Local Activities | March 13, 2020
The winter and early spring months are a great time to take a one-day trip from Baltimore to explore the many museums on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The National Mall is a two-mile park that runs from Capitol Hill to the Lincoln Memorial. Home to the many institutions of the Smithsonian, the Mall offers a collection of the best free museums in the world and is one of the most visited places in the United States. The museums of the National Mall are easily accessible from Union Station or various Metro train lines including the Smithsonian stop. It’s an easy drive to the Greenbelt, Silver Spring, Rockville or Landover, Maryland Metro train stations from Baltimore so you don’t have to drive to downtown D.C.
Visiting the many museums in Washington, D.C. is a perfect way to spend a cold winter’s day. You can spend a lot of time exploring the different exhibits and displays at each of the National Mall museums. There are nineteen Smithsonian-sponsored museums, with a majority of them on the National Mall. The Smithsonian Museum’s collections range from American history, including air and space, to plant conservation to contemporary art and everything in between. There is no comparison to the amount of history, art and information that is shared by this vast collection of free museums.
If you only have the time for a one-day trip to the National Mall, pick the museum(s) that interest you the most. This will save you from wandering around the museums and only seeing a small fraction of the exhibits. Families with children will likely be drawn to the Natural History Museum, the National Air and Space Museum or the American History Museum. Art lovers may be more interested in visiting the National Gallery of Art, the Hirshorn Museum or the smaller contemporary art museums on the Mall.
All of the museums on the mall are open between 10 am or 11 am to 5:30 pm daily. They are open 364 days a year, closing only on Christmas Day. Check out a selection of some of the museums on the Mall that will be perfect to visit for a one-day trip.
The newest museum on the Mall is the National Museum of the American Indian . The museum, which opened in 2004, explains and shares the life, history, languages and culture of Native Americans from North, Central and South America. The museum focuses on Native American life in the 20th century to present day.
The National Museum of Natural History, with a collection of over 127 million items, is the most visited national history museum in the world. This museum was made even more famous by the “Night at the Museum” movies. The museum houses the largest exhibits of complete dinosaur fossils in addition to displays of earth sciences, meteorites, minerals, gems (including the Hope Diamond), evolution and world cultures.
One of the most visited museums on the National Mall is the National Air and Space Museum. The museum spotlights the history of human flight from the Wright Brothers to space flight. Exhibits include Kitty Hawk, capsules from the Apollo space missions and much, much more. The National Air and Space Museum holds the largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft in the world. If you want to see larger aircraft, take a trip to the Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport to see the Shuttle Enterprise, Enola Gay, and a SR-71 Blackbird amongst other aircraft.
To find American historical and pop culture artifacts, you shouldn’t miss visiting the National Museum of American History . You can wander around this museum for hours and still not see everything they have on display. The museum houses the flag that was the inspiration of the “Star Spangled Banner,” the gowns of the First Ladies dating back over 200 years, Abraham Lincoln’s top hat and much more. It is also the home of many iconic pop culture items, from Dorothy’s ruby red slippers to Kermit the Frog to Indiana Jones’ jacket and fedora.
Escape the cold, snow or rain by spending the day exploring the United States Botanic Garden . Located near the Capitol Building, this institution is a living plant and conservation museum that offers great seasonal displays and attractions. The glass conservatory is also a historic building housing two courtyard gardens and ten glass-covered garden rooms.
Art lovers will enjoy exploring the National Gallery of Art , which is nested in two buildings; East and West. Both buildings contain a vast collection of art treasures, from European paintings and sculptures to impressionist and modern works of art. Must-sees include the only Leonardo da Vinci painting in the Western Hemisphere, the largest Calder mobile and a light sculpture by Leo Villareal.
The National Holocaust Memorial Museum is farther away from the main area of museums on the Mall. It is a memorial to the victims and survivors of the holocaust. It is the most somber of all of the museums and can be very daunting for children and even adults.
The Smithsonian’s modern and contemporary art collection is housed in and around the futurist building of the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. The museum has works from Pablo Picasso to Henry Moore to Jeff Koons. The round building was built in the 1960s to perfectly showcase modern art classics. If you’re a fan of sculpture, this is the museum to visit!
No matter where you decide to spend your winter’s day, you will always find more that you want to visit and explore at the museums in Washington, D.C. Stop in and explore the culture and the history of the many cultural institutions and museums in D.C. on the National Mall.
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