Halls of Wonder: A Guide to 150 Museums

This guide to nearly 150 museums features everything from blockbusters to hidden gems.

By: Jason M. Breslow, Julia Feldmeier, Mary Clare Glover, Drew Bratcher, Rebecca Shillenn, Lauren Masterson

Art

Beauty and Delights

American Visionary Art Museum

800 Key Hwy., Baltimore | 410-244-1900 | avam.org | $8 to $12; under age seven free

A five-story whirligig marks the front to this treasure house of art made by self-taught artists. Among the highlights: a metal central staircase hand-cast by Maryland artist David Hess and an old whiskey warehouse with 45-foot ceilings and filled with sculptures. Through September 2: “Home & Beast,” featuring everything from Ghanaian art coffins to blueprints for humane slaughterhouses.

Art Museum of the Americas

201 18th St., NW | 202-458-6016 | museum.oas.org | Free | Metros: Farragut North and West

The colorful collection in this Spanish Colonial-style museum in the pristine backyard of the Organization of American States contains nearly 2,000 works by Alejandro Obregón, Hector Poleo, and others beginning in the early 20th century. July 5: “Landings,” featuring contemporary arts from Central America.

Arts and Industries Building

900 Jefferson Dr., SW | 202-633-1000 | si.edu/ai | Free | Metro: Smithsonian

The original, red-brick national museum building, dating from 1881, is closed indefinitely for renovation.

Baltimore Museum of Art

10 Art Museum Dr., Baltimore | 443-573-1700 | artbma.org | Free

The museum’s holdings include the world’s largest collection of works by Henri Matisse. The art of six finalists for Baltimore’s Janet & Walter Sondheim Prize, awarded annually to a local artist, will displayed through August 5. October 28: “Matisse: Painter as Sculptor” opens with more than 40 sculptures by the French master painter.

Bead Museum

400 Seventh St., NW | 202-624-4500 | beadmuseumdc.org | Free | $3 donation | Metros: Archives–Navy Memorial, Gallery Place–Chinatown

An assortment of beads and ornaments from around the globe, with exhibits examining their cultural and historical significance. Through August: “The Sacred Bead and Other Symbols of Faith” explores beads in world religions.

Contemporary Museum

100 W. Centre St., Baltimore | 410-783-5720 | contemporary.org | Free | $3 to $5 donation

Community collaborations and experimental projects make up the changing exhibits here. Through August 22: “Joseph Grigely: St. Cecilia,” including a video installation featuring the Baltimore Choral Arts Society Chamber Choir in which the artist, a deaf man, explores his experience with sound and music.

Corcoran Gallery of Art

500 17th St., NW | 202-639-1700 | corcoran.org | $10 to $14; under age six free | Metros: Farragut North and West

Housed with the nationally renowned art school west of the White House, the museum is home to a hefty collection of French impressionist paintings and British portraiture. “Masterpieces: European Art From the Collection,” running through September, features paintings by Monet and Pissaro. This fall, the museum exhibits photos from master photographers Ansel Adams (starts September 15) and Annie Leibovitz (October 13).

Federal Reserve Board Visitors Center

Eccles Building Atrium, 20th St. and Constitution Ave., NW | 202-452-3778 | federalreserve.gov/generalinfo/virtualtour/visit.cfm | Free | Metros: Foggy Bottom–GWU, Farragut West | Reservation required

The board’s collection contains Victor Dubreuil’s fitting “Barrels of Money” and other works of American art since the 1830s. Through September 14: “Wild Gardens,” floral paintings by New York artist Robert Kushner.

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

12th St. and Jefferson Dr., SW, and 1050 Independence Ave., SW | 202-633-4880 | asia.si.edu | Free | Metro: Smithsonian

A teeming collection of art from China, Japan, Korea, South and Southeast Asia, and the Near East fills the rooms of these galleries on the Mall. A stroll through the Freer’s Peacock Room, decorated by famed American expatriate James McNeill Whistler in the 1870s, affords an elegant experience in 19th-century lavish living in London. Through September 16: “Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries.”

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

4155 Linnean Ave., NW | 202-686-5807 | hillwoodmuseum.org | $5 to $12 | Reservations suggested

The estate of cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, complete with rose gardens, greenhouses, and one of the largest collections of 18th- and 19th-century Russian art outside of Russia. Opening in September: “A Quest for Fabulous: Thirty Years of Collecting, 1977–2007.”

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Seventh St. and Independence Ave., SW | 202-633-1000 | hirshhorn.si.edu. Free | Metro: L’Enfant Plaza

One of the world’s finest collections of modern and contemporary art. Works by Rodin and Henry Moore highlight the museum’s serene Sculpture Garden. Besides paintings by Milton Avery, Richard Diebenkorn, and Willem de Kooning, the museum features new media and film. Wolfgang Tillmans’s photographs and photographic abstractions are on display through August 12.Opening in September: “Morris Louis Now: An American Master Revisited,” showcasing major paintings by the DC-based color-field artist.

Inter-American Development Bank Cultural Center Art Collection

1300 New York Ave., NW | 202-623-1213 | iadb.org/exr/cultural/index.cfm | Free | Metro: Metro Center

Four times a year, a selection of Latin American and Caribbean art is on display in the public gallery. Through August 10, see works by young Costa Rican artists in “9 Proposals.” Other times, up to 30 people can make an appointment to tour the collection as it’s displayed through the bank’s three buildings. A large abstract tapestry by Colombian textile artist Olga de Amaral decorates the east elevator lobby.

Kreeger Museum

2401 Foxhall Rd., NW | 202-337-3050 | kreegermuseum.org | $5 to $8

European impressionists as well as modern American artists are well represented in this museum designed by renowned architect Philip Johnson. See nine Monets alongside works by Munch, Miro, William Christenberry, and numerous traditional African artists. Closing July 31: “Gene Davis: Interval” features the DC artist’s famed paintings of vertical stripes.

Mansion at Strathmore

10701 Rockville Pike, Bethesda | 301-581-5200 | strathmore.org | Free | Metro: Grosvenor–Strathmore

Next to the sought-after concert venue are a sculpture garden and galleries with works from local artists; much of the art is for sale. Through August 25: a national exhibition of colored-pencil art.

Museum of Contemporary Art DC/Artists and Models Gallery

1054 31st St., NW | 202-342-6230 | mocadc.org | Free | Metros: Foggy Bottom–GWU, Dupont Circle

Focusing on DC’s emerging artists. Through August 2: “Celebration of the Figure,” with nude art from around the world.

National Building Museum

401 F St., NW | 202-272-2448 | nbm.org | Free | $5 donation | Metro: Judiciary Square

Buildings and the act of building are the focus. See a century of architectural plans for the Kress five-and-dime stores. Kids do hands-on construction projects. “Spotlight on Design,” the museum’s lecture series, features some of the world’s leading architects and designers. Through August 27: “Reinventing the Globe” traces the history of Shakespearean theaters and presents plans for future venues.

