Lonely Planet review
Devoted to the architectural arts, this museum is appropriately housed in an architectural jewel: the 1887 Old Pension Building. Four stories of ornamented balconies flank the dramatic 316ft-wide atrium, and the Corinthian columns are among the largest in the world, rising 75ft high. An inventive system of windows and archways keeps the so-called Great Hall constantly glimmering in natural light, and this space has hosted 17 inaugural balls – from Grover Cleveland’s in 1885 to Barack Obama’s in 2009.
It is free to enter the building and look around. Pick up a self-guided tour brochure at the information desk, or join a free 45-minute docent-led tour . There’s also a nice cafe and nifty bookstore inside.
The admission fee is only for the exhibits, which are great if you’re an architecture buff. ‘Washington: City and Symbol’ examines the deeper symbolism of DC architecture; other exhibits rotate. Kids get their own hands-on displays, such as the past ‘LEGO Architecture.’ Check the website for a schedule of concerts and family programs.