Washington, D.C.

The Best of the Lesser-Known Museums in DC

For the DC museum buff, The Air and Space Museum, the American History Museum and the National Gallery are can’t-miss attractions. But once you’ve seen the same permanent collection for the umpteenth time, you’ll likely want to expand your horizons. These five museums have quieter reputations but are sure to intrigue, enlighten and inspire you.

National Postal Museum One of the smaller members of the Smithsonian, the National Postal Museum showcases the inside story on all things mail and is housed in a formerly active post office. It illuminates how mail gets delivered and traces its history from the Pony Express to Airmail and more. In addition, it features the world’s largest collection of stamps, including Amelia Earhart’s personal collection. (A famed aviatrix and a stamp collector—who knew?)

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Photo: Some rights reserved by NCinDC

Crime Museum It seems fitting that the hometown of the FBI would house this museum, serving as a tribute to crime and crime fighting in America. Notable features include a crime lab, a simulated shooting range and the filming studios for “America’s Most Wanted.” You can even sign up for workshops on DNA analysis, autopsies, arson investigation and more.

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Photo: All rights reserved by H&XL

National Building Museum This museum, whose great hall has hosted every inaugural ball since Grover Cleveland’s presidency in 1885, is a tribute to everything architectural. Currently on view: An exhibit on designing “green” schools, a feature on the history and future of the American home, and a display on mini golf boasting two indoor nine-hole courses you can play.

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Photo: Some rights reserved by Phil Roeder

The Mansion on O Street A compendium of five interconnected townhouses, this museum boasts a unique rotating collection of art, music and décor. The curators change the exhibits daily, meaning that every visit is different. Each of the more than 100 rooms is decorated in different design periods, ranging from Victorian to Art Deco. You’ll see original Tiffany stained glass windows, hand-painted ceilings, a two-story “log cabin” and more. (The photo here is of a bathroom. Seriously.)

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Photo: All rights reserved by cassandra sechler

Freer and Sackler Galleries These two galleries display the Smithsonian’s impressive collection of Asian art. You can explore Ancient Iranian metalwork, Chinese Confucian narrative painting and ceramics from Thailand. While beautiful to view on your own, with our SideTour hosted by the dynamic Steve Berer, you’ll hear the stories behind the pieces, and even create some art of your own by crafting a haiku under Steve’s tutelage.

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Photo: All rights reserved by IWalked Audio Tours

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