National Museum of American History

National Museum of American History, Washington DC: Address, Phone Number, National Museum of American History Reviews: 4.5/5

National Museum of American History

National Museum of American History
4.5
About
One of the Smithsonian museums along the Mall, this one has more than 3 million artifacts in its collection—from gowns to locomotives—that reflect and preserve a record of America’s past.
Suggested duration
2-3 hours
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The area
Address
Neighborhood: Upper Northwest
How to get there
  • Federal Triangle • 4 min walk
  • Smithsonian • 6 min walk
Best nearby
Restaurants
3,083 within 3 miles
Attractions
595 within 6 miles
Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.
Popular mentions

4.5
4,993 reviews
Excellent
2,964
Very good
1,291
Average
534
Poor
165
Terrible
39

djinnooi
Sydney316 contributions
Apr 2022 • Family
The American History museum had a wide range of items on display when we visited. Some highlights were the flag that inspired the Star-Spangled Banner, Lincoln’s top hat and Julia Child’s kitchen. Unfortunately, a number of rooms were under renovation at the time, so the only item we saw from the entertainment industry was Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz.

Lunch in the museum cafeteria was pricy. Pre-packed sandwiches cost over USD12, while the salad bar and I think also some hot food options were available for USD16/pound. There are no scales for weighing how much is on your plate until you go to pay, though, so how much you’ll be paying is anybody’s guess till then. After some bad experiences with street vendors in New York, though, and unsure as to what would otherwise be available for lunch nearby, we prefer to eat in museums, where we know that at least our money will go towards supporting the museum’s activities.
Written April 26, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

blairkk25
New Jersey2,863 contributions
Aug 2021
I visited the National Museum of American History in August 2021. I went during midday on a weekday. I have been here many times before and always enjoy it. This time the museum was too crowded although it was quick to enter and go through security. Everybody had masks on but it was difficult to social distance. I went to my favorite exhibit which is "The Price of Freedom" and the history of America's wars. However it was just too crowded so I rushed through it. There was a special exhibit on Spanish / Hispanic baseball and baseball players called "Plei Bol!" which was interesting. I decided to move on after that. I hope next time I go to the museum that it is a little less crowded.
Written August 20, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

emtravelfxr
Seattle, WA185 contributions
Feb 2022 • Family
The museum entry is free, and open without any timed entry tickets. There is so much to see that you could easily spend two visits here to really look at everything. It’s a great place to spend a rainy day in DC. The exhibits are exceptionally well done and complete. Loved the transportation section. They even have my first car in there!
Written February 25, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

MCKD20
Dublin, Ireland116 contributions
Jan 2022
Let me just start by saying that the museum actually looks to be pretty good, with many interesting exhibitions and free admission. However, we were unfortunate enough to visit in a morning in January when a major protest was scheduled to happen around the National Mall later on. That meant that hundreds of protesters were already lining up by the door before 10 o'clock and, when the museum opened its doors, were all admitted with no security screening or bag check. All of them were carrying signs, placards, and potentially even weapons in their bags, and I do believe it is unacceptable that the museum let them all in without even a glance. The place was then very crowded, uncomfortable, hectic and noisy. Those people had presumably travelled overnight as you could also see many of them sleeping on sofas, benches and on the floor. The requirement to wear face coverings was largely being ignored. Overall, it was just a really stressful experience and we could not enjoy the museum properly. As it was our last day in DC, we made an effort to stay, but it is beyond me how the museum could allow hundreds of angry protesters and their placards to come inside with zero security checks. I believe a good review of their safety/security practices might be needed.
Written January 27, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

RLWOrangePark
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL3,667 contributions
Oct 2021
This museum houses a GREAT selection of American historic facts and memorabilia from this nation's founding to the present. The exhibits are housed on 3 floors of this very large building and I recommend allocating approximately 3 hours to view the exhibits (We spent 3/5 hours and did not even see everything). The most significant exhibit is the original Star Spangled Banner, the flag that was raised over Baltimore's Fort McHenry on September 14, 1814, and which inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner." Some of the other main exhibits included American Military History (Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam Wars, etc.), the Gunboat Philadelphia (gunboat used by Benedict Arnold forces in the Battle of Lake Champlain in 1776 that was sunk and discovered, almost fully intact at the bottom of the lake in 1935), American Enterprise (innovation and history that trace this country's development from an agricultural economy to the present, along with some of the major products and advertisements of their time), America on the Move (Hall of Transportation (trains, early roadsters, 1926 Model t, Harley Davidson motorcycle, etc.) Women Suffrage, First Ladies Inaugural Gowns, the American Presidency (interesting facts and displays from all the Presidents), Coins and Currency (hundreds/thousands of coins and alternate currency from around the world over the past 3000 years, including a $100,000 American bill), Ruby Slippers from Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, and a 1832 sculpture of George Washington as a Greek/Roman God. The museum is open Friday through Tuesday (closed Wednesday and Thursday) from 10 AM to 5:30 PM and no advanced reservations are required. The Archives Metro Station is conveniently only a block or two from the entrance to the museum.
Written November 5, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Dave
Arlington, TX2 contributions
Feb 2022 • Family
Most of the exhibits in the museum are closed. The exhibits that are available are boring and uninformative, with the exception of the reconstructed house. Overall this museum is a waste of time. They should close this museum in favor of keeping better museums like the natural history museum open 7 days a week.
Written February 28, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