National Gallery of Art

Fourth St. and Constitution Ave., NW | 202-737-4215 | nga.gov | Free | Metros: Judiciary Square, Archives–Navy Memorial

A sprawling, internationally acclaimed temple of world art from the 13th century to the present. Vermeer’s “Woman Holding a Balance” and da Vinci’s “Ginevra de’ Benci” are highlights of the west building. In the east, check out Matisse’s florid cutouts. July 1: The museum opens the first international exhibition of the work of Italian Renaissance sculptor Desiderio da Settignano. Through September 4: Rembrandt’s “Titus,” which returned this spring to the gallery for the first time in more than 40 years. A comprehensive survey of Edward Hopper’s work, including the iconic “Nighthawks,” opens that month.

National Museum of African Art

950 Independence Ave., SW | 202-633-4600 | nmafa.si.edu | Free | Metros: Smithsonian, L’Enfant Plaza

The collection includes ancient African manuscripts, costumes, masks, weapons, paintings, and sculptures. Through September 2008: “African Vision: The Walt Disney–Tishman African Art Collection,” one of the world’s foremost gatherings of African art, with tribal masks from Ghana, ivory figures from Nigeria, and a horn from Sierra Leone.

National Museum of the American Indian

Fourth St. and Independence Ave., SW | 202-633-1000 | nmai.si.edu | Free | Metro: L’Enfant Plaza

Cascading fountains fall across boulders on the outside of this undulant, limestone museum that focuses on the diverse cultures of Native Americans. The cafeteria offers a daily selection of indigenous foods. Don’t miss “Allies in War, Partners in Peace,” an immense sculpture that was a gift from the Oneida Indian Nation of New York. Live presentations on native culture take place in the Potomac rotunda, where the dome reaches 120 feet high. Through January 2: “Identity by Design: Tradition, Change, and Celebration in Native Women’s Dresses.”

National Museum of Women in the Arts

1250 New York Ave., NW | 202-783-5000 | nmwa.org | $8 to $10; under age 19 free | Metro: Metro Center

Five centuries of female contributions to the arts from Flemish portraitists Clara Peeters to Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe. Through 2007: “The National Museum of Women in the Arts at 20: Selections From the Archives,” celebrating the museum’s anniversary.

National Portrait Gallery

Eighth and F sts., NW | 202-633-8300 | npg.si.edu | Free | Metro: Gallery Place–Chinatown

The museum’s galleries—housed in a historic Greek Revival building restored to fanfare—are lined with portraits of people who’ve shaped American history and culture, from presidents to poets and performers. “American Origins, 1600–1900” provides a historical overview of America through portraiture in 17 galleries. Through September 3: “Great Britons: Treasures From the National Portrait Gallery, London.”

Phillips Collection

1600 21st St., NW | 202-387-2151 | phillipscollection.org | $10 to $12; under age 19 free | Metro: Dupont Circle

This 86-year-old modern-art treasure trove counts Renoir’s famous “Luncheon of the Boating Party” as its crown jewel. A 30,000-square-foot addition to the Georgian Revival home was unveiled in 2006 and includes an auditorium, a cafe, and a relocated Mark Rothko Room—the first public space dedicated entirely to the expressionist artist. Opening October 20: “Impressionists by the Sea,” including renderings of the French seacoasts by Monet and John Singer Sargent.

Dennis & Phillip Ratner Museum

10001 Old Georgetown Rd., Bethesda | 301-897-1518 | ratnermuseum.com | Free

See paintings, drawings, and sculptures by DC artist Phillip Ratner inspired by stories from the Hebrew Bible, fairy tales, and children’s stories. Ratner is most famous for his sculptures around the Statue of Liberty and on Ellis Island. Brother Dennis is cofounder of the Hair Cuttery salon chain.

Renwick Gallery

1661 Pennsylvania Ave., NW | 202-633-2850 | americanart.si.edu | Free | Metros: Farragut North and West

Showcases American crafts and decorative arts from the 19th century to the present, including works made from clay, glass, metal, wood, and fiber. Among its most important collections is George Catlin’s “Indian Gallery,” with paintings that document early 19th-century Native Americans in the Plains states. Through July 22: “From the Ground Up: Renwick Craft Invitational,” featuring glass artists Paula Bartron and Beth Lipman, paper artist Jocelyn Châteauvert, and ceramicist Beth Cavener Stichter.

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Eighth and F sts., NW | 202-633-7970 | americanart.si.edu | Free | Metro: Gallery Place–Chinatown

Begun in 1829 as the first federal art collection, the museum is home to work from a star-studded roster of American artists, including Georgia O’Keeffe, John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer, and Edward Hopper. It shares space with the National Portrait Gallery in the Old Patent Office Building, which reopened to great acclaim last summer after a six-year, $300-million renovation. Opening August 10: “Earl Cunningham’s America,” a retrospective with more than 50 paintings from the folk modernist.

Textile Museum

2320 S St., NW | 202-667-0441 | textilemuseum.org | Free | $5 donation | Metro: Dupont Circle

More than 17,000 specimens of non-Western carpets, rugs, and other textile arts that span 5,000 years and several continents. Opening August 3: “Textiles of Klimt’s Vienna” examines the blending of fine and applied arts, focusing particularly on the work of Austrian painter Gustav Klimt, who led the Art Nouveau movement in early 20th-century Vienna.

Torpedo Factory Art Center

105 N. Union St., Alexandria | 703-838-4565 | torpedofactory.org | Free

The six diverse galleries housed here on the Old Town waterfront showcase the work of local and national artists in everything from sculpture to stained glass.

Walters Art Museum

600 N. Charles St., Baltimore | 410-547-9000 | thewalters.org | Free

A crash course in the history of world art. Check out ancient Egyptian reliefs, European Impressionist paintings, and more. See Monet’s “Springtime” and Napoleon’s diary. Through August 26: “Gee’s Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt” features 40 quilts crafted by African-American women in an isolated Alabama town.

White-Meyer House

1624 Crescent Pl., NW | 202-667-6800 | meridian.org | Free | Metro: Dupont Circle

The rooms of this mansion (once the home of Washington Post owner Eugene Meyer) act as galleries for the Meridian Center’s international art exhibits.

—Drew Bratcher

History

Treasures From the Past

Aldie Mill Historic Park

39401 John Mosby Hwy., Aldie | 703-327-9777 | aldiemill.org | $2 to $4; under age six free | Weekends only

The early 19th-century waterwheel-driven grain mill here is one of the few remaining in Virginia. Demonstration grindings in the afternoon.

Banneker-Douglass Museum

84 Franklin St., Annapolis | 410-216-6180 | bdmuseum.com | Free

Housed in a historic AME church, this repository for African-American history recently opened “Deep Roots, Rising Waters: A History of African-Americans in Maryland,” a permanent exhibit on African-American history in Maryland from 1633 through the Civil Rights movement. Through November 30: “Trails, Tracks, Tarmac: Lives of African-Americans in the History and Culture of Northern Anne Arundel County, 1850 to Present.”

Belair Mansion and Stable Museum

12207 Tulip Grove Dr. (mansion), 2835 Belair Dr. (stable), Bowie | 301-809-3089 | cityofbowie.org/comserv/museums.asp | Free

This 18th-century plantation features period fashion accessories, paintings, and furnishings, a few that belonged to Maryland governors Samuel and Benjamin Ogle. The stable, a top training ground for racehorses for several decades beginning in 1907, is the only horse farm to field father-and-son Triple Crown winners—Gallant Fox in 1930 and Omaha in 1935.

