A Few of DC’s Coolest (and Most Offbeat) Must-See Museums

A Few of DC\’s Coolest (and Most Offbeat) Must-See Museums

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Washington may have more museums than a politician has alibis, but sorting the wheat from the chaff can be a burden for the hordes of tourists who invade the city every summer. That goes double for out-of-towners looking to avoid the usual array of American and national history that they could have caught at home in downtown Peoria. Luckily, CultureMob has a rundown of DC\’s must-see museums and, whether they intrigue, titillate, or disgust, these are the ones with wares you can only find in the nation\’s capitol.

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5. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

This national institution places last on our list if only for sheer obviousness, but we\’ll be damned if the wonders contained inside don\’t excite both adults and kids alike. And just try not to feel patriotic as you re-trace America\’s aeronautical history – from the original 1903 Wright Flyer to the Spirit of St. Louis to original space suits worn by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin during the very first moon landing. A world-class planetarium and IMAX theater also provide a visually dazzling counterpoint to the usual downtown DC museum rigmarole.

For location and ticket info, visit: http://nasm.si.edu/

4. The International Spy Museum

Supposedly, the District roughly 10,000 spies at any given time and this museum, located just steps from the Verizon Center, chronicles the sordid exploits of these agents of espionage in the nation\’s capitol. But, of course, it wouldn\’t be the International Spy Museum without a large cadre of artifacts from the CIA, KGB and every other Cold War-era dirty tricks operation. It\’s the only museum of its kind on this side of the Atlantic and makes most spy fiction pale in comparison.

For location and ticket info, visit: http://www.spymuseum.org/

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3. Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

When it comes to fine art in Washington, there certainly isn\’t a shortage – the National Gallery, the Corcoran and the Phillips Collection being just a few of the world class galleries the city has to offer. But, for truly offbeat fare and artists, count on the Smithsonian\’s Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Case in point: their current exhibition, “Strange Bodies,” includes decidedly non-school trip-friendly works by a diverse range of artists, incuding Willem de Kooning, Julian Schnabel, Francis Bacon, Balthus and Matthew Barney (pictured).

For location and ticket info, visit: http://hirshhorn.si.edu

2. Newseum

The Newseum is the only museum in the world dedicated to investigative journalism and it\’s a fitting addition to the city where most of the world\’s news is made. Located, appropriately enough, on the same street that hosts the White House, its 14 multimedia rich galleries that explore great books and the history of dissent in America, an exploration of the First Amendment and full-on interactive display of the work that goes into NBC News\’ nightly telecast. Plus, the Newseum hosts weekly presentations by some of the biggest names in the modern news-making machine; upcoming speakers include Jim Lehrer, Nick Clooney and Michel Martin.

For location and ticket info, visit: http://www.newseum.org/

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1. National Museum of Health and Medicine

Though its closer to Silver Spring than the National Mall, this collection of medical oddities, primitive medical implements and general weirdness is definitely one of the more unique museums anywhere in Washington, DC – and one of the most informative. With an approach that falls somewhere between the X-Files and a post-graduate research study, this free Walter Reed institution chronicles the life of the Elephant Man, looks up close at leprosy and contains dozens of unmentionable things (or pieces of them, anyway) preserved in jars – including the bullet that ended the life of President Abraham Lincoln (pictured).

For location and ticket info, visit: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/medtour/nmhm.html/

  • http://www.nmhm.washingtondc.museum/index.html Tim Clarke

    Thanks, Hunter, for the fantastic mention of the National Museum of Health and Medicine, on the campus at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. I wanted to offer your readers another link to learn more about the Museum – http://www.nmhm.washingtondc.museum/index.html. Also, let me note that adults must present photo ID to gain entry to Walter Reed (and cars are often subject to search) and then ID again is checked at the Museum (routine security procedures as we are on an active Army installation.) We're open daily 10a-5:30p, we offer free (but limited) parking. One last note for readers planning a visit on Sat., June 6: unfortunately, this is one day we're required to be closed for utilities testing. (There's a note about this, too, on our Web site.) Sorry for the inconvenience, we'll be open normal hours on Sunday the 7th. Hope to see you at the Museum.

    Tim Clarke
    Public Affairs, National Museum of Health and Medicine
    nmhminfo@afip.osd.mil