15 Unsung Museums of the DC Area You Shouldn't Miss

If you've been to the Air & Space Museum just one too many times... this list is for you.

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B&O Railroad Museum
National Capital Trolley Museum
If you've been to the Air & Space Museum just one too many times... this list is for you. It's easy to hit the popular faves on the National Mall over and over again, but if you're looking to break out of your museum-going rut, consider a railroad museum where you can actually ride the rails, a medical museum full of specimens you'll want to view only on an empty stomach, and plenty more.n

First up: The National Capital Trolley Museumn
Where: 1313 Bonifant Road, Colesville, Maryland
How Much: Adults $7; kids & seniors $5.n

Experience what it was like when streetcars ruled the rails by riding one of the still-operational cars at the National Capital Trolley Museum. Tracks take visitors on a short journey around the museum's campus. In addition to the rides, the museum features exhibits, antique route maps, and a collection of historic streetcars from D.C. as well as from other U.S. and Canadian cities.
National Museum of Health and Medicine
The National Museum of Health and Medicinen
Where: 2500 Linden Lane, Silver Spring, Marylandn
How Much: Free.n

From antique microscopes to jars of preserved human specimens to the bullet that killed Abraham Lincoln, the National Museum of Health and Medicine provides visitors a deeper understanding of medicine's past and its future. The Silver Spring institution has been operating since the 1860s and has a special focus on American military medicine. Note that the museum's collection contains quite a few human-related specimens that may not be suitable for small kids or anyone with a delicate stomach. If you're feeling up for it, though, you'll likely find the displays fascinating. Visitors can also see a portion of a trauma bay used to treat soldiers in Iraq as part of its "Advances in Military Medicine" exhibit.
Freer|Sackler n
Where: 1050 Independence Ave. SWn
How Much: Free.n

Located just steps from each other, the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery comprise the Smithsonian's collection of Asian art. The galleries are located on the mall and are sometimes passed over by D.C. tourists for more popular Smithsonians. But guests shouldn't miss world-class collections of art that hail from areas of the globe spanning from Turkey to Japan.
Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum
Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum n
Where: 437 7th St. NWn
How Much: Adults $9.50; students $7; seniors & military $8.50; kids free.n

If it weren't for a chance discovery during a demolition inspection of an old shoe store on 7th Street, about 1,000 artifacts left behind by the woman who founded the American Red Cross would have been lost forever. Clara Barton lived in and opened her Missing Soldiers Office in the building after the Civil War to help reunite families with their loved ones. Today, visitors can tour the restored building and learn the story of the "Angel of the Battlefield." The museum also hosts events throughout the year including concerts, presentations and even amputation demonstrations.
Emily Haight, National Museum of Women in the Arts
National Museum of Women in the Artsn
Where: 1250 New York Ave. NWn
How Much: Adults $10; seniors & students: $8; museum members & youth free.n

This museum is billed as the only one in the world that holds a collection of 4,500 works of art created exclusively by female artists. The collection features present-day artists, but some of its earliest pieces date to 16th century. One of its most prominent artists is 19th century impressionist Mary Cassatt. whose later works focused on the theme of mother and child. Visitors to the museum this summer can see the Heavy Metal, a series featuring artists who created sculptures, jewelry and other objects in metal.
B&O Railroad Museum
B&O Railroad Museumn
Where: 901 W. Pratt St., Baltimore, Marylandn
How Much: Adults $20; seniors (age 60+) $17; kids (ages 2-12) $12.n

Ride the (historic) rails! One of the world's largest collections of railroad artifacts and locomotives is in Baltimore at the B&O Railroad Museum, where you can take a ride along the first commercial mile of train track ever laid in the U.S. The historic train station and workshops date back to 1829, and the site is considered by some to be the birthplace of American railroading, the museum says. In addition to seeing historic locomotives and other train vehicles, you'll also find smaller artifacts and can search for ancestors in B&O's employee records.
Alexandria Black History Museum
Alexandria Black History Museumn
Where: 902 Wythe St., Alexandria, Virginian
How Much: Suggested $2 donation.n

In the building that once housed Alexandria's segregated library, the Alexandria Black History Museum uses exhibits to tell the story of the African-American Alexandrians during slavery, the Civil War and post-Civil War era. This summer, visitors can also check out a collection of African American dollhouses and miniatures depicting African-American life in Alexandria and Virginia. In addition to the museum's main building, visitors can check out the Watson Reading Room and the Alexandria African American Heritage Park, a satellite location that includes a sculpture garden and a one-acre 19th century African-American cemetery.
National Park Service
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens n
Where: 1900 Anacostia Ave. SE, Washington, D.C.n
How Much: Free.n