B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum

2020 K St., NW | 202-857-6583 | bnaibrith.org/museum/index.cfm | Metros: Farragut North and West

Closed for renovation.

Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre

12229 Bristow Rd., Bristow | 703-365-7895 | brentsville.org | Free

This 35-acre complex features the now-defunct town of Brentsville, which was the county seat of Prince William until 1893, when the government moved to Manassas and the town fell into decline. The site, which is partially restored, includes the namesake courthouse, a jail, a church, a two-story log cabin, and a one-room schoolhouse. There are archaeological sites and artifacts where a tavern once stood.

Brunswick Railroad Museum

40 W. Potomac St., Brunswick, Md. | 301-834-7100 | brrm.net | $3 to $6; under age three free

The third floor is an exact scale replica of the original rail line from DC to Point of Rocks, with moving model passenger and freight trains. The second floor is set up as a typical home from 1900.

Carroll County Farm Museum

500 S. Center St., Westminster, Md. | 800-654-4645 | ccgov.carr.org/farm | $3 to $5; under age seven free

The original farm structures—including a farmhouse, smokehouse, saddlery, and one-room schoolhouse—offer a look at 19th-century rural life. See horse-powered machines and farm tools used for plowing, planting, and harvesting.

Clara Barton National Historic Site

5801 Oxford Rd., Glen Echo | 301-320-1410 | nps.gov/clba | Guided tours only, on the hour | Free

The original American Red Cross offices, the home of founder Clara Barton, and a former warehouse for disaster-relief supplies. In September: an art show featuring paintings by Barton and local artists’ depictions of Barton’s life and home.

Claude Moore Colonial Farm at Turkey Run

6310 Georgetown Pike, McLean | 703-442-7557 | 1771.org | $2 to $3

A working farm with guides, volunteers, and staff in period dress tending to livestock, cooking meals, and harvesting crops. July 21 and 22: At “Market Fair,” watch a blacksmith, visit a Colonial physician, and sample fresh breads, sausages, and fruit pies. $2.50 to $5.

Collingwood Library and Museum on Americanism

8301 E. Boulevard Dr., Alexandria | 703-765-1652 | collingwoodlibrary.com | Free

This library, dedicated to American history and culture, has more than 6,000 volumes of nonfiction. There’s also a collection of Harper’s beginning with its first issue in 1850 along with several volumes of George Washington’s writings.

Colvin Run Mill Historic Site

10017 Colvin Run Rd., Great Falls | 703-759-2771 | fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/crm | Free; guided tours $4 to $6

Buildings at this 19th-century gristmill include a miller’s house, a blacksmith shop, and a general store that sells cornmeal, grits, and flour made on site.

Daughters of the American Revolution Museum

1776 D St., NW | 202-879-3241 | dar.org/museum | Free

Preindustrial American furnishings and decorative arts. Tour period rooms sponsored by states, including the New Hampshire Room, an attic playroom with toys that date from the late 1700s to the early 20th century. Through October 6: “And So to Bed: The American Bedroom, 1750–1920.”

DEA Museum & Visitors Center

700 Army-Navy Dr., Arlington | 202-307-3463 | deamuseum.org | Free

Take a peek at contraband seized by the nation’s drug cops—crack cocaine, marijuana, and other drug paraphernalia—and replicas of a head shop from the ’70s and a crack house from the ’90s. November 12: “Good Medicine, Bad Behavior,” a look at the science and abuse of prescription drugs.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection

1703 32nd Street, NW | 202-339-6401 | doaks.org

Closed for renovation, though its ten acres of formal gardens are open daily except Monday from 2 to 6 pm. $5 to $8.

Folger Shakespeare Library

201 E. Capitol St., SE | 202-544-4600 | www.folger.edu | Free

Boasts the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare’s printed works and hosts exhibitions on the writer’s life and times, including a digitized, touch-screen copy of one of his First Folios. Through August 18: “Shakespeare in American Life,” featuring books, playbills, portraits, scrapbooks, and artifacts from everyday life that signal the extent to which Shakespeare is an essential ingredient of American culture.

Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site

511 Tenth St., NW | 202-426-6924 | nps.gov/foth/index2.htm | Metros: Metro Center, Archives–Navy Memorial, Gallery Place–Chinatown

Closed for renovation until October 2008. Peterson House, where Lincoln died after being shot at the theater, remains open to the public during the renovation.

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

1411 W St., SE | 202-426-5961 | nps.gov/frdo/freddoug.html | Free; $1.50 service charge for reservations, which are recommended

After a three-year, $2.7-million restoration, the home of the famous African-American abolitionist reopened in February with paint colors and wallpapers designed to depict the house as it was when Douglass died in 1895. More than 70 percent of items in the house are original from when Douglass occupied it.

Fredericksburg Area Museum & Cultural Center

907 Princess Anne St., Fredericksburg | 540-371-3037 | famcc.org | $7; $2 for ages 7 to 18; under age seven free

This newly renovated 19th-century town hall tells the story of craftsmen who lived and worked in Fredericksburg in the 18th and early 19th centuries, with furniture, paintings, and quarried stone and iron works. An expansion to the museum will house exhibits that depict Fredericksburg at war as well as Native American life. Through mid-September: “A Cartographer’s Perspective: Four Centuries of Virginia Maps.”

George Washington Birthplace National Monument

1732 Popes Creek Rd., Colonial Beach, Va. | 804-224-1732 | nps.gov/gewa | $4; under age 16 free

Visit the family cemetery, see the foundation of the house where Washington was born, and tour a replica of the home.

George Washington Masonic Memorial

101 Callahan Dr., Alexandria | 703-683-2007 | gwmemorial.org | Free

This towering shrine to one of America’s most famous Freemasons contains artifacts and murals about the fraternity’s history and beliefs. Rooms are accessed by an elevator that goes up, down, and sideways. See a lock of George Washington’s hair, the trowel he used when setting the cornerstone of the US Capitol, and the clock in his bedroom when he died.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Rt. 340, Harpers Ferry | 304-535-6298 | nps.gov/hafe | $6 a car; $4 a person on foot or bicycle

More than 20 museums showcase the history of Harpers Ferry before and after the Civil War and through the Industrial Revolution. Battlefield trails have markers that explain the significance of the area during the Battle of Harpers Ferry in 1862. July 7 and 8: “Supplied for Survival: Meriwether Lewis at Harpers Ferry.” Visitors follow in the footsteps of Lewis as he prepared for his expedition.

Historic St. Mary’s City

Rt. 5, St. Mary’s City, Md. | 240-895-4960 | stmaryscity.org | $3.50 to $10; under age six free

Experience living history on the site of Maryland’s first state capital. Reconstructed Colonial buildings, a tall ship, and costumed interpreters create a feel for life in early America. Opening soon: An exhibit about Van Sweringen, a Dutch entrepreneur.

Historical Electronics Museum

1745 W. Nursery Rd., Linthicum | 410-765-0230 | hem-usa.org | Free

In 12 galleries, learn about radar, telegraphs, submarine sonar, weather satellites, and more of the nation’s defense electronics.

International Spy Museum

800 F St., NW | 202-393-7798 | spymuseum.org | $13 to $16; under age five free

Discover the tricks and gadgets of the world’s most famous spies, including a coat with a buttonhole camera, a KGB shoe with a heel transmitter, and James Bond’s Aston Martin. What’s new: “Operation Spy,” an hourlong interactive experience in which you become a US spy searching for a missing device that triggers a nuclear bomb. Ages 12 and up. $14 to $24.

