One of the perks of living in and around Washington, D.C., is the access to a ton of free museums. The Smithsonians offer something for everybody and have an impressive collection of pieces in all their buildings.

However, with the busy schedules and natural aversion to tourists that we as Washingtonians all seem to possess, we sometimes forget to get out there and actually visit our amazing museums! The best time to go is when family and friends come to town. They’re going to go anyway, so you may as well tag along. Here are four favorites that everyone in your party will appreciate.

National Air and Space Museum

museums Independence Ave. and 6th St. SW Washington, D.C., 20560 For anyone who has ever been interested in the science of flying, the Air and Space Museum is a fascinating collection of objects, including the "1903 Wright Flyer, Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, and a lunar rock you can touch.” Check out the history of flight around the world and in the United States, as well as the role aerobatics played during both World Wars. The space exhibits will help you explore the American journey to the moon and the space politics of the 1970s. There are tons of interactive activities, and it’s definitely one of the more exciting museums that the Smithsonian has to offer. For the full list of exhibitions, please visit their site here.

National Museum of Natural History

museum10th St. and Constitution Ave. NW Washington, D.C., 20560 There's no shortage of things to see and do at the Natural History Museum. It boasts the largest natural history collection in the world. Start by making a visit to the mammal exhibit, and then make your way to learning about human evolution. Take a look at the Hope Diamond (one of the most famous and largest diamonds in the world), and spend some time with live insects at the insect zoo. You can view a live tarantula feeding demonstration and touch (if you dare) all kinds of different bugs. For a full list of available exhibits at the museum, you can visit their website here.

American History Museum

museum 1300 Constitution Ave. NW Washington, D.C., 20560 If you’re an American history buff, this is the place for you. There are a lot of exhibits at this museum -- so much so that you really will not be able to view it all in one visit. It’s important you pick what’s interesting to you -- whether it’s the history of food or the First Ladies’ dresses. Of course, there are some classics you'll definitely not want to miss like the “Star-Spangled Banner, Washington’s uniform, Jefferson’s lap desk, and Dorothy’s ruby slippers.” You can see everything else the museum has to offer by visiting the website here.

National Portrait Gallery

museum

8th St. NW and F St. NW Washington, D.C., 20001 A little off of the mall in Chinatown, The Portrait Gallery is a collection of portraits of people from all periods and aspects of history. As put by the Smithsonian, the gallery “introduces you to the people who have shaped the country -- poets, presidents, actors, activists, visionaries, villains ... and everyone in between.” The most famous permanent exhibit is National Presidents, which features an official portrait of every president from George Washington to Barack Obama.
We should all take advantage of living in a city which offers such culturally rich museums with free admission. Friends and family coming to visit makes for the perfect opportunity to be a tourist at home. And once you’re done with all that sight-seeing, you can reclaim your "local status" and offer a delicious place for dinner. Which Smithsonian museum is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

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