19 In Art + Museums/ Beer/ Food Envy/ Travel/ Washington, D.C.

Museums + More in Washington DC

When you think of Washington DC you can’t help but think of the amazing, top-notch museums. The name Smithsonian means something to people who aren’t even museum nerds! Aside from visiting the monuments and museums, though, there are tons of other fun things to do in Washington DC so I added a bonus few options.

Smithsonian Institution Building

This was the very first Smithsonian Building created. It sits on the National Mall in the heart of Washington DC and is commonly known as “the castle”. This red sandstone was not the architect’s first choice, but I love the way that it stands out on the mall.

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This building is currently used for administrative purposes and as the visitor’s center! Inside the visitor’s center are fun, random pieces of history. Like an Edison Lamp from 1882 [left], a piece of the wing from the Wright Brother’s plane [center] and a Burpee Seed Catalogue from 1945 [right].

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National Museum of American History

This museum has displays such as the massive flag that inspired our national anthem The Star Spangled Banner, exhibits on American life, and an exhibit about all of the wars America has fought in. Also, there are historical exhibits on presidents, first ladies and elections in general. It’s definitely worth a stop – I’ve gone both times I’ve DC and enjoyed it both times. I loved learning more about the changes in the U.S. in the past decades.

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Left: Julia Child’s kitchen – so cool!  //  Right: A Reusable Co-Op Bag from 1971

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Left: the hat Abraham Lincoln was wearing when he was assassinated // Right: Urban League Voting Poster from the 1960’s 

National Museum of Natural History

I went to the Museum of Natural History in NYC and I was pretty disappointed. However, I really enjoyed the National Museum of Natural History! First of all, I got to see my first REAL Moai, there was an amazing ocean display and an even more incredible early human exhibit (the anthropologist in me totally needed out at this!) Along with bigger exhibits there were assorted smaller ones as well like a mummy, dinosaurs, insects and even the hope diamond!

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Finally, I got to be an incredibly excited anthropologist in a museum!

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Skeletal remains of early hominids! I was totally nerding out!

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National Museum of African Art

I took an Art History of Africa class in college and just totally fell in love with it. I was elated to find that we have a National Museum of African Art. Lilly was super patient with me as I gasped and said, “A Benin Head!!” and zipped over to a case. (Thanks, Lil!) If you’re curious about, or already interested in African Art, this is a must!

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Arthur M Sackler Gallery

This art museum had a large amount of Asian art, which I also really enjoy! My absolute favorite works here are the first four photos shown below. They’re these massive, almost stupa-like collections of mass-produced ceramics and it’s a commentary on materialism. However, even on a simpler level, it was like an I Spy. Along with these works, there are many beautiful pieces of Asian art like the ones in the last two photos below.

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Hirshhorn Museum

This contemporary art museum is just off the National Mall. The first work of art that I saw upon going up the escalators was this sculpture of a naked man, sitting in the corner – it’s actually much larger than it looks! I really enjoyed walking through this museum because it was a nice size – not too big or too small, and you got through in a decent amount of time.

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Jefferson Library of Congress

Because I had already visited Washington DC once before, I had a shorter list of must-sees and wanted to see things that I hadn’t seen the last time and this was at the top of that list! The Library of Congress is the largest Library in the entire world! It’s in multiple buildings, but the Jefferson building is the oldest and is certainly a sight to see!

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Inside this building were multiple exhibits. My favorite was the ‘America Reads’ exhibit. They featured 65 books by American authors. The books displayed were voted in as books that had a profound effect on America. They included many of my personal favorites. 

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The Jefferson Library was just absolutely stunning! 

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National Archives

This was my other must-see on the trip. The National Archives holds the historical documents from many of the important moments in American History. I was wanting to finally see the Declaration of Independence. We waited in line to get to see it, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I was actually surprised at just how moved I was seeing the Declaration of Independence and I cannot believe that it took me two visits to finally see it.

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Inside there are many other historical documents – I even got to see the Emancipation Proclamation while I was there! Talk about incredible!

United States Botanical Garden

I love plants! Succulents, flowers, veggies, fruits, trees, shrubs – I love them all. It probably has something to do with my parents owning a greenhouse, but I always just love spending time amongst plants, especially plants that I’ve never seen before.

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Succulents + cacti are my absolute favorites!!

 

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I finally got to see a pitcher plant [left] and a Lilly in her natural habitat [right]! 

Women in Military Service for America Memorial

This memorial is in Arlington National Cemetery and I really enjoyed seeing the way that women’s roles in wartime changed over the years from serving at home to active duty. I highly recommend visiting this amazing multimedia display which includes uniforms, photos, videos, recordings and even artwork!

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+ MORE

When in Washington DC, don’t forget to VISIT THE MONUMENTS + MEMORIALS. They’re free, they’re beautiful and they’re full of information! If you have the time, I highly recommend seeing them both day and night. My best advice for the monuments is to wear a great pair of walking shoes and enjoy yourself!

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EASTERN MARKET is a must, in my personal opinion. I’m so glad that we had Lilly as a tour guide because I hadn’t heard of this place, which is actually on the National Register of Historical Places (the brick building). Not only is there a beautiful brick building but there are tons of vendors selling art, flowers, jewelry and all kinds of other goodies, along with loads of delicious things to eat! Check their calendar for markets while you’re there!

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Inside Eastern Market are meats, veggies and other local goods! What a fun place to shop local!

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We had crepes from a seriously delicious crepe food truck! We each got something completely different and each loved them. We also had some delicious, homemade lemonade to go along with it. Definitely make this a stop around lunch time and come hungry!

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ATLAS BREW WORKS was a stop that I found and I was really excited to visit. I knew I wanted to try a local beer, but I was really drawn to Atlas because they’re solar powered! Solar-powered-beer! How cool?! Plus, they have fun legal names – gotta stay true to those DC vibes.