James Madison’s Montpelier

11407 Constitution Hwy., Montpelier Station, Va. | 540-672-2728 | montpelier.org | $6 to $12; under age six free

Home of the “father of the Constitution,” unveiled last year after massive restoration to return the house to its original look. Exhibits include descriptions of ongoing restoration, re-creations of the bedroom of Madison’s wife and their dining room, and a showcase of Madison’s work writing the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Walk the estate’s 200-acre, old-growth forest. In July: Join archaeologists uncovering fence lines at Madison’s mansion. Call for days.

Jewish Museum of Maryland

15 Lloyd St., Baltimore | 410-732-6400 | jhsm.org | $3 to $8

It sits between two historic synagogues, the Lloyd Street and B’nai Israel, both from the mid-1800s. The museum houses the oldest documented mikvah (a ritual bath) in America and the bell from Exodus 1947, a ship built in Baltimore to take Jews from Europe to Israel. It’s also home to a history center that helps families research their heritage. Through August 19: “The Mikvah Project,” a photo exhibit of women using the mikvah.

Library of Congress

Jefferson Building, 10 First St., SE, Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave., SE | 202-707-5000 | loc.gov | Free | Metro: Capitol South

The largest library in the world, housing books, photographs, maps, and other items on more than 500 miles of bookshelves. Originally growing from Thomas Jefferson’s personal library, the collections include his original handwritten draft of the Declaration of Independence as well as modern treasures such as the first motion picture deposited for copyright. Through August 18: “Shakespeare in America” explores the Bard’s influence through playbills, performance photos, costume designs, and manuscripts.

Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum

701 Third St., NW | 202-789-0900 | jhsgw.org | By appointment | Facility is not wheelchair accessible | Free | $3 donation | Metro: Judiciary Square

Showcases Washington’s first synagogue, built by the Adas Israel congregation in 1876 and moved three blocks to preserve it from demolition in 1969. The collection, located at the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington’s headquarters at 701 Fourth Street, focuses on local history and includes photographs of Jewish businesses, marriage certificates (ketubahs), and an 1877 circumcision gown.

Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum

21668 Heritage Farm La., Sterling | 703-421-5322 | loudounfarmmuseum.org | $3 to $5; under age two free

A family-oriented museum focused on agricultural life for the past ten generations. Kids can milk a model cow and collect eggs from play chickens. There are also primary accounts of the Civil War in the county.

Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site

1318 Vermont Ave., NW | 202-673-2402 | nps.gov/mamc | Free | Metros: McPherson Square, U Street–African-American Civil War Memorial–Cardozo

This site honors Bethune, an adviser to Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and founder of the National Council of Negro Women. The building was the council’s first headquarters as well as Bethune’s last DC residence. The museum also focuses on the history of black women in leadership.

Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens

3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Pkwy., Mount Vernon | 703-780-2000 | mountvernon.org | $5 to $13; under age five free

George and Martha Washington’s country estate—said to be the nation’s most visited—recently added a museum and orientation center as part of a $110-million modernization. Tour the mansion and its outbuildings, see the Founding Father’s possessions, and explore galleries of Washington books, manuscripts, and art. July 4 to October 31: Workers in period clothing demonstrate Washington’s method of wheat treading to separate grain from straw.

Museum of American Presidents

130 N. Massanutten St., Strasburg, Va. | 540-465-5999 | waysideofva.com/presidents | $4 to $5; under age six free | Open weekends

View items that belonged to 42 chief executives; a collection of signatures of all but five presidents as well as many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; and memorabilia such as a Teddy Roosevelt nutcracker. July 1: “First Ladies Tea,” afternoon tea with a discussion on first ladies of the Revolutionary War era.

National Archives

Constitution Ave. between Seventh and Ninth sts., NW | 202-357-5000 | archives.gov | Free | Metro: Archives–Navy Memorial

The government’s vast storeroom of papers, photos, audio and video clips, and other historical records. The crown jewels are the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. Other items on display rotate; highlights include original Louisiana Purchase documents and a letter from Elvis Presley to President Nixon. Through January 1: “School House to the White House: The Education of the Presidents,” with class photos and report cards.

National Colonial Farm

3400 Bryan Point Rd., Accokeek | 301-283-2113 | accokeek.org/visit/national_colonial_farm | Fifty cents to $2

Re-creates life for a Colonial tobacco-farming family in the Chesapeake area down to the 18th-century breeds of livestock and the plants in the kitchen garden. The grounds also include a tobacco farm, farmhouse, smokehouse, and kitchen.

National Firearms Museum

11250 Waples Mill Rd., Fairfax | 703-267-1600 | nrahq.org/museum | Free

Run by the National Rifle Association, this museum features firearms ranging from a circa-1350 cannon to guns owned by Theodore Roosevelt and Napoleon Bonaparte. What’s new: rifles and revolvers that actor Tom Selleck used on the set.

National Museum of American History

14th St. and Constitution Ave., NW | 202-357-2700 | americanhistory.si.edu | Free | Metro: Federal Triangle

Closed for renovations until 2008. A small part of the collection—including a George Washington army uniform and Dorothy’s ruby slippers—is on display at the National Air and Space Museum.

National Postal Museum

2 Massachusetts Ave., NE | 202-633-5555 | postalmuseum.si.edu | Free | Metro: Union Station

Rotating stamp collections, wartime letters, and the history of mail service from before the American Revolution. Through June 2008: “Trailblazers & Trendsetters,” with art created for stamps over the past 50 years.

Newseum

555 Pennsylvania Ave., NW | 888-639-7386 | newseum.org | $13 to $17.91 | Metro: Archives–Navy Memorial

Opening October 15 in a space three times larger than its old home in Rosslyn, the museum will include 14 exhibition galleries about media around the world. Highlights will include a collection of Pulitzer Prize–winning photographs, eight sections of the Berlin Wall, and a gallery that each day displays the front pages of 80 newspapers from around the world.

Oxon Hill Farm

6411 Oxon Hill Rd., Oxon Hill | 301-839-1176 | nps.gov/archive/nace/oxhi | Free

This 512-acre working historic farm features a visitor barn with educational movies, wagon rides, and a farmhouse with exhibits about the history of the farm and farm life in the mid-19th century.

Patuxent Rural Museums

1600 Croom Airport Rd., Upper Marlboro | 301-627-6074 | pgparks.com/places/eleganthistoric/patuxent_intro.html | Free

Set in the 6,000-acre Patuxent River Park are the Duvall Tool Museum and the Tobacco Farming Museum along with buildings—a blacksmith shop, a farrier and tack shop, and a log cabin—that showcase life in the late 19th century. There’s also a model Sears house like those ordered through Sears catalogs in the early 1900s.

Pope John Paul II Cultural Center

3900 Harewood Rd., NE | 202-635-5400 | jp2cc.org | $5 suggested donation | Metro: Brookland–Catholic University

An extensive collection of memorabilia, including the late pope’s cassock, skis, and shaving brush.

