The Best Museums in Washington DC That You Skipped

20 March 2013

Having a full week in Washington, DC gave me the great opportunity to thoroughly enjoy every museum the city had to offer. And yes, I did every museum. How could I not? They're all free! My frugal little heart couldn't say no!

And because I had so much time to leisurely check them all out, here's my chance to be a snooty museum know-it-all and tell you about some of the places that I absolutely loved that don't make it on the usual itinerary of DC tourists:

Freer Art Gallery
This humble little museum features works of art from the middle and far east and is located right next to the Smithsonian Castle. Admittedly, I went to The Freer Art Gallery so that I could do an assignment for my Japanese Art History course but I ended up loving the museum. But then again, it was probably because of this course that I enjoyed this museum so much. Seriously, after spending several months studying paintings and then seeing an actual Kanō screen in front of you is just- woah! I don't know, something about seeing these paintings, these things that have only been PowerPoint slides, actually in front of me. Too cool!

But the museum had much more than just Japanese art. Even for its modest size, the galleries covered Indian, Chinese, Korean, and Arabic arts of all forms. In addition, it had an unexpected gallery devoted to Whistler that focused on his exoticism phase. It was really cool to see how Japanese themes and patterns were interpreted into a Western painting.

The National Gallery of Art
This place is massive! You could easily spend as much time in here as the Louvre and see just as many amazing works of art. Monet, Rubens, Degas, Jacques-Louis David, Boucher, and the only da Vinci painting in the Americas to name a few! Or you could just relax around The National Gallery of Art because the interior is just as beautiful as the artworks. The small gardens inside are a great place to rest your weary feet and enjoy some silence (much needed after the Natural History Museum which is packed with screaming kids).

One of my favorite things was stumbling across the Pre-Raphaelites exhibit. Guys.You don't understand how much I was freaking out. This is one of my favorite artistic movements ever. I excitedly started taking pictures of Ophelia before an annoyed security guard told me pictures were not allowed. Oops!

National Museum of the American Indian
See, I have other interests beyond just art! What I appreciated most about this museum was that it did an amazing job of accomplishing two tasks; Firstly, it showed numerous artifacts and explained the history of the many First People of the Americas. Seriously, I've never seen such a diverse group of people so respectfully and thoroughly represented as what I saw in these exhibits. And there was no sugarcoating. The National Museum of the American Indian was very candid about expressing the past and the effects that colonialism had on American Indians which I feel is a topic all too often avoided in discussion.

Secondly, the museum did a great job of emphasizing that American Indians are more than just artifacts. They're a living, breathing culture that still exist. They are diverse people that still feel the effects of the past and also have to deal with contemporary issues.

What's your favorite museum that you've visited? Why?

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  1. I really enjoyed this post - museums are places I love, especially when they're free, which is a great thing. My favourite museum at the moment is the Musical Instruments Museum I recently visited in Brussels - it was fab. I've been writing a post about it today for my own site.

    Of the museums you've featured here, I think I'd most like to visit the National Museum of the American Indian - it sounds excellent and quite unique.

    1. Yeah, I'ma fool for museums! The music museum sounds interesting. Gonna go read about it now!