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We ordered food, very first thing because, ya know, we love food and Sloppy Mama’s Food Truck just smelled irresistible and the food did not disappoint! Plus, look at all that food we got!

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I’m an IPA lover, so I was sure to get their Ponzi West Coast IPA.

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The inside was super loud, but outside the three of us got to continue catching up and being our silly selves! I just love these two amazing ladies!

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&PIZZA is pretty much my favorite pizza I’ve had in America (think Subway meets pizza). This is a “chain” available in DC, VA, PA + MD but it’s headquartered out of DC. You get to choose a pizza from their menu or you get to create your own. I opted to make my own and their premium, quality toppings, organic crust and amazing service definitely won me over. This is the perfect place to stop on your monument or museum tours. Also, don’t skip out on a soda here because they make their own without using high fructose corn syrup. I mean, my mouth is watering thinking about this place!

 

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Washington DC is a wonderful spot for a day trip, a long weekend or a longer trip. There’s so much to see in DC proper and in Virginia and Maryland just outside of it. Be sure to soak up as much as possible and take your time exploring this city filled with history, museums, amazing food, great places to drink and so much more!

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19 Comments

  • Reply
    Noel G20
    November 7, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    A lovely post. On my one trip to DC I visited all the Smithsonian Museums I could find, plus many others. I loved it.
    I am concerned though, that as I an IPA lover, you have yet to visit the country that invented it 😉

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      November 7, 2016 at 4:11 pm

      Aren’t they such an incredible collection?!
      Haha! Luckily, I’m headed that way shortly! I can’t wait, it’s been at the top of my list for many, many years! Cheers!

      • Reply
        Noel G20
        November 7, 2016 at 4:20 pm

        They are indeed an incredible collection. I am not entirely sure ours can match it. Though the V & A and the British Museum are awesome in their own way. I suspect especially the latter given you’re an anthropologist. The Greek exhibition is fabulous, for all its controversy. But the Assyrian: less talked about but unmissable.

  • Reply
    mappingmegan
    November 8, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    DC was one of our favorite trips in the US, and I would love to go back. I’m generally not a huge museum person but I really loved hitting up the different museums and exhibits throughout DC. Loved that they were free too 😀

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      November 9, 2016 at 6:02 pm

      Free is always amazing – especially when they’re such great quality!

  • Reply
    thetravelpockets
    November 8, 2016 at 11:31 pm

    O wow! I didn’t know Lincoln’s hat was in the National Museum of American History. I’ve been to DC many years ago and wish I would have visited this museum when I was there. I’m definitely going to make another trip to DC!!!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      November 9, 2016 at 6:01 pm

      Yeah! It’s one of those places that’s so fun to return to because there’s so much to see that you find a new little treasure each time!

  • Reply
    Amandas_Wanderlust
    November 9, 2016 at 2:16 am

    I love museums, and it would be the Natural History Museums and Botanical Gardens for me from this list. I wonder how the American History Museum will in future feature the new phase of history that the world enters as Trump is elected President today?

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      November 9, 2016 at 5:54 pm

      I’m not sure… It’s a huge change in politics for sure. Hopefully it is a peaceful-looking display – I’m trying to be positive about my country today, which has been exhausting. Ha!

  • Reply
    Sally Cochrane
    November 9, 2016 at 3:24 am

    Take me to the Jefferson Library, I could spend all day there just smelling the books haha And I didn’t know Washington had a botanic garden either, interesting.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      November 9, 2016 at 5:01 pm

      Right?! It’s my new favorite indoor spot in DC. The botanical garden is really nice as well. They’re both well-worth a visit!

  • Reply
    Chantell - Adoration 4 Adventure
    November 9, 2016 at 4:25 am

    Yay! DC is such a great budget destination for all the super awesome museums!!!! I have been twice but still not seen as many as I would like. it was good to get a look in at some of the ones you visited. Also interesting to hear your thoughts on the Museum of Natural History in NYC vsNational Museum of Natural History.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      November 9, 2016 at 4:58 pm

      It really is. Everything to do and see for free is just incredible, and you can find great places – even local spots – that are budget-friendly! Have you been to both Museums of Natural History? I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts. Thanks for checking out my post and taking the time to comment.

  • Reply
    Jen Morrow
    November 9, 2016 at 9:17 am

    Great list! I loved the Smithsonian Museum, but I have not made it to each of these. I really feel like I am missing out on the Jefferson Library and DC Botanical Gardens!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      November 9, 2016 at 4:39 pm

      The Jefferson Library is probably my new favorite thing in D.C. The Botanical Gardens are really great too, though. I loved being able to see so many exotic plants that I’ve never seen before. (I’m a mega plant-nerd!) Haha

  • Reply
    Thelittlelai: Beyond limits
    November 9, 2016 at 10:07 am

    I like how you write it rhymes with the pictures and your words creatively. I as well like museums and would love to amble around this museum if I obtain the chance soon.

    LaiAriel

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      November 9, 2016 at 4:32 pm

      Wow! Thank you so much for such a compliment! If you like museums, this is definitely the place for you! Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  • Reply
    Manon @ The Dutch countryside
    November 9, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    The museums look truly inspirational. I am not a huge fan of museums, but sometimes I am just craving for a museumday so I can get some extra knowledge etc. I like the way you descriped all of them in such a way so we can truly know what the experience was like for you.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      November 12, 2016 at 9:20 am

      I totally understand the craving for museum days. I don’t want to spend everyday on a trip in museums, but I love getting that extra knowledge, like you said, especially in a place I don’t know much about. It’s a great way to catch up on history and other cultural elements that make a country or state what it is today. Thanks for commenting! Cheers!

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