American History Museum

American History Museum Julia Child's kitchen DC

Julia Child’s kitchen

A couple of months ago, we were planning our weekend and trying to figure out what we were going to do. I always like to do a fun family activity every weekend, but sometimes it gets hard to come up with new ideas that everyone wants to do. Since I always want to get downtown, I presented an idea that surprisingly was not shot down, but was met with an “ok” and “we can try it.” That’s all I needed to get going.

This was my idea: to go to the museums downtown, and pick our top three exhibits in each museum. To do this, we’d have to revisit most, if not all of the exhibits in each museum, which we don’t often do, preferring instead to always visit our favorites. I had to promise that we’d move quickly, since I know for our family museum visits can’t last too long.

But then came our turn to do the American History Museum. This is already one of my favorites on the Mall—so we visit it often, probably because I love history—but I soon realized that there was a lot of new stuff that I hadn’t seen. So what started out as a quick visit, soon turned into about a four-hour visit—and even then we hadn’t done all the exhibits justice. (Natalie had had enough—more than enough, by the time she dragged me out of there. I guess I didn’t follow my own rules to keep museum visits short—although we did take a lunch break in the middle.) But at least now we can tell you our top picks, so hopefully you can keep your visit shorter than us, if you like.

1. For starter’s visit the Star-Spangled Banner exhibit, which showcases the flag that inspired the National Anthem. This exhibit is on the 2nd floor, the floor you enter on from the Mall side.

2. Also on the 2nd floor, is American Stories. Take a quick look in here to see part of Plymouth Rock, Dorothy’s ruby red shoes, Miss Piggy and more.

3. Head to the 1st floor and visit the Food Exhibit. It starts with Julia Child’s kitchen, and then goes on to show the evolution of food in our country.

4. Also on the 1st floor is the exhibit, America on the Move. This exhibit has lots of cars, trains and things exciting to young kids. It’s a great exhibit about the role of transportation in American history. There are lots of activity guides for this exhibit:
foods on the move (elementary school):
people on the move (middle school):
business on the move (middle school):
Print at least one out to get more out of that exhibit.

5. Then up to the 3rd floor to visit the First Ladies exhibit.

Ok, so I recognize that that’s a lot more than three—but it was so hard to narrow it to just three. But, you know yourself and your family—so feel free to adjust to your tastes.

It will be even harder to pick once the renovations in the building are done. Then there will be even more exhibits!

Before you go, print out my Museum Quest to get more out of the museum!

American History Museum Quest

American History Museum dollhouse DC

Pouring over the dollhouse–can you find where it is?

American History Museum Transportation DC

America on the Move exhibit

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