Museums Off the Beaten Path in Washington, D.C.

The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex, with 19 museums and the National Zoo, spread throughout Washington, D.C. These museums, particularly the ones centered on the National Mall (such as Air & Space, American History, Natural History, American Art), are incredibly well-visited, and for good reason. They are among the most cutting-edge, innovative, most wonderfully curated museums in the world. But… they can get a little crowded on the weekends and during school holidays. It can be difficult to tread off the beaten path of museums in Washington, D.C. (the Smithsonian is just so good), but D.C. is truly a mecca for museums, and we would be remiss if we didn’t pay homage to some of D.C.’s other finest halls of history, education, and inspiration. Here, we have selected seven of our favorite non-Smithsonian museums, but there are many, many more delightful non-Smithsonian museums in D.C. that are not on this list. Perhaps a fun resolution for 2018 would be to visit them all?

Folger Shakespeare Library
Located just one block from the Capitol, the renowned Folger Shakespeare Library houses the largest collection of Shakespeare artifacts in the world. It is also home to an impressive array of manuscripts, books, and pieces of art from the Renaissance. A center for scholarship and research, entry is free to all. Tours are offered daily and the line-up of cultural and arts programs is award-winning. A must for any literary buff.

African American Civil War Museum
An historically significant museum, the African American Civil War Museum focuses on the role African American soldiers played in the Civil War. Often overlooked, their contributions and sacrifices during the war to end slavery and keep America united were remarkable. A must for any Civil War buff or historian, entry to this museum and its on-site memorial are free.

President Lincoln's Cottage
Located 4 miles north of the White House, Lincoln Cottage was Abraham’s family’s summer residence during his presidency, and where he drafted the Emancipation Proclamation. Opened in 2008 after extensive preservation and renovations, this spot is sorely overlooked on most people’s DC itinerary. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 to 12, and $12 for active military.

International Spy Museum
The only museum in the country about espionage, any wannabe undercover agents or spies must make a visit to the International Spy Museum. The International Spy Museum features the largest collection of international espionage artifacts. Guests even adopt a cover, break codes, identify disguised spies, and become the subjects of covert surveillance throughout their visit. Do you have what it takes to be a spy?  Admission is $21.95 for visitors ages 12 to 64, $15.95 for seniors ages 65 and up, and $14.95 for kids ages 7 to 11, kids 6 and under free.

The Newseum opened with the intention of promoting, explaining and defending the five freedoms of the First Amendment, as well as the power of journalism and freedom of speech, and how they have affected not only US history, but our daily lives. Visitors are challenged to meet the deadline with a compelling, accurate report, using touch-screen stations to see what it’s like to be a photographer or reporter on the front lines. Two-day general admission tickets are $14.95 for kids ages 7 to 18, $19.95 for seniors 65 and up and $24.95 for adults, kids 6 and under free.

The Phillips Collection
Encounter celebrated works of modern art in an intimate, refined setting at The Phillips Collection. The very first modern art museum in the US, it is home to masterpieces by Renoir, van Gogh, Rothko, O’Keeffe, Degas, and Matisse. The museum also hosts stimulating talks, symposia, lectures, and concerts, every week. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for students and seniors, and free for those 18 and under.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
The Holocaust Memorial Museum honors all those whose lives were forever changed by the Holocaust while encouraging visitors to stand up to genocide and hatred today, and informing how society can confront challenges to freedom and human dignity.  You will see personal objects that belonged to Holocaust survivors, as well as hear their eyewitness testimonies. Admission to the museum is free, but advance tickets are required between March and August.