President Lincoln and Soldiers’ Home National Monument

3700 N. Capitol St., NW | 202-829-0436 | lincolncottage.org | Admission fees not available yet

Opening to the public on President’s Day 2008, this 14-room cottage was President Lincoln’s summer retreat during the Civil War. Browse rotating exhibits on Lincoln.

Smithsonian Institution Building

1000 Jefferson Dr., SW | 202-357-1729 | si.edu/visit/infocenter/sicastle.htm | Free | Metro: Smithsonian

The Smithsonian’s first building, from 1855. It’s an information center with video orientations, a cafe, and a garden.

Smithsonian International Gallery

1100 Jefferson Dr., SW | 202-357-633-1000 | si.edu/ripley/ig/start.htm | Free | Metro: Smithsonian

This small underground museum rotates exhibits from the Smithsonian collection. The building also houses Discovery Theater, which hosts educational shows and entertainment for kids. Through September 10: “Made in Northern Ireland: A Dynamic of Change,” with contemporary designs, linens, and crafts from Northern Ireland.

US Holocaust Memorial Museum

100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl., SW | 202-488-0400 | ushmm.org | Free | Timed passes for the permanent collection; no passes needed for special exhibits | Metro: Smithsonian

The history of the Holocaust, from the beginning of the Nazi party through liberation. Artifacts include a train car used to transport Jews. Exhibit highlights include “Daniel’s Story,” about a Jewish boy who survived, and “Who Will Survive Today?” about the Darfur conflict. Through September 3: “Give Me Your Children: Voices From the Lodz Ghetto,” with letters, diaries, and memoirs from Jewish children in this Polish city during German occupation.

William Paca House and Garden

186 Prince George St., Annapolis | 410-267-7619 | annapolis.org | $5 to $8; under age six free

The 18th-century Georgian mansion—home to Paca, who signed the Declaration of Independence—has a two-acre terraced garden, fish-shaped pond, and a Colonial English garden. July 4: Celebration includes free tours with costumed actors, including Revolutionary War soldiers.

Woodrow Wilson House

2340 S St., NW | 202-387-4062 | woodrowwilsonhouse.org | $3 to $7.50; under age seven free

The 1915 home is maintained as it was when Wilson was in residence, with his family items and gifts of state. Opening September 10: “The Presidential Dish: Mrs. Woodrow Wilson and the White House China Room.”

—Julie Feldmeier, Lauren Masterson, and Rebecca Shillenn

Science, Technology, and Nature

Discovery Meets Adventure

Adams Center for the History of Otolaryngology

1 Prince St., Alexandria | 703-836-4444 | entlink.net/history/about | Free

Learn about the history of medical care for the ears, nose, throat, head, and neck. See more than 100 hearing aids as well as 19th-century nasal scopes and the earliest intubation tubes, which were used to help children with diphtheria.

Baltimore Maritime Museum

Pier 3 at the Inner Harbor, Baltimore | 410-396-3453 | baltomaritimemuseum.org | $4 to $8; under age six free

Coast Guard and Navy history is presented through three historic vessels and the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse, which was constructed in 1856 and later moved to the Inner Harbor from its original location on the Chesapeake Bay. In Lightship 116: “Mascots,” historic photos of dogs aboard Coast Guard and Navy ships from the 1880s to the 1950s.

Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum

901 W. Pratt St., Baltimore | 410-752-2490 | borail.org | $8 to $14

The museum sits on land where the B&O Railroad, the nation’s first commercial long-distance track, was begun. It offers a 20-minute ride on the first mile of track, and the collection includes 19th- and 20th-century rail cars as well as mini model railroad sets.

Bowie Railroad Station and Children’s Heritage Center

8614 Chestnut Ave., Bowie | 301-809-3089 | cityofbowie.org/museum | Free

This station, built in 1872 and restored in the 1990s, features hands-on exhibits for children and memorabilia panels that highlight schools, churches, and railroads in small-town life.

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

213 Talbot St., St. Michaels | 410-745-2916 | cbmm.org | $5 to $13; under age five free

The nation’s most complete collection of Chesapeake Bay artifacts. The museum features a working boatyard, where visitors can watch the restoration of traditional bay vessels and talk with the shipwrights, apprentices, or a visiting captain or boat builder. July 28 to 29: Crab Days Festival, with crab dishes, music, and boat rides down the Miles River.

Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum

4155 Mears Ave., Chesapeake Beach | 410-257-3892 | cbrm.org | Free

Housed in a century-old railway station, this museum has exhibits on railroad memorabilia, the towns of Chesapeake Beach and North Beach, and early-20th-century resorts. Highlights include a kangaroo from the old carousel at the Chesapeake Beach amusement park and a Model T Ford. Through September: “A Fish Story: The Last 100 Years” showcases the history of local fishing.

College Park Aviation Museum

1985 Cpl. Frank Scott Dr., College Park | 301-864-6029 | www.collegeparkaviationmuseum.com | $2 to $4; under age two free

The former home to the nation’s first military aviation school. Spin a propeller, try on flight gear, and fly a Wright brothers’ plane over College Park via a simulator.

Discovery Creek Children’s Museum at Glen Echo Park

7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo | 202-337-5111 | discoverycreek.org | Weekends only | $3 to $5; under age two free

Explore a creek, take nature hikes, and meet animals. Kids can climb and slide through trees in the “Forest Tales” exhibit about temperate local forests.

Ellicott City B&O Railroad Station Museum

2711 Maryland Ave., Ellicott City | 410-461-1945 | ecborail.org | $3 to $5; under age two free

In 1999, the oldest surviving railroad station in America was restored to its 1887 appearance. The museum tells the story of transportation and travel in 19th-century America. Through November: An exhibit explores the impact of industrialization and transportation on Ellicott Mills.

Glenn L. Martin Maryland Aviation Museum

701 Wilson Point Rd., Hangar 5, Suite 531, Baltimore | 410-682-6122 | marylandaviationmuseum.org | Free

Showcases seaplanes, bombers, and other aircraft, including an early pressurized passenger plane. One section is dedicated to local astronaut Tom Jones, who flew four space-shuttle missions.

Goddard Space Flight Center

8800 Greenbelt Rd., Greenbelt | 301-286-9041 | nasa.gov/centers/goddard/visitor/home/index.html | Free

NASA science, research, and discoveries. Displays on solar systems, the ozone layer, and space telescopes. What’s new: “Science on a Sphere” uses computers and video projectors to present views of Earth, the moon, and other planets.

Marian Koshland Science Museum

Corner of Sixth and E sts., NW | 888-567-4526 | koshland-science-museum.org | $3 to $5; under age five free | Metro: Gallery Place

Focuses on scientific issues of the day that affect daily life. Current exhibits teach about infectious diseases, global warming, and DNA. July 11 and 18: A lecture and optional trip on the Anacostia and the Chesapeake to learn about the decline of oysters in the bay and the impact of introducing nonnative oysters.

Maryland Science Center

601 Light St., Baltimore | 410-685-5225 | mdsci.org

Explore the universe in a planetarium, walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs, and watch Imax movies—among them Hurricane on the Bayou, a look at Hurricane Katrina and the swamps and spirit of New Orleans.

Mill House Museum

412 Mill St., Occoquan | 703-491-7525 | Free

Once the miller’s office of a 1759 automated gristmill, the museum has artifacts and exhibits about Occoquan as an 18th-century mill town.

