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Smithsonian Castle

Can’t-Miss Free Museums on the National Mall

The best way to do Washington, DC? For free, thanks to these no-admission museums on the National Mall.

To go with its monuments and memorials, the National Mall boasts an impressive lineup of free museums. Visitors should take advantage of the wide range of experiences on hand, from immersing themselves in classic art to marveling at the wonders of aviation and our natural world. Let your wallet breathe and explore these free museums during your next trip to the nation’s capital.


National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art’s collection spans two major buildings – one classical, the other modern – and encompasses a six-acre sculpture garden containing a rotating display of permanent works and traveling exhibitions. The permanent collection spans ancient to contemporary art, including the likes of da Vinci, Degas and Calder, while the museum offers public programming (think art history movies and classical concerts) and hands-on activities for kids.


United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

One of history’s most important events, and one of its greatest tragedies, is the focus of this expansive museum. Learn the narrative of the Holocaust through artifacts, videos and personal stories in the Permanent Exhibition. For information regarding timed passes, visit the museum's website.


National Museum of Natural History

Two dinosaur fossils at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Deep Time exhibit on the National Mall in Washington, DC

The most visited natural history museum in the world, the National Museum of Natural History boasts an incredible rotating collection of 127 million items including dinosaur bones, the Hope Diamond, ancient Egyptian mummies and so much more. Prepare to be amazed, engaged, dazzled and more when you experience the museum's 31,000-square-foot Deep Time exhibit, where you can journey back millions of years and see dinosaur fossils, learn about past mass extinctions and their resounding effects and witness the evolution of life from the oceans to ashore.


National Museum of American History

National Museum of American History

National Museum of American History

Over four million people make their way to the vast National Museum of American History each year. No surprise, since the museum’s collection boasts more than three million objects that tell the American story. Among these, a few crowd favorites include the flag that inspired the “Star-Spangled Banner,” the Greensboro lunch counter, Julia Child’s kitchen, Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz and Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat.


Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

The Hirshhorn Museum is known for its extensive collection of modern and contemporary art from around the world, including significant works by Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore and Yayoi Kusama. The sculpture garden will be a must-see when it unveils an extensive renovation in 2024, which marks the 50th anniversary of the museum.


National Museum of the American Indian

National Museum of the American Indian

One of the more recent permanent additions to the National Mall, the National Museum of the American Indian expresses the diversity of culture, language, history, tradition and futures of indigenous peoples of North and South America, from the Arctic Circle to the tip of Patagonia. Just outside of the museum, make sure to pay a visit to the new National Native American Veterans Memorial.


National Museum of African American History and Culture


The only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, art, history and culture opened on the National Mall in September 2016. Sporting a sleek design and a wealth of new exhibits, the National Museum of African American History and Culture is a powerful, inspiring experience for all who visit.


The National Museum of Asian Art

National Museum of Asian Art

National Museum of Asian Art

Discover a vibrant and colorful world of ancient and contemporary masterworks at the National Museum of Asian Art. One of DC’s most beautiful buildings, the Freer Gallery was the first Smithsonian museum devoted solely to art when it was first built, while the Sackler Gallery houses decorative and devotional objects from across Asia. Together, the collections hold more than 25,000 objects spanning 6,000 years. The museum recently underwent extensive renovations, with reinstalled and restored exhibitions and special new features offered throughout both of its galleries.


National Museum of African Art

The Washington Post called the National Museum of African Art the most “important research facility for African art in America.” The museum boasts a broad collection of 9,000 pieces, including sacred objects, textiles, ancient Egyptian carvings, musical instruments and so much more.


National Archives Museum

The National Archives Museum is located just north of the National Mall and houses both a museum and the National Archives and Records Administration. The building is home to the three most important documents in American history: the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Another highlight for visitors is the David M. Rubenstein Gallery, which features numerous a 17-foot touch screen summarizing the national debate around essential issues such as citizenship and free speech, as well as one of four surviving originals of the 1297 Magna Carta.

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