Washington, DC Museums

Washington, DC: Museum Hopping

With so many things to see in DC, I had to make a list after I arrived last night. After looking at weather reports, I decided to set aside today for museums and our evening LSE Alumni event and tomorrow (when it’s supposed to be a touch warmer) for monument spotting and a possible trip to Arlington. There are entirely too many museums here to see in one trip (or one lifetime), so I picked a few that particularly piqued my interest.

First stop: the Natural History Museum.

Inside the Natural History Museum.

After rounding up a map from the Information Center, I spent nearly two hours perusing the Natural History Museum. I could have easily spent longer, but with so many sites to visit I didn’t want to spend too much time in any one spot. As you may recall me mentioning, I loved the Natural History Museum in London and I knew that if this was remotely similar, I would be a fan. Luckily, it was just as cool as I had hoped and had some incredible exhibits. I’m always a fan of the sections dedicated to geology, and the gem section at the museum was spectacular… they even had the Hope Diamond on display.

The Hope Diamond at the Natural History Museum.

After the Natural Museum, I headed next door to the Museum of American History. Being in DC, I thought it only fitting to see some exhibits focusing on the country’s history. The exhibit on the American Presidency and the First Ladies of the US were both amazing, and a must for anyone visiting the nation’s capital. The museum also houses Edison’s light bulb and a really cool flag exhibit; all incredibly well done.

While there were other Smithsonian museums (17 others) that I would have loved to see, I decided to head to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum afterwards per my friend’s suggestion. I am so thrilled that I went — it’s probably one of the best museums that I’ve ever been to. It’s so well done, interactive and moving and is truly a must for anyone in DC. Visitors adopt a persona as they make their way through the museum, and while it’s a serious and intense experience, it manages to be crafted in a way that is also perfect for kids that have some level of understanding of the events that took place during WWII.

I ended up catching an amazing series with a Q&A session with holocaust survivor, Fritz Gluckstein. Hearing him talk about the events from his perspective was an incredible and unique experience. In truth, there’s a limited amount of time left for our generation to understand the first-hand experiences of holocaust survivors so it’s something I would encourage anyone to do if the opportunity arises. If you’re in DC on a Wednesday afternoon, it’s the perfect chance to listen to accounts from different survivors. After the series, I got to see the permanent exhibit, which comprises three floors in an absolutely stunning way.

Note: While the exhibit is free, it is ticketed so be aware. After seeing a number of museums throughout the US and Western Europe I can honestly say that it’s one of the best – definitely Top 3 – museums I’ve ever experienced.

The Holocaust Museum.

Holocaust Museum.

Icing on the cake? All of the museums were free. The only thing I paid for all day was a ball of matzoh ball soup from the Holocaust Museum Cafe during lunch. Needless to say, it was a fun-filled first half day. Up on the agenda for later: Georgetown and an LSE Alum event plus checking out the iconic DC monuments tomorrow!

Love from DC,

More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect, formerly The Traveling Scholar. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. She is a former resident of London and San Francisco and now calls the island of Anguilla home. In addition to The Wanderlust Effect, Shannon is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort and is on the Board of Directors of the Omololu International School in Anguilla.