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The exterior of the Frederick Douglass house in Washington D.C. The house is white with a pink roof and white columns in front. Getty Images

D.C.’s 20 most underrated museums and galleries, mapped

Skip the National Mall and head to these lesser-known locations instead

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If you want to skip the National Mall and journey to the hidden gems in Washington, D.C., we’ve got a map for you.

From the National Building Museum to the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, these are the most underrated museums and galleries in the city. They range in focus from contemporary art and social issues to architecture and spy history.

Tell us about your favorