Alternatives to the Smithsonian Museums

While the Smithsonian museums are DC landmarks, there are many other places to visit while you are here in DC. Yes, the Smithsonian museums have free admission, yet that means they can also be crowded and noisy. Consider visiting these other DC museums or sites, many of which charge an admission fee, yet which are still worth it!

Close to the convention hotel is National Museum of Women in the Arts at 13th St and New York Ave NW. This museum focuses on women artists of all nationalities and periods and is located in a former bank building with classic architecture.

The National Building Museum was originally the largest building made out of bricks and served as the Pension Office for Civil War soldiers. It currently has the ‘Icebergs’ exhibit which seems like a great way to cool off in the hot DC days. This museum is located between 5th & 4th Sts and G & F Sts NW.

Farther afield from the convention hotel is the Folger Shakespeare Library, on Capitol Hill. During the past year, the Folger has been celebrating the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare, and the remaining exhibit is “Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity”.

A new location for the Textile Museum is on the George Washington University campus in Foggy Bottom. If you ‘dig’ Oriental rugs, this is the place for you!

If you like Pierre-Auguste Renoir paintings, consider going to The Phillips Collection near DuPont Circle. The “Luncheon of the Boating Party” painting is part of the permanent collection.

The National Geographic Museum on 17th St NW between L & M Sts currently has “The Greeks” exhibit (paid attendance) and free exhibits such as ‘Invisible Boundaries: Exploring Yellowstone’s Great Animal Migrations” and a 3-D terrain model of the Grand Canyon (you have to look up on the ceiling!).

The national Mall and the other Monuments and Memorials are part of the National Park System (NPS), which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. If you want to see some facts about NPS sites in DC, click here.

While not an official ‘museum’, the White House Visitor Center at 1450 Pennsylvania Ave NW will offer video views of the White House and its interior rooms.

The Newseum at 6th St and Pennsylvania Ave NW has the front pages of newspapers from around the world posted outside daily. This can be a fascinating comparison of how news events are covered.

You missed the recent stinky flowering corpse flower (you can listen to the NPR story to hear what it was like) but other plants will still be interesting at the U.S. Botanic Garden near the Capitol.

Farther away from the convention hotel and still accessible via Metro is Arlington National Cemetery. Check out the public transportation section for more info about getting to Arlington on the Blue line. Arlington has at least two Toastmaster connections — the creator of Robert’s Rules of Order is buried in Arlington, and a special member of D36, Jim Whitney, is also buried there. Look at this file for more information about both.

Two additional groups of alternatives to Smithsonian museums remain: (1) Consulates and Embassies and (2) Professional Societies and Organizations.

Wikipedia states that 177 resident embassies exist in Washington, D.C. Toastmasters International is in 142 countries according to the TI website so we have a few more countries to reach! Other places to check on your country’s embassy are at the U.S. Department of State page and about travel’s page. You can see many embassies on Embassy Row.

If you belong to a professional society or organization like the ACS, AARP, LWV, or FASEB (just to drop abbreviations of a few), you might want to consider visiting your organization’s headquarters or office in the DC area. Look up your organization’s office on their website, or check out ASAE, an association for associations and its resources. According to John Graham, 2011 president of ASAE, around 2,500 trade and professional associations are located in the DC metropolitan area [source: NPR].