Among the many national treasures to be found in Washington, DC, some of the most awe-inspiring landmarks are actually found in the many museums in the district. From official presidential portraits in the Smithsonian Museums to a new language-celebrating space called Planet Word, DC’s museum scene is teeming with educational and inspiring work that can appeal to a wide range of interests.

With the easing of COVID restrictions and cooling temperatures, spending a day in one of DC’s many world-class museums is becoming an increasingly viable way to spend a morning, afternoon, or in some. case, a whole day. Curators from all disciplines have worked hard to create some truly worthy exhibits across the city. So, to make it easier for you, we’ve rounded up some of our favorites that you can check out this fall.

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
National Museum of African American History and Culture | John S. Quinn / Shutterstock

This new exhibition will examine the era of reconstruction and will present more than 175 objects, 300 images and 14 media programs in the Special Exhibitions Gallery. The exhibit celebrates the fifth anniversary of the museum’s opening with an exploration of the legacy of reconstruction, racial profiling, and voter suppression using powerful artifacts from the families of Trayvon Martin, Stacey Abrams and Bree Newsome.
Appointment: Until August 21, 2022
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and requires timed passes

Hirshhorn Museum and DC Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Contemporary art in the Hirshhorn Museum is still a favorite among DC natives and visitors. At the moment, you can check out some exhibits, including the new Laurie Anderson: The weather forecast, the largest exhibition ever by multimedia artist, performer, musician and writer Laurie Anderson. More than a dozen new pieces are on display, as well as key works from his work (including his famous Habeas Corpus (2015)). The audiovisual exhibition features videos, performances, installations, paintings and other media. And to really bring the exhibit to life, there will be a series of live Anderson performances from January 2022 through July 2022.
Appointment: Until July 31, 2022
How to visit: The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.

Courtesy of the Phillips Collection
The Phillips collection | Photo by Lee Stalsworth

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Phillips Collection, and the museum, the first in the United States dedicated to modern art, is celebrating with a special digital exhibit: Amalgama Phillips. The remarkable piece uses 550 images from the museum’s permanent collection to create a “generative digital work of art that liquefies all works into a seamless blend of melted images.” You can actually check out the part online, but the site-specific installation is also worth a visit, as it is constantly changing and being driven by an algorithm.
Appointment: Until January 2, 2022
How to visit: Book Timed Tickets Via Website

National Air and Space Museum dc
National Air and Space Museum | Flickr / Pedro Szekely

The recently opened Air and Space Museum is sure to be a treat for families, and the Boeing Milestones exhibit can be a particular favorite. The collection celebrates some of the most important airplanes (including airplanes, rockets and other spacecraft) in history, including Charles Lindbergh’s solo trip across the Atlantic, crossing the ‘Wall of the its ”and the first piloted private development vehicle to reach space, SpaceShipOne.
Appointment: Permanent exhibition
How to visit: The museum is open from Thursday to Monday from 10 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.

Glenstone Museum dc
Glenstone Museum

A visit to Glenstone is always an experience in itself, given the museum’s dedication to integrating art, architecture and nature into a truly one-of-a-kind experience. Museums Jeff Wall The exhibition is the first in the DC area in more than two decades and will be the artist’s largest exhibition in the United States since his exhibition in 2007 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. You will be able to discover nearly 30 pieces that span a career spanning five decades.
Appointment: Until March 2022
How to visit: Book tickets through the website

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is sometimes overlooked for the magnificent National Gallery of Art, but this sprawling and equally awe-inspiring museum is always worth your time. Especially when an exposure as important as Sargent, Whistler and Venetian Glass is exposed. The exhibition shines a light on the revival of Venetian glass in the late 19th century and represents the first comprehensive examination of American tourism, artistic creation, and art collecting in Venice. American artists John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler were deeply influenced by their time in Venice, and this exhibition pays homage to those effects.
Appointment: Until May 8, 2022
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Planet word museum
Courtesy of the Planet Word Museum

It’s hard to choose just one fantastic exhibit in this relatively new museum dedicated to the language, but one of the most interesting and interactive is The spoken world. You will be able to meet speakers and signers from all over the world, ask them to introduce you to their language and even try new words for yourself.
Appointment: Permanent exhibition
How to visit: Book a pass on the museum site

National art gallery dc
National Art Gallery | Flickr / Phil Roeder

While the NGA’s largest Genoa-focused exhibition has been tragically canceled in the wake of COVID, this exhibit represents a great way to explore the artistic boom that has taken place in Genoa for centuries. Presented at the NGA Art Library, this exhibition includes a selection of rare books and works on paper produced in the Republic of Genoa from the late 16th to the mid-18th century, and offers an overview of the print of Genoa culture at the height of the Baroque period.
Appointment: Until January 7, 2022
How to visit: Open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Peacock Room freer dc art gallery
Peacock Room | Flickr / greyloch

If you’re looking to be transported to another time and place, check out this stunning one-room exhibit at the Freer Gallery. Blue and white Chinese porcelain is on display in this richly decorated room, just as it was in the 1870s, when Frederick Leyland, a London shipping tycoon, dined there. Charles Lang Freer purchased the original piece and his works in 1904 and installed it in his home in Detroit, Michigan. Upon his death in 1919, the Peacock Room was moved to Washington, DC, and exhibited in the Freer Gallery of Art.
Appointment: Until June 5, 2022
How to visit: The museum is open from Friday to Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.

National portrait gallery dc
National portrait gallery | Flickr / Kevin Harber

In this first major exhibition of the work of contemporary Chinese-American artist Hung Liu on the East Coast, the National Portrait Gallery celebrates the achievements and contributions of this remarkable woman painter. Liu lived through war, political revolution, exile, and displacement, and used this perspective to paint a complex picture of an American experience in Asia-Pacific.
Appointment: Until May 30, 2022
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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Elsie Yang is a contributor to Thrillist. Follow her on Instagram.


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