Air and Space Tops the List of Most-visited Museums in the United States

WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum has once again topped the list of the most-visited museums in the United States, and it is the second-most-popular museum in the world.

Other D.C. museums are prominent on national and international lists, compiled by the global engineering and design firm Aecom.

Seven D.C.-area museums make the group’s list of the top 20 museums in North America.

Air and Space tops the list with 7.5 million visitors last year. The National Museum of Natural History is second with 7.1 million.

Other D.C. museums on the list are:

  • The National Gallery of Art, with 4.2 million visitors
  • The National Museum of American History, with 3.8 million visitors
  • The Udvar-Hazy Center (in Chantilly, Virginia), with 1.6 million visitors
  • The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, with 1.6 million visitors
  • The Donald Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture (popularly known as the National Portrait Gallery), with 1.2 million visitors

“Certainly the Smithsonian museums are a part of every tourist plan for when they come to Washington,” said Linda St. Thomas, chief spokesperson for the Smithsonian Institution.

Free admission to the Smithsonian museums helps boost attendance, but the Smithsonian’s vast collections also provide significant drawing power, St. Thomas said, because people want to see the real thing.

“They want to see the real Apollo capsule or the real Wright Brothers flyer or real dinosaur bones,” she said. “So I think that no matter how much virtual reality you have, nothing takes the place of the real thing.”

Free museum admission remains in the Smithsonian’s future plans, St. Thomas indicated.

“We’ve been really clear that we want the museums to be free for everyone,” she said.

Washington places four museums on the group’s list of the top 20 museums worldwide: Air and Space, Natural History, American History and National Gallery of Art.

The list indicates that Beijing’s National Museum of China is the most-visited museum in the world, with 7.55 million visitors last year.

Other museums on the worldwide list include the Louvre in Paris with 7.4 million visitors and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York with 6.7 million.

London is the only other city in the world to place four museums on the top 20 list.

The newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture — while two and half times smaller than the Air and Space Museum — is on track to average about 1 million visitors annually, St. Thomas said.

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