Hey Washington!  We all know that DC is famous for its world-class museums.  But what if you can’t bear yet another trip downtown to Air & Space? Here are the best local museums in town away from The National Mall.

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For more info, check out the full blog post here!

African American Civil War Museum – Shaw/U Street

The African American Civil War Museum and Memorial tell the stories the brave men who played a role in ending slavery and keeping America united.  The Museum uses a rich collection of artifacts, documents, primary sources and technology to create a learning experience for visitors about the period from the American Civil War to the Civil Rights era.

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens – Van Ness

I’d driven past this estate for years before I had the opportunity to take my first visit. And when I did, I was stunned.  Truly an oasis in the city, this mansion and its exquisite gardens are a marvel.  This was the home of the home of Marjory Merriweather Post and it boasts expansive collections of Russian and French art.

The Frederick Douglas National Historic Site – Anacostia

Anacostia’s grand “white house” was recently restored to original tan color, but it still presides over its panoramic view of the city like a sentinel.  This was the home of abolitionist Frederick Douglas, one of the great leaders of the 19th century. The Park Service Guides deliver excellent presentations which really bring Mr. Douglas’ life and achievements alive. Most of the furnishings and artifacts are original to the period, which really adds to the story.

Heurich House Museum – Dupont Circle

Home of the city’s popular Christmas market, Heurich House is a masterpiece of craftsmanship and Victorian design.  You can get a wonderful sense of what life was like for the rich and famous of the period.

National Bonsai & Penjing Museum – Arboretum

The National Arboretum is one of my favorite places to “get away from it all” right in the middle of the city and the Bonsai & Penjing Museum only adds to the glorious mystique. The Museum promotes the art of bonsai and penjing to visitors through masterpiece displays and educational programs.

National Museum of the United States Navy – Navy Yard

Another “hidden gem”, this museum is packed with history, great exhibits and plenty of hands on experiences.  This museum is located on an active military base; read up on the entrance requirements and paperwork BEFORE your visit.

The HBCU Museum – Shepherd Park

The HBCU Museum is a private collection of historic photographs and memorabilia dedicated to Black History and the rich legacy of our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).  Executive Director Terrence Forte and his family designed and funded the museum, the first in a planned series of locations. Though there is an $8 self-guided tour available, I found great value in taking the guided tour for $10. 

Bottom Line

As you can see, there are many options for residents and out-of-town guests to explore the city outside of the downtown core.  Even better, you can hop on one of the DC Circulator buses to get you where you’re going; the trip is now free!