National Academy of Sciences

2100 C St., NW | 202-334-2436 | nationalacademies.org/nas | $5; cultural programs free | Photo identification required

The permanent collection focuses on the intersection between art and science, with paintings, photos, sculptures, and more. Opening August 15: Photographs by Jill Greenberg capture monkeys and apes conveying humanlike emotions and personalities. Appointment required.

National Air and Space Museum

Fourth St. and Independence Ave., SW | 202-633-1000 | www.nasm.si.edu | Free

Home to world’s largest collection of air- and spacecraft, including the Wright brothers’ 1903 Flyer, Apollo and Gemini mission modules, and World War II fighters. Check out SpaceShipOne, the first privately financed and piloted vehicle to reach space, or learn about Charles Lindbergh’s solo trip across the Atlantic in the Spirit of St. Louis. July 20: “Mars Day!,” with hands-on activities and scientists working on Mars exploration.

National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

14390 Air and Space Museum Pkwy., Chantilly | 202-633-1000 | www.nasm.si.edu/udvarhazy | Free; parking $12

The annex to the main museum. Nearly 300 air- and spacecraft are displayed in ten-story hangars, including America’s first commercial jet airliner, the space shuttle the Enterprise, and the Enola Gay. An observation tower overlooks Dulles airport, and there are flight simulators and an Imax theater showing flight-themed and popular films.

National Aquarium

14th St. and Constitution Ave., NW | 202-482-2825 | nationalaquarium.com | $2.50 to $5; under age two free | Metro: Federal Triangle

See a giant Pacific octopus, baby American alligators, and red-belly piranhas among the more than 250 species. A new reef tank opens this summer. August 11: Shark Day, with anatomy lessons, a shark-tooth fossil dig, crafts, and a feeding.

National Aquarium in Baltimore

501 E. Pratt St., Baltimore | 410-576-3800 | aqua.org | $12.95 to $21.95; under age three free

Features more than 14,000 species, a several-story shark tank, a stingray and turtle exhibit, a rain forest, and dolphin shows. The aquarium added more than 65,000 square feet in 2005 for exhibits focused on Australia’s animals, land, and culture; see cockatoos, fruit bats, crocodiles, and more.

National Capital Trolley Museum

1313 Bonifant Rd., Colesville | 301-384-6088 | dctrolley.org | $3 to $4 | Metro: Glenmont

A collection of 17 international streetcars—including one that ran in DC until 1962—plus railway artifacts, a model of Washington streets in the 1930s, and a demonstration trolley visitors can ride.

National Cryptologic Museum

9900 Colony Seven Rd., Fort George G. Meade | 301-688-5849 | www.nsa.gov/museum | Free

The National Security Agency, part of the nation’s intelligence and spy apparatus, is home to about 50 exhibits on espionage and cryptology. Artifacts include an 18th-century cipher and a hands-on German Enigma cipher machine.

National Geographic Museum at Explorers Hall

1145 17th St., NW | 202-857-7588 | nationalgeographic.com/museum | Free | Metros: Farragut North and West

Housed in the first floor of the National Geographic Society, this museum hosts traveling exhibits that are often hands-on and high-tech. Through July 29: “National Geographic Maps: Tools for Adventure.” Find the North Star from your boat, search for Blackbeard’s ship, and direct the Hubble telescope.

National Library of Medicine

8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda | 301-594-1947 | nlm.nih.gov | Free | Metro: Medical Center

Boasts more than 9 million pieces, including books dating to the 11th century. Through February 16: “Visible Proofs,” the history of forensic medicine told through interactive exhibits and artifacts such as the first fingerprint used to identify a murderer.

National Museum of Health and Medicine

6900 Georgia Ave., NW | 202-782-2200 | nmhm.washingtondc.museum | Free | Metro: Takoma

Learn the history of health and medicine through organ specimens, an exhibit on pharmaceuticals from 1860, and photos and artifacts of battlefield surgery from the Civil War to Vietnam. Through September 16: “Gregor Mendel: Planting the Seeds of Genetics,” about the 19th-century friar whose experiments are the foundation of modern genetics.

National Museum of Natural History

Tenth St. and Constitution Ave., NW | 202-633-1000 | mnh.si.edu | Free | Metro: Smithsonian

Full-size dinosaur skeletons, a zoo of taxidermic animals from all over the world, jewel and mineral displays, and a new Korea Gallery. This fall, the museum opens an enclosed pavilion to house live butterflies and plants. Closing September 23: The Tiffany Diamond, one of the largest yellow diamonds in the world at 129 carats, ends its first appearance in a museum outside New York.

National Zoo

3001 Connecticut Ave., NW | 202-673-4800 | natzoo.si.edu | Free | Metros: Woodley Park–Zoo, Cleveland Park

A 163-acre park that’s home to 2,000 animals. The new Asia Trail features sloth bears, clouded leopards, and giant pandas—including popular cub Tai Shan. Zoo staffers hope for panda and Asian-elephant pregnancies later this year. Construction of a new home and breeding program for the endangered Asian elephant is under way. Thursdays in July: Sunset Serenades, free, family-friendly evening concerts.

Octagon Museum

1799 New York Ave., NW | 202-638-3221 | archfoundation.org/octagon | $3 to $5 | Open indefinitely only for prearranged tours of 10 to 25 people | Metros: Farragut West and North.

Housed in a 1799 brick home designed by US Capitol architect William Thornton, the museum has been restored and furnished to reflect the early 1800s. James and Dolley Madison lived here briefly, and the Treaty of Ghent was signed in the second-floor parlor.

Port Discovery

35 Market Pl., Baltimore | 410-727-8120 | portdiscovery.org | $10.75; under age two free

A children’s interactive museum. Kids navigate a three-story climbing structure then take a zip line down; learn how newborns see and feel the world; and solve archaeology clues to find an Egyptian tomb. Through September 4: “A Garden of Gizmos,” about conservation and gardens.

Radio & Television Museum

2608 Mitchellville Rd., Bowie | 301-390-1020 | radiohistory.org | Free | Open weekends; by appointment on weekdays

Artifacts from 1900 to 1960, including 1920s radio clips played through radios of the day, an exhibit about Little Orphan Annie’s secret society, and weekly showings of vintage television programs.

Smithsonian Naturalist Center

741 Miller Dr., SE, Suite G2, Leesburg | 800-729-7725, 703-779-9712 | www.mnh.si.edu/museum/virtualtour/tour/ground/natcenter | Free | Over age nine only | Closed for two weeks at the end of summer; call for days

Observe more than 30,000 specimens, put together a human skeleton, match the patterns in seashells, and use the forensic collection to solve mysteries CSI-style.

Stonestreet Museum of 19th-Century Medicine

103 W. Montgomery Ave., Rockville | 301-340-2825. montgomeryhistory.org/stonestreet.html | Admission included with entry to Beall-Dawson House | $2 to $3

This one-room doctor’s office from the mid-1800s includes 19th-century medical instruments such as bleeding cups and amputation kits.

US Botanic Garden

100 Maryland Ave., SW | 202-225-8333 | usbg.gov | Free | Metros: Federal Center SW, Capitol South

Features a conservatory with 5,000 plants. The three-acre National Garden, which opened last October, has a rose garden and amphitheater made from the marble steps of the Capitol’s old east portico. Through October 8: “Celebrating America’s Public Gardens,” with 12 examples from around the country, including a carnivorous-plant bog garden.

