is is filled with important and memorable places to visit. Most of the nation's monuments and federal buildings can be found in the downtown of the city. The following walking tour will guide you to the most significant federal buildings in Washington D.C.

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.3 Km or 3.9 Miles
Washington D.C. Introduction Walk

Washington D.C. Introduction Walk

Washington D.C, capital of the United States, is a cocktail of politics, cosmopolitan energy and multiculturalism manifested in a thriving and diverse dining, nightlife and shopping setting. The city is renowned for its historic neighborhoods, world-class museums, memorials, beautiful gardens and arts venues. Take this self-guided walk and discover the city which defines some of the greatest...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.9 Km or 3.7 Miles
Historic Monuments and Memorials Walking Tour

Historic Monuments and Memorials Walking Tour

Washington D.C. is a city of historic memorials and monuments that commemorate key chapters in American history. They are dedicated to all the noteworthy generals, politicians, statesmen and artists who played a major role in shaping the American nation. This walking tour will offer you a glimpse into the history of the U.S.

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.6 Km or 3.5 Miles

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