National Gallery of Art (West Building)

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I’m always surprised when people tell me what they are planning to see and do in DC, that National Gallery of Art isn’t on their list. Maybe it’s because I talk to a lot of families with kids, and they think it wouldn’t interest them, or maybe it’s because there are so many other things to do and see in DC.

I always do my best to try to encourage people to go to the National Gallery. I’ve been taking my kids there for years. And my advice is always the same—you don’t need to spend too much time there. Just pop in (meaning for about an hour or even less) and at least look at the da Vinci (the only one in America) and some Impressionist paintings (my favorite paintings—but it could be some other paintings). I think it’s so important to expose kids (and adults) to art so they can gain an appreciation for it.

When you enter on the main floor from the Mall Entrance, the da Vinci is to the left in Gallery 6, and the Impressionist paintings are to the right in the galleries with numbers in the upper 80s. If you have a little bit more time, and want to see some of the better-known paintings (12 in all, including the da Vinci), ask for the West Building Highlights guide at the Information Desk just to the left when you enter from the Mall entrance. This guide is great because, in about an hour, you can see some pretty cool paintings and get an overall feel for the museum. The kids and the adults can take turns being the tour guide to the next painting using the map on the guide.

One of my favorite things that I have done with my kids is for me to research a bit beforehand some of the art pieces in the museum, tell them what I’ve learned about the paintings, and then search for them when we get to the museum. Probably our favorite painting that we’ve done that with is Copley’s, Watson and the Shark. I think they liked it so much because it’s got a story behind it that is kind of thrilling for kids. We still hunt that one down every time we go. In case you’re interested, that painting is in Gallery M60. To learn more about the painting, go to this link: http://www.nga.gov/feature/watson/watsonhome.shtm. Maybe you’ll understand why my kids were fascinated with this picture at a young age. ☺

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