US National Arboretum

3501 New York Ave., NE | 202-245-2726 | www.usna.usda.gov | Free | Metro: Stadium-Armory

Bike, walk, or drive through the arboretum’s 446 acres to see dogwood and magnolia collections, a bonsai and penjing museum, and a grove of state trees. As at the Botanic Garden, remnants of the Capitol’s old east portico can be found here; marble columns stand along a reflecting pool near the center of the grounds.

—Julia Feldmeier andRebecca Shillenn

Washingtoniana

Local History at its Best

Alexandria Archaeology Museum, Torpedo Factory Arts Center

Studio 327, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria | 703-838-4399 | oha.alexandriava.gov/archaeology | Free

Documents the archaeological history of Alexandria. Check out the city’s oldest archaeological artifact­, a 9,000-year-old spear point. June: The museum starts tours of excavation sites at Freedmen’s Cemetery, a burial place for escaped slaves.

Alexandria Black History Museum

902 Wythe St., Alexandria | 703-838-4356 | oha.alexandriava.gov/bhrc | Free | Metro: Braddock Road

Dedicated to the experience of African-Americans in Alexandria from 1749 to today. “Freedoms Taken & Liberties Lost” traces the ocean voyage of Africans brought to Virginia as slaves.

American Red Cross Headquarters

430 17th St., NW | 202-303-7066 | redcross.org/museum/history | Free | Metros: Farragut West and North

Tour Red Cross headquarters, which opened in 1917, and trace the relief organization’s history. Highlights include old recruiting posters by artists such as Norman Rockwell.

Anacostia Community Museum

1901 Fort Pl., SE | 202-633-4820 | anacostia.si.edu | Free | Metro: Anacostia

The first federally funded neighborhood museum, this branch of the Smithsonian examines African-American life and history. Among current exhibits: “A Creative Profile: Artists of the East Bank,” a special juried exhibition of works by artists in DC’s Ward 7 and 8. Starting September 15: The museum marks its 40th anniversary with the exhibit “East of the River: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.”

Arlington Historical Museum

1805 S. Arlington Ridge Rd., Arlington | 703-892-4204 | arlingtonhistoricalsociety.org/learn/sites_properties/museum.asp | Free | Metros: Pentagon City, Crystal City

The museum is housed in an 1891 schoolhouse, Arlington’s oldest. Exhibits trace the county’s history and include a look at the construction of the Pentagon and its rebuilding following September 11.

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

400 Michigan Ave., NE | 202-526-8300 | nationalshrine.com | Free | Metro: Brookland–Catholic University

The largest church in North America and home to one of the world’s biggest collections of mosaic art. Last year, the Redemption Dome, made up of 2.4 million mosaic tiles, was installed above the nave.

Benjamin Banneker Historical Park & Museum

300 Oella Ave., Catonsville | 410-887-1081 | Free

This park and museum rest on the 142-acre farm where the astronomer, mathematician, and abolitionist once lived. See a replica of a letter that Banneker sent to Thomas Jefferson criticizing his views on slavery.

Fairfax Museum and Visitors Center

10209 Main St., Fairfax | 703-385-8414 | fairfaxva.gov/MuseumVC/MVC.asp | Free

The collection in this 19th-century brick schoolhouse focuses on the history of Fairfax and includes the personal correspondence of Antonia Ford, an alleged Confederate spy. Through September: “Housing Suburbia,” about Fairfax’s post–World War II boom.

Fairfax Station Railroad Museum

11200 Fairfax Station Rd. | Fairfax Station | 703-425-9225 | fairfax-station.org | $1 to $2; under age four free | Sundays only, 1 to 4

A replica of the last operating railroad station in Fairfax County, the museum houses Civil War artifacts and railroad memorabilia, including a caboose from the 1960s. See model-train displays on the third Sunday of each month, except in December.

Gadsby’s Tavern Museum

134 N. Royal St., Alexandria | 703-838-4242 | gadsbystavern.org | $2 to $4; under age 11 free | Metro: King Street

Housed in an 18th-century tavern and inn, the museum displays a variety of artifacts from Federal-era America. George Washington celebrated his birthday in the ballroom in 1798 and 1799.

Greenbelt Museum

15 Crescent Rd., Greenbelt | 301-507-6582 | greenbeltmuseum.org | Free; tours $1 to $2

The planned community of Greenbelt was built in 1937 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Tours of the town include a walk through a home restored to look as it did from 1936 to 1940. In July: a special exhibit on everyday fashion during the 1930s.

Gum Springs Museum & Cultural Center

8100 Fordson Rd., Alexandria | 703-799-1198 | gshsfcva.org | Free

Ten permanent exhibits document the history of Gum Springs, an 18th-century Northern Virginia community for freed slaves. Founder West Ford was a slave freed by the Washington family at Mount Vernon.

Historic London Town & Gardens

839 Londontown Rd., Edgewater | 410-222-1919 | historiclondontown.org | $3 to $7

Formerly a major tobacco port, London Town is a 23-acre site with one existing structure and gardens overlooking the South River. A new visitors center opens this summer with a museum, horticultural complex, and archaeology lab.

Interior Museum

1849 C St., NW | 202-208-4743 | doi.gov/interiormuseum | Free | Metros: Farragut West and North

Surveys the history of the Department of the Interior. Highlights include Native American artifacts, several hundred mineral samples, and dioramas from the 1930s depicting such scenes as a mining disaster and sponge fishing. Through the summer: “Reinventing Tradition: American Indian Design in Contemporary Clothing.”

Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum

10515 Mackall Rd., St. Leonard, Md. | 410-586-8500 | jefpat.org | Free

On 560 acres along the Patuxent River and St. Leonard Creek, this park and museum explore the archaeological and anthropological history of the Chesapeake Bay region. Hike trails, stroll gardens, and tour the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory. In August: a reenactment of John Smith’s 1608 landing here.

Laurel Museum

817 Main St., Laurel | 301-725-7975 | laurelhistory.org/museum.html | Free

Constructed in the 1840s as a home for local mill workers, the museum houses a collection of photographs, tools, personal artifacts, textiles, and oral histories from Laurel’s past.

Loudoun Museum

16 Loudoun St., Leesburg | 703-777-7427 | loudounmuseum.org | $1 to $3; under age four free

Current exhibitions trace Loudoun’s transformation over the 19th and 20th centuries from agricultural community to suburb.

The Lyceum

201 S. Washington St., Alexandria | 703-838-4994 | oha.ci.alexandria.va.us/lyceum | Free | Metro: King Street

Ceramics, furniture, photographs, and other artifacts record the history of Alexandria. The collection includes locally produced silver as well as stoneware jars from the first half of the 19th century, when Alexandria was still part of the District. Through Labor Day: “Jamestown: Establishing English America, 1607 to 2007.”

Manassas Museum

9101 Prince William St., Manassas | 703-368-1873 | manassasmuseum.org | $2 to $3; under age six free

Exhibits on the rural traditions of the Virginia Piedmont, the railroad history of Manassas, and the Civil War’s legacy in the region. Through September: “Gifts to the Community,” featuring family treasures recently given to the museum.

