Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Visiting the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

Washington, D.C. is home to the Smithsonian Institute. This network of museums has many neat things to offer to the public. The National Museum of American History is one of the most popular museums in Washington, D.C. 

Renovated and re-opened in Nov. 2008, the museum is really a fascinating place to see. (I'd recently put it as one of my "must see" museums lists in D.C.). It truly offers many diverse and fascinating exhibits.

This museum offers exhibits that showcase everything from early colonial times to sports and modern pop culture. As you wander the museum floors you can see the exhibit showcasing the flag that inspired the Star Spangled Banner, an exhibit on American First Ladies, how electric lighting evolved, musical instruments, and you can even potentially see Kermit the Frog and Oscar the Grouch or other Sesame Street characters. In addition, Dorothy's ruby red slippers from "The Wizard of Oz" are on display in this museum too. 

Oscar the Grouch
Kids love to see the Muppets and Sesame Street characters 

Ruby Red slippers
Ruby red slippers worn by Judy Garland in "The Wizard of Oz"
Another amazing exhibit, which I had missed on previous visits over the years, is the Gunboat Philadelphia, the ship that had been sunk by the British in Lake Champlain in 1776. Raised from the lake's bottom in the 1930s, the boat has been moved to the museum and has its own room, along with a number of artifacts on display, providing a thorough history on the boat's history and recovery.

The Gunboat Philadelphia
The Gunboat Philadelphia was commanded by Benedict Arnold

In addition to the ongoing exhibits, there are often new ones which are special programs offered in the museum for a limited run. Check the museum's website before your visit to see what new and exciting things are being offered during the time frame you'll be in town.

These honorable mentions are only a small sample of what awaits the American History Museum visitor. You can easily spend hours or days in this museum and still not see it all. It's helpful to try and figure out ahead of time which exhibits are most important to you to see, especially if you plan to visit on a high volume day or busy time of year (i.e. cherry blossom season).

The museum's operating hours change depending on the season, in the summer months, hours are typically extended. Your best bet is to arrive when the museum opens when it's less crowded. Any time after lunch, especially on weekends, the museum can be a pretty busy place and it may be difficult to see some of the exhibits.  

The museum is open every day except Dec. 25, and admission is free. Located on the National Mall, at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W., the National Museum of American History is easily accessible by the Metro (Orange Line). You can get off at the Smithsonian Station and when you come above ground, the museum is only a short walk away.

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