Did you know there are about 200 museums in Washington, D.C.? The nation's capital is famous as having one of the highest concentration of free museums in the world. We know traveling costs can odd up so here is a handy guide to the best FREE museums (in alphabetical order) to visit while you're in the District!
Top 10 Free DC Museums
1. DAR Museum
Source: DAR Museum
The DAR Museum is a history and art museum in the heart of DC. Run by the Daughters of the American Revolution, the museum's collection focuses on objects made before the Industrial Revolution. From quilts, educational exhibits, to children's programs where children can get a taste of what it was like to live in colonial times, the DAR Museum is the perfect destination for families interested in 19th century America.
The museum admission is free (except for large group tours). Street parking is extremely limited in this neighborhood and has a strict 2 hour parking limit.
View parking options near the DAR Museum
2. Museum of Natural History
Source: Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0
As part of the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of Natural History is free and open every single day of the year. Did you know the it is the top most visited natural history museum in the world? The Museum of Natural History serves as an educational museum as well as an extensive research complex.
From the fascinating Human Origins exhibition to the world-famous Hope Diamond, there is something for everyone. Permanent exhibits include the insect zoo, Hall of Dinosaurs (under construction until 2019), and Hall of Mammals.
Located on the National Mall, the Museum of Natural History is easy to get to via driving or public transportation. Although there are no official parking facility at the National Mall or the Smithsonian, many garages are located within 2-3 blocks of the Museum of Natural History.
Take a look at Museum of Natural History parking options
3. National Air and Space Museum
Source: Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0
The National Air and Space Museum is one of the most popular museums in the world. It holds the largest collection of aircraft in the world! In 2014, it was the 5th most popular museum in the world with almost 7 million visitors.
From historic airplanes to massive spacecrafts like Apollo 11 Command Module, the collection is vast with over 60 aircraft, 50 space artifacts, and 2,000 smaller objects.
Remember to outsmart the crowd by reserving guaranteed National Air and Space Museum parking ahead of time!
4.National Archives Museum
The National Archives Museum is home to various important documents of the United States government. Visitors can view the original copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. From historical treaties to culturally-significant photographs, the National Archives Museum archives significant American events.
Visitor Tip: With aged documents that can deteriorate under certain conditions, photography of any kind has been prohibited at the National Archives Museum. Keep your camera at home when visiting the National Archives Museum!
With no official parking dedicated to the Archives Museum, your best bet is to purchase parking near the National Mall.
5. National Gallery of Art
The free museum and sculpture garden, National Gallery of Art, is home to one of the best fine art collection in the world. The Italian Renaissance collection is widely known as the strongest collection at the National Gallery of Art. The only Leonardo da Vinci painting in the Americas is shown at the museum.
The National Gallery of Art permanent collections include works by Edgar Degas, Rembrandt, Francisco Goya, and more.
Fun fact: The National Gallery of Art was the second most visited museum in the US (2011)!
The National Gallery of Art is located in the east end of the National Mall. Parking is scarce and it is recommended to purchase parking ahead of time to guarantee yourself a parking space, especially during the Spring/Summer months. Purchase National Gallery of Art parking with Parking Panda.
6. National Museum of American History
The National Museum of American History displays cultural and historical artifacts from the American past. There are three exhibition floors, each with a number of themed wings. The first floor features technology, science, and innovation. Second floor exhibits focus on the history of the American life while the third floor displays exhibits on America at war and American entertainment and sports.
With such a variety of historical exhibitions, you can spend a whole day at the National Museum of American History. Located at the western end of the National Mall, the National Museum of Americna History is a "must-see"
Purchase National Museum of American History parking
7. National Zoo
Although the Smithsonian National Zoo
may not be considered a typical museum, the education-focused exhibits allow visitors to learn and explore animal science while enjoying the animals in exhibits. As one of the few free zoos in the country, the National Zoo is a popular destination for visitors in DC.
In 2014, a female panda cub was born and later named Bao Bao. The adorable cub was a success in the conservation efforts by both the Smithsonian National Zoo and Chinese colleagues and represented only the second surviving panda cub in DC. Bao Bao is now a healthy juvenile thriving at the National Zoo!
There are 5 official zoo lots surrounding the National Zoo. However, the spaces are extremely limited and fill up often by 9 AM in the summertime. The National Zoo has partnered with Parking Panda to provide reservations for a limited number of those spaces at the zoo - be sure to reserve ahead of time as these spaces go quick and are only sold at least a day in advance!
8. National Portrait Gallery
Source: Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0
The National Portrait Gallery is located north of the National Mall and shares its home at the Old Patent Office Building with the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Like the name suggests, the National Portrait Gallery houses historic and culturally-significant portraits and photographs.
Famous exhibits at the National Portrait Gallery include the Hall of Presidents, Time magazine covers, a Frederick Douglass daguerreotype, and more.
The National Portrait Gallery does not have its own parking facility. Instead, visitors are encouraged to use the Metro or park at a commercial garage or lot nearby. Take a look at National Portrait Gallery parking here.
9. National Postal Museum
The National Postal Museum is conveniently located near the Union Station in DC. The National Postal Museum displays the history of the US Postal Service as well as history of postal service from around the world. It is a very popular museum for families as the museum has worked to integrate interactive exhibits for children. It also houses an extensive stamp collection.
There are many parking garages and lots near the National Postal musem. Reserve your guaranteed National Postal Museum parking before your visit.
10. US Holocuast Memorial Museum
The United State Holocuast Memorial Museum is the official museum dedicated to Holocuast history. The museum also promotes human rights and regularly hosts programs and education for world leaders and visitors. The museum has over 12,000 artifacts, almost 50 million pages of documents, 1,000 hours of footage in its collection.
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