Museums and D.C. just seem to go together. In fact, D.C. currently has more than 70 museums to choose from, with varieties ranging from the Smithsonian museums to the Brewmaster’s Castle. Which begs the question: With all the variety, how can you possibly choose what to see?
Everyone knows about the National Air and Space Museum in D.C.—but, truth be told, it’s in desperate need of a renovation. In fact, it’s slated for one in 2018. Until then, a branch of the NASM called the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia is an amazing site to behold. Not only is it significantly newer, but it has some features that the D.C. NASM doesn’t (and probably won’t ever) have—since it’s enormous, it features not only loads of aircraft and spacecraft, but an actual space shuttle—the Discovery. Plus, the Observation Tower is a fun airport simulator, and offers nice views of airplanes taking off from Dulles.
Built in 2003, this museum still feels brand new—and it really is quite stunning in terms of architecture. But besides that, the displays are beautiful and informative, and there are fantastic events that seem to be going on there all the time. Last time we stopped by, the Hawaiian Cultural Festival was on, which was excellent. There was tons of stuff for kids to do, including a great storytelling session with hula dancers that we may or may not have sneaked into as full, childless adults. (And we learned a lot!)
This may seem a little out of left-field, but trust us—it’s definitely worth a visit. Nestled inside the National Arboretum (a huge, gorgeous collection of trees, shrubs, flowers, and more) and past the nest of baby eagles is the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum. This museum has more than 150 plants—some of which are hundreds of years old. One bonsai in particular is nearly 400 years old and actually survived the blast at Hiroshima before being donated to the museum as a gift of friendship during the U.S. bicentennial. Considering the fact that bonsai require daily care (across hundreds of years) and are a true art form in and of themselves—deep significance can be found layered within each plant—this is a truly fascinating stop.
This museum is a rollicking good time, for sure. Besides detailing the history of spycraft, everyone who makes their way through the museum gets to be a spy, with a fake identity and all. Plus, the current exhibition is certain to thrill Bond fans. Titled “Exquisitly Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains,” all visitors get to see more than 100 artifacts from the movies, all tied into audio and film clips. Plus, you get to play around in a couple different activities, including one involving diffusing an atomic bomb.