National Museum of American History

National Museum of American History information

Washington, DC , USA
Extras cnr 14th St & Constitution Ave NW
Getting there
metro Smithsonian, Federal Triangle
More information
Opening hours
10am-5:30pm, to 7:30pm Jun-Aug
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Lonely Planet review

This institution has accented itself with the daily bric-a-brac of the American experience – synagogue shawls, protest signs and cotton gins – along with icons such as Dorothy’s ruby slippers and Kermit the Frog (yes, he is the cutest thing you’ll find in DC. Even the pandas in the zoo can’t compete). The centerpiece is a viewing space of the flag that flew over Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812 – the same flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen The Star-Spangled Banner . In general, this is a better museum for children than adults; displays tend to be bright and interactive, perhaps a little too much so for those seeking a more serious engagement with the nation’s history. The African American History and Culture Gallery (2nd floor) is a notable exception. It will spin off into the National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2015.

The building continues to undergo significant renovations, so prime exhibits often disappear. Check the website for updates. Film buffs should scan the schedule for the museum’s new film theater (, which screens classics for free throughout the year