richmondatty
Short Pump, Virginia23 contributions
Feb 2020 • Solo
I grew up in in northern Virginia, but I moved away after graduating high school in 1984. This museum used to be among my favorites, but no longer.

First, make sure that you know that the museum has TWO entrances. When we went February 29, 2020, the Constitution Avenue entrance had a security line half a block long. We decided to check the Madison Avenue entrance on the Mall side. I wondered quickly if that entrance were closed as we approached, because I did not see anyone outside. However, we walked up to the entrance, we went inside, and we stood in a line of about twenty people to wait to go through security, compared with the hundreds waiting in the outside cold on the other side of the building.

Second, the museum itself was disappointing, not just compared with my museum memories of the past, but also compared with current museums in other cities of the present. The displays were just not that well organized. The museum has many descriptions and social histories, but the museum really does not show that much "stuff," the wonderful artifacts that the museum owns but are hidden probably in some warehouse with the Ark of the Covenant.

The Smithsonian Museum of American History used to have so many displays of old pop culture references or some old machine from 1870.  The museum could easily throw many more items on display in front of the many reading panels describing the changes in the US or the social history behind that change. Put a few guns or maybe someone's uniform from the Spanish-American war in that exhibit, rather than leaving the exhibit rather bare and just full of descriptions of what happened. Throw in a an actual New York World newspaper, rather than a picture poster of the event. Perhaps the numismatics room could display a $10000 or $100000 bill, but we would have to instead go to Bureau of Engraving to see those. I think that it would not detract from the Bureau of Engravings visitor count if the Smithsonian displayed some of the same items. 

The museum is missing "stuff" to look at, compared with the overwhelming number of items showing at Air & Space, the Holocaust museum, or Udvar-Hazy. The National Archives across the street seemed to have more stuff, like Nixon's tape recorder. The Smithsonian does not need more physical space, just a better display of what it does have. The General Motors transportation wing had more stuff to look at; so many of the other displays did not. 

Some rooms are better than others, but I no longer have the sense of being overwhelmed with the experience. 

Written March 4, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

jamesoverduin
2 contributions
Feb 2022
I was intrigued to see this museum with my son after googling and finding out that it contained the world's first computer, ENIAC, as well as an Apple I, a Cray 2, and IBM's Deep Blue. These are amazing pieces of history! But after driving for more than an hour to get to the museum, we learned that *none* of them were on exhibit. They are in the museum's "collection" but not their exhibits. They are hidden away in a warehouse somewhere, inaccessible to the public. It was admittedly a personal disappointment, to have driven so far to see nothing. But I feel it is a deeper issue: to acquire all these treasures, but then to keep them from the public, seems to me to go against the spirit and purpose of a great museum like the Smithsonian. What saved the trip for us was finding one guide (the third one we tried) who did know something about the subject and guided us to a few computer-related exhibits.
Written February 6, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Lottelli
Wirral, UK2,278 contributions
Mar 2022 • Couples
Firstly, tickets are free. It opened at 10 when we were there and there was a small queue that when the doors opened moved really fast.
We spent just over 2 hours here and only saw a small amount of the museum! We focused on the America history which was so informative and took you right through the history to the present day.
After this we went to the American President section and the First Ladies where you could see their dresses which was a real treat.
It was interactive, informative and very interesting.
Written April 2, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Eriko
Santa Monica, CA131 contributions
Apr 2022
This is a huge museum so plan your day well. We arrived early and had no problem entering. There is so much history and information to absorb so pace yourself. I really wanted to see Julia Child's kitchen! At this time some of the galleries were closed so it was easy to pick and choose what we wanted to see. We spent around 2 hours here and I think that was all we could absorb.

Plenty of restrooms with water bottle filling stations. The staff are handy to ask questions too.
Written May 6, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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