5 History Museums | DC Museum Guide

We started our three-part DC museum guide last week with 5 art museums that should be on your list. This week, it’s all about history. From living the life of a spy to learning about native cultures, this list has a few predictable picks as well as a few lesser-known spots. Regardless, if you love history, make time in your DC schedule to visit at least one of these. If you love science and nature, stick around for the third part of our guide next week! What are some history museums you like to visit whether in DC or another city?

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International Spy Museum
Included in our top tourist spots to visit, the International Spy Museum is a must for anyone who enjoys indulging their inner child. It’s the only public museum dedicated to espionage and provides a unique interactive experience into the spy world. Besides pretending to be a spy, you can also tour the James Bond exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary. It’s an absolute must for anyone who’s ever enjoyed mystery, suspense and wondered what the life of a spy would be like. I’m look at all of you, Alias fans.

National Museum of African American History & Culture
The newest Smithsonian museum and museum to the DC metro area is the National Museum of African American History & Culture. The museum is “devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history and culture” and the only national museum to do just that. Exhibits and collections include everything from clothing African Americans have worn over the centuries to musical instruments, photography and military documentation. Explore the Civil Rights movements from over the years, religion, life in the South and West, and much more. It’s a unique opportunity because there really is no other museum that has such an extensive and thorough representation of life as an African American throughout American history such as this one.

National Museum of American History
One of my personal favorite museums is the National Museum of American History. I was lucky enough to arrive just as a tour was starting with a lovely gentleman that had an extensive knowledge about everything he discussed. A few exhibits in particular this museum includes is the First Ladies exhibit which has gowns on display former first ladies have worn as well as china from the white house and photographs. It also includes the Food Exhibition which takes you through the history of the culinary world and nutrition in America including Julia Child’s kitchen from Cambridge. Visit the Hall of Music which has Dorothy’s ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz among other cultural treasures. This is also the museum where you can see the Star-Spangled Banner, a flag that is remarkably enormous and inspired the national anthem. It’s so much larger than you’d imagine when you see it in person.

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National Museum of the American Indian
The National Museum of the American Indian is a vast collection of historical, religious, artistic and anthropological artifacts from Native American tribes throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. The exhibits feature everything from religious artifacts to everyday items that date all the way back to thousands of years old. Besides ancient artifacts, the museum also curates collections of modern and contemporary artistry.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
No doubt the most somber of the museums in this post, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is an experience everyone should have. It’s as close to this piece of history as many of us will get and it’s such an important piece of history we should remember. The museum takes you through a unique tour of the era sharing the experience many people endured from beginning to end. The exhibits include personal stories and gruesome photographs showcasing the horror of the period. Tickets are free but it’s advised to reserve them in advance since this is such a popular site to visit.

The Smithsonian Castle which isn't technically a museum but a gorgeous historical structure on the National Mall.

The Smithsonian Castle which isn't technically a museum but a gorgeous historical structure on the National Mall.