While there aren't many options for free things to do in DC, there is a selection of free museums to choose from. Below is a list of museums that are free to explore in the National Mall. They carry all the history visitors might be interested in, in one place. Visitors can dive into the classic art and science, and learn more about the aviation world all while at the National Mall.
Most of these museums are a part of the Smithsonian Institutions - a great network of research institutions and museums – which are open daily except on Christmas Day. These spots provide a great way to have some quality family time while learning on the go, and they are accessible to all people of all ages.
The National Museums Of Smithsonian Institutions
Below is a list of the free museums that Smithsonian Institutions have to offer in the National Mall. They are a great way to learn a lot at no cost.
The National Museum Of Natural History
The National Museum of Natural History is recognized as the most visited natural history museum in the whole world, thanks to its collections of more than 127 million collectibles. They opened their doors in 1910 and have since collected items such as dinosaur bones, ancient Egyptian mummies, the Hope Diamond, and so much more. They have a deep-time exhibit that takes the guests back millions of years as they see the fossils of long-past dinosaurs and learn about the extinctions. They will also have a chance to learn about the development of life from the depth of the ocean to the shores. Parking at the mall is scarce, so it is recommended to use public transport to reach there.
- Free entry
- Open daily between 10 AM and 5:30 PM
The National Museum Of The American Indian
The museum’s collections ring forth over 12,000 historical years and more than 1,200 native beliefs from America.
Several ongoing exhibitions are hosted at the museum including:
- Return to a Native Place: Algonquian Peoples of the Chesapeake, this exhibition is targeted at allowing guests to encounter the indigenous people of Chesapeake Bay with their collections of photographs, maps, traditional objects, and collaborative displays.
- The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire brings visitors back to Andean beliefs to discover the fundamentals of Inka Road. Visitors can expect to learn the technologies that prepared the Inka world and ensured its legacy is possible today.
Just like the rest of the museums, entry is free during working hours.
The National Museum Of African American History And Culture
This is the only museum that dedicates its documentation to African American life. It opened its doors in 2016 National Museum of African American History and Culture documents all aspects of the African-American culture experiences from the Civil Rights Movement, arts, athletics, slavery, and a lot more. The exterior of the building was constructed by Ghanaian-born engineer David Adjaye and it is beautifully sculptured to be a bronze shade, three-story screen. The fretwork is a tribute to the imprisoned African-Americans in the south of the United States back in history.
The museum has an incredible collection of artwork including:
- A shawl that was handed to Harriet Tubman from Queen Victoria
- An aircraft used for training by the Tuskegee Institute
- The official invite to former President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009
The museum is open from Wednesday through to Sunday from 11 AM to 4 PM.
The National Gallery Of Art
This museum is focused on preserving the finest art from the likes of Da Vinci and other famous artists. Open from 10 AM to 5 PM on weekdays, the National Gallery of Art spans its walls over two buildings and preserves art from different walks of life. It has about 141,000 paintings, pictures, sculptures, and new media that go back to the Middle Ages.
The building was under renovation over the past three years, and now has even finer art collections to showcase to those interested such as:
- Barbara Kruger
- Pablo Picasso
- Alexander Calder
- Mark Rothko
During winter, the National Gallery of Art also has an outside ice skating rink which is in the center of the garden. This is a great attraction for parents traveling with kids.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
This museum is bittersweet to visit. It serves as a tribute and a memorial to the Holocaust – one of the worst cases of genocide the world has seen to date. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is solely to enlighten any guests that come through their doors about the hazards of hating one another and teach them how the world can live in perfect harmony. The museum is open from 10 AM to 5:20 PM and is free of charge, however, they do charge $1 to enter the exhibition where the story of the Holocaust, from 1933 to 1945, is told.
Every other part of the museum is free to enter. Some of the exhibitions include:
- Cambodia: 1975-1979
- Genocide: The Threat Continues
- Remember the Children: Daniel’s Story
- A Dangerous Lie: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion
Although being in this museum is a depressing activity as it brings back all the tragedy the world has had to pass through to be here today, it teaches the visitor a lot more about appreciating other people’s lives and the simple act of kindness.
These museums are open to the public daily and are free of charge. For any visitor who wants to advance their knowledge of historic events on a low budget, these are the museums to start with and expand from there.