I’ve been having a great time sharing with all of you about Washington D.C. Please check out the first three parts of our adventure, before you get into this final section of some of D.C.’s great museums. (Washington D.C. Part Three)
Outside of the Smithsonian Museums, there are also a number of other great museums in the Nation’s Capitol. This list is in no way exhaustive, but I am just going to point out a few of the other museums that I really love in D.C.
The Newseum is a private museum dedicated to showcasing the history and power of the news and media in American life. You can delve into topics such as the impact rock and roll had on politics, the way media shaped our view of war, how our media reflects our society and vice versa, and so much more. This is also a great place to take kids, because it gives them a chance to pretend to be a newscaster, and there are many child friendly exhibits on children’s media and the power that it has. This museum does charge an entrance fee, but if you’re going to splurge on something in this city full of free things, this is not a bad choice.
The International Spy Museum is another museum with an entrance fee, but it is so fantastically fun that you can’t really complain about the price. When you enter the museum you are given a secret identity and mission. You have a few moments to memorize your name, identity, and cover story, as you work your way through the main exhibit, learning about the history of spycraft, you will sometimes be stopped and asked your identity and your purpose for visiting. My kids got a blast out of that, and I have to admit I got really into it also, grilling my wife over her secret identity. The museum is full of spy gadgets that seem straight out of the movies, such as pen guns and shoe knives, and it covers the role of espionage from the middle ages through the cold war and into today. I would also be remiss not to mention that there is a huge James Bond movie collection, and seeing Jaw’s grill close up was fantastic. My childlike love for James Bond came through in a big way, and I was just sad that I was too big to crawl through the kids portion of the exhibits. (Total ageism.)
Ford’s Theater is the location of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and considering that I have a slight, (or massive) fascination with Lincoln, I am in love with this place. The theater itself is still an active theater, doing shows both historical and modern, but beneath, and around the theater is a museum that deals with everything regarding Lincoln’s presidency and assassination. You go through and learn about the first plot to kill Lincoln, the state of the White House and the city of D.C. at the time of his presidency. (Dirt roads and open sewers…seems like there’s a political joke there.) You learn about his favorite foods, his cabinet, (not the one that held dishes, although they probably did hold dishes at some point.) his long work hours, his blase approach to his own safety, including sneaking out and riding around town by himself, and his true feelings about slavery. (“Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” – Abraham Lincoln) You learn about his assassination, including artifacts such as the gun used, and artifacts from the plotters. You can even go across the street from the theater to the Petersen House where Lincoln was taken and attended to by doctors in the futile attempt to save his life. You then go up to see the aftermath, the chase for the perpetrators, Lincoln’s funeral processions through the United States, and the legacy of his presidency on all those who have come after him. It was a fun and interactive look at our, in my humble opinion, greatest president. Even my kids enjoyed it, and they do not love history nearly the way that I do.
The final museum in D.C. that I want to highlight is one that I would recommend dedicating a whole day to, however it is not one that is light and fun and full of games for kids to play. Visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is one of the most sobering, eye-opening experiences of my life. This museum walks you step by step through four floors, detailing the situations and events leading to WWII, the rise of the Nazi party, the role of anti-semitism in the world, and the horrors of the holocaust. You learn about towns the had Jewish cultures for two-thousand years that now have none, see the names and numbers of the lost, stand in front of a pile of shoes in awe, and so much more. We planned a half day for our visit there, and weren’t even halfway through the museum four hours in. Definitely don’t miss this one, but do take tissues and be prepared to walk out a different person than you were when you went in.
Thanks for going along with me these last few days on a journey to one of my favorite cities on Earth! I hope we’ve inspired you to see America’s Capitol and learn more about the history, culture, and experience of the United States.