One of the best things about living in Washington, D.C. is the abundance of the world’s best museums, most of which are free of charge.
National Gallery of Art
Among art museums, the National Gallery of Art is truly a gift to the nation. Its collection has paintings starting with Byzantine icons and finishing with the most recent contemporary masterpieces. The National Gallery constantly offers new exhibitions as well as free films, lectures, etc., so check out its website often. The National Gallery even possesses the only work of Leonardo da Vinci in the United States. Which work is that? Visit the gallery to find out!
Freer and Sackler Galleries
I would like to draw your attention to one museum which is usually missed by many visitors: the Freer and Sackler Galleries. These two galleries focus on Asian art. The Freer part is temporarily closed now but the Sackler is open. They currently have the following exhibitions:
The Lost Symphony: Whistler and the Perfection of Art (January 16, 2016-May 30, 2016); Peacock Room REMIX: Darren Waterston’s Filthy Lucre (May 16, 2015-January 2, 2017);
Body of Devotion: The Cosmic Buddha in 3D (January 30, 2016-December 2016);
Xu Bing: Monkeys Grasp for the Moon—Continues indefinitely;
Sculpture of South Asia and the Himalayas—Continues indefinitely;
Vietnam’s Ceramics: Depth and Diversity—Continues indefinitely, etc.
Also, don’t miss their exquisite shop with an elegant and carefully chosen selection of books, ceramics, even kimonos, and many other Asian artifacts.
The Phillips Collection
The Phillips Collection near Dupont Circle is another jewel. It has a great collection of Western modern art (the museum is closed on Monday and you have to pay an entrance fee). Sometimes they have concerts on Thursdays and stay open until late evening. Now they have an amazing exhibition: Landscape masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection. Featuring 39 masterpieces spanning five centuries, this exhibition draws from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection to explore the evolution of European and American landscape art. Highlights include Jan Brueghel the Younger’s 17th‐century allegorical paintings of the five senses that invite visitors to consider their own experiences of the world. Venice, one of Allen’s favorite cities, is sumptuously represented in the exhibition through stunning Venetian scenes by Canaletto, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, and J. M. W. Turner, among others. Other highlights include five Monet landscapes spanning 30 years, from views of the French countryside to his late immersive representations of water lilies, evocative works by Paul Cézanne and Gustav Klimt, and modern and contemporary perspectives by 20th‐century artists as diverse as Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, David Hockney, Gerhard Richter, and Ed Ruscha.
Museums great for children
The new Museum of the American Indian offers a fantastic view of America’s past. The museum is very popular with children, too. However, your children will be in love with the Air and Space Museum and the Museum of Natural History. Both museums also offer 3D movies on a regular basis, which all ages—children and adults—love.
Exploring other museums with children
You don’t need to do much to encourage your kids to go to the Air and Space Museum or Museum of Natural History. However, a trip to the art museum is sometimes not as easy. From my own experience, I can suggest two things. First, don’t overdo it. Spend 30 minutes or as long as your child is engaged. Joining a tour group— they are scheduled on a regular basis—is sometimes a good idea. Your child may listen to somebody else better than to you! The moment he or she shows the signs of boredom—leave! Second, before literally leaving the art museum, take your children to the museum shop and record their interest with a book, cards, drawing utensils, etc. Stimulate their interest in art. And come back soon!