Museum of the Shenandoah Valley

901 Amherst St., Winchester | 540-662-1473 | shenandoahmuseum.org | $6 to $12; under age six free

Designed by Michael Graves and opened in 2005, the museum features six acres of gardens, a historic Glen Burnie home from the 18th century, and a collection that interprets the art, history, and culture of the Shenandoah Valley. Dollhouse enthusiasts will love the museum’s display of miniature houses and rooms: Even the miniature wine bottles have real alcohol inside. Through July 22: a traveling exhibition of 56 of National Geographic’s best photographs.

Old Post Office Tower

1100 Pennsylvania Ave., NW | 202-606-8691 | nps.gov/opot | Free | Metro: Federal Triangle

Built in 1897, the 270-foot tower offers terrific views of downtown. The ten Bells of Congress, a bicentennial gift from Great Britain, are on display below the observation deck.

St. Clement’s Island Museum

38370 Point Breeze Rd., Colton’s Point | 301-769-2222 | co.saint-marys.md.us/recreate/museums/stclementsisland.asp | $1.50 to $3; under age five free

Charts the settlement of Maryland and the history of the Potomac River. Between May and October, take a short water-taxi ride from the museum to the 40-acre St. Clement’s Island, the “birthplace of Maryland.”

Sandy Spring Museum

17901 Bentley Rd., Sandy Spring | 301-774-0022 | sandyspringmuseum.org | $3

Explores the history of Sandy Spring, a community settled by Quakers in the 1720s. Through July: an exhibit on farming during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Supreme Court of the United States

1 First St., NE | 202-479-3030 | supremecourtus.gov | Free | Metros: Capitol South, Union Station

Attend court sessions or lectures, or see an exhibit about the court under Chief Justice John Marshall.

US Capitol

Capitol Hill | 202-225-6827 | aoc.gov | Free | Metros: Capitol South, Union Station

Tours—free passes are first come, first served—include a walk through Statuary Hall, the original House chamber. Inside the Rotunda, look for John Trumbull’s “Declaration of Independence”—you’ll recognize it as the same drawing on the back of a $2 bill. The new 580,000-square-foot visitors center is scheduled to open in autumn 2008.

Washington National Cathedral

Massachusetts and Wisconsin aves., NW; 202-537-6200 | cathedral.org/cathedral | Free | $1 to $3 donation

The nation’s second-largest cathedral, it’s hosted the funerals of presidents and Washington VIPs. Special reservation-only group tours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays are followed by a tea in the Pilgrim Observation Gallery, which offers spectacular views of the city.

—Jason M. Breslow

Military History

Great Guns and Battles

Airmen Memorial Museum

5211 Auth Rd., Suitland | 800-638-0594 | afsahq.org/AMM/amm-htm/mwelcome.htm | Free

A window into the battle experiences of US airmen from World War I to the present. Highlights include uniforms of two Air Force chiefs and a serviceman’s letter on Hitler’s personal stationery.

Fort George G. Meade Museum

4674 Griffin Ave., Fort Meade | 301-677-6966 | ftmeade.army.mil/Museum/Index.htm | Free

Eisenhower and Patton served at this Army training camp named for the general who led the Union troops at Gettysburg. The grounds and museum are littered with tanks, missiles, and other artillery and memorabilia.

Fort Ward Museum & Historic Site

4301 W. Braddock Rd., Alexandria | 703-838-4848 | oha.ci.alexandria.va.us/fortward | Free

On the grounds of this restored Union fort, which was built to defend the District, check out the Officer’s Hut, the underground bomb shelters, and one of the nation’s three existing Hale rocket launchers.

Fort Washington Park

13551 Fort Washington Rd., Fort Washington | 301-763-4600 | nps.gov/fowa | $5 a car, $3 a person on foot

Hear the pounding of cannons and other artillery on the first Sunday of each month from 1 to 3 pm. Renovations on the nearly 200-year-old fort are scheduled for completion in August.

Freedom Museum

10400 Terminal Rd., Manassas | 703-393-0660 | freedommuseum.org | Free

A timeline of the history of US conflict, from the Spanish-American War to Operation Desert Storm. The collection includes uniforms, a World War II training device for bombardiers, a 1940s Coke bottle with sand from Iwo Jima, and an exhibit on soldiers from Prince William County who fought in World War II and Vietnam.

National Museum of American Jewish Military History

1811 R St., NW | 202-265-6280 | nmajmh.org | Free | Metro: Dupont Circle

Walk the Hall of Heroes, an exhibit honoring the 15 Jewish Americans who have won the Congressional Medal of Honor.

National Museum of Civil War Medicine

48 E. Patrick St., Frederick | 301-695-1864 | civilwarmed.org | $4.50 to $6.50; under age ten free

A record of the war’s wounded and the medical advancements made by those who cared for them. What’s new: a permanent exhibit that includes bones from soldiers treated at hospitals in Frederick during the battles of Antietam and Monocacy.

National Museum of the Marine Corps

18900 Jefferson Davis Hwy., Triangle, Va. | 877-653-1775 | usmcmuseum.org | Free

The museum’s angled steel edifice, visible from I-95, evokes the iconic image of Marines raising the American flag on Iwo Jima. The flag is on display inside. Get a glimpse of the rigors of boot camp and the intensity of drill instructors in the “Making Marines” exhibit. The museum, which opened last fall, is surrounded by a three-acre memorial park with monuments and commemorative bricks.

Old Guard Museum

Building 249, Sheridan Ave., Fort Myer, Arlington | 703-696-6670 | army.mil/oldguard/museum/togmweb/index.htm | Free | Photo identification required

Commemorates the Army’s oldest active infantry unit, whose duties include guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. See the Chapultepec Baton, awarded after victory in the war with Mexico.

Patuxent River Naval Air Museum

Rt. 235 and Gate 1 Access Rd., Lexington Park | 301-863-7418 | paxmuseum.com | Free

Among the 21 naval aircraft on the flight deck where planes are tested is the X-35C, which won the Defense Department’s 2001 contest for a new plane to be used by the Air Force, Navy, and Marines. Also check out the museum’s flight simulators.

US Navy Museum, Building 76

Washington Navy Yard, 805 Kidder Breese, SE | 202-433-6897 | history.navy.mil/branches/org8-1.htm | Free | Reservations required 24 hours in advance unless visitor has military or Department of Defense identification | Metros: Navy Yard, Eastern Market

Commemorates naval heroes, battles, and peacetime contributions and includes the top deck of the USS Constitution, which dates to 1797 and saw combat during the War of 1812. In “Dive! Dive! U.S. Navy Submarines,” see models of the USS Patrick Henry and Turtle, a wooden one-man submarine from 1776.

Warren Rifles Confederate Museum

95 Chester St., Front Royal | 540-636-6982 | vaudc.org | $4 to $5; students free

Along with scores of rustic memorabilia from Dixie, see a collection of autographs from Confederate officers, among them “Stonewall” Jackson and Robert E. Lee.

Women in Military Service forAmerica Memorial

Ceremonial Entrance, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington | 800-222-2294 | womensmemorial.org | Free | Metro: Arlington Cemetery

A WWI exhibit and “American Servicewomen in the Global War on Terror.”

—Drew Bratcher