My recent trip to Washington D.C. was so fabulous, I really can’t believe I hadn’t been since I was 13. Seems criminal when I think about it. After all, it’s only a short train ride from New York and it’s such a huge cultural destination.
National Portrait Gallery: This museum might sound a little boring, a museum dedicated to the study of portraiture? But as someone who is very easily bored, trust me when I say that this museum is exceptional. Its collections focus on portraits of famous Americans like George Washington, Marilyn Monroe and Amelia Earhart. It’s also just a beautiful museum, especially the atrium.
Newseum: Before we came to Washington D.C., I asked friends and family what their favorite things to do were. Everyone raved about the Newseum, an interactive museum filled with exhibits about news and journalism. Give yourself at least a few hours here if you really want to explore. Exhibit highlights for me were the largest section of the Berlin Wall (outside of Germany), The Story of the News, The 9/11 Exhibit and Award-Winning images by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographers. Don’t forget to try your hand out at being a newscaster and record your very own news segment before you leave.
Spy Museum: Once you’ve taken in as much art history and culture as you can tolerate, take a break and visit the Spy Museum, one of D.C.’s most popular and fun attractions. Learn everything you’ve wondered about espionage, the most elusive profession…until now. Participate in dozens of interactive exhibits, check out old CIA and KGB secret weapons, witness James Bond’s Aston Martin in action and even find out about celebrities who doubled as spies during wartime. Be sure to visit the new exhibit, Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains.
National Mall: Clearly a visit to D.C. is not complete without a stroll through the National Mall, nearly every famous monument or building that you’ve seen in books and movies resides here (any Covert Affairs fans out there?). Take in the Washington Monument (closed for renovation right now), the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Veterans’ Memorial (totally underrated, I found this to be so beautiful), the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial. Finally, I know they’re not technically part of the National Mall, but I think a visit to the Jefferson Memorial and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial are musts. They’re just a short walk from the Lincoln Memorial. It may seem like you could do this walk in a couple hours, but it’s really more like 3-4. Things are more spread out than you would think. While you’re up here of course, you must walk by the White House. I don’t think it’s worth the hassle to go inside, I was happy just snapping a shot outside.
National Archive: If you’re like me (or Nicolas Cage in National Treasure) you can’t visit Washington D.C. without seeing the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This building also has a copy of the 1297 Magna Carta, which I thought was super neat to see. Each of these documents is on display in the Rotunda. I would get in and out of here quickly though, there are so many other museums to see! I’d skip the rest of the building.
Runners Up: Holocaust Museum and Hirshorn Museum
What to Skip: National Museum of American History. Unless you want to see the first lady’s wardrobe exhibit, I would skip this. I would also pass on the National Museum of the American Indian, sorry to say but this was a snooze.