Yes, we know the park and aquatic gardens are not actually a museum. But the beauty of Kenilworth's water lilies and lotuses that only open for a few hours in the morning is unmatched. The area is also one of the few places on the Anacostia River where the area's wetlands remain. Visitors to the park can learn the history of the original garden's tender, Walter Shaw; go bird watching or take a hike. The National Park Service also operates a visitor center at Kenilworth, which has interpretive panels, historic photos and a bookstore.
National Park Service
Frederick Douglass National Historic Site n
Where: 1411 W St. SEn
How Much: Free.n

Abolitionist and social reformer Frederick Douglass spent the final years of his life at Cedar Hill, located on the east side of the Anacostia River. His 22-room home was restored to its 1895 appearance and is filled with objects that belonged to Douglass and other residents of the home. Admission is free, but for a small additional fee, visitors can take a guided tour to learn more about the man and the 8-acre property.
Robert Lautman
The Phillips Collection n
Where: 1600 21st St. NWn
How Much: Adults $12; students & seniors $10; youth & members free.n

It may not be a Smithsonian or on the National Mall, but you can still find some of the world's most unique and incredible works of art. In the museum's sprawling collection of over 3,000 works, see world-renowned paintings such as Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party" and lose yourself in the Rothko Room, a room (as the name implies) dedicated to abstract expressionist Mark Rothko. Sit and stay awhile.
Shawn Levin
American Visionary Art Museum n
Where: 800 Key Highway, Baltimore, Marylandn
How Much: Adults $15.95; seniors $13.95; students, kids & veterans $9.95; active military, members & kids under 6 free.n

If you feel like a mini-road trip, consider visiting the eye-popping collections at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, featuring an eclectic mix of sculptures, mosaics and paintings. Curators take special attention to add work by self-taught artists to the collection. Because the museum's mission is to preserve "outsider art," you'll discover a mind-bending group of pieces that run the gamut from sculptures built from scrap metal to giant neon lights. Don't miss the gift shop.
Prince George's African American Museum & Cultural Center
Prince George's African American Museum & Cultural Centern
Where: 4519 Rhode Island Ave., North Brentwood, Marylandn
How Much: Tours are $5 per person.n

The museum and cultural center is located in North Brentwood and hosts an array of exhibits focusing on cultural and historical contributions of its African-American community. The museum has several exhibitions including "Footsteps from North Brentwood." The exhibit was first displayed in the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Museum. It features historical information, photographs, interviews and memorabilia about North Brentwood, a town first settled by African-American Civil War veterans.
President Lincoln's Cottage
President Lincoln's Cottagen
Where: 140 Rock Creek Church Road NWn
How Much: Adults $15; kids $5; military $12; members $7.50/$12.n

Some of Abraham Lincoln's most important Civil War decisions, including the Emancipation Proclamation, were made in a hilltop cottage three miles north of the White House at what is now called the Armed Forces Retirement Home. While there, Lincoln met with friends and foes, and he plotted war strategy. Visitors to the site can take tours and view a range of exhibits, including one that explores Lincoln's policies on immigration.
Cortesía: Falcon's Creative Group
National Geographic Museumn
Where: 1145 17th St. NW
How Much: Adults $15; student, military & seniors $12; kids (ages 5-12) $10; members & kids (age 4 & under) free.n

National Geographic explorers, scientists and journalists have been crisscrossing the globe for more than a century promoting environmental and historical conservation, while studying world cultures and history. Some of that knowledge is under one roof in the District. Current exhibitions include "Titanic: The Untold Story," which draws a surprising link between the Titanic and a Cold War mission, and "Tomb of Christ," a 3D immersive presentation taking visitors to Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the site where Jesus is believed to have been crucified and buried.
Alexandria Archaeology Museum
The Alexandria Archaeology Museumn
Where: 105 N. Union St., #327, Alexandria, Virginian
How Much: Free.n

Over the years, Alexandria residents, workers and developers have uncovered thousands of artifacts in the historic city. The museum's collection contains more than 2,000 items including parts of ships, ceramics, wooden toys, leather items and other relics that tells the story of Alexandria's past. Visitors are encouraged to learn about the people that lived and visited Alexandria from prehistoric times all the way to the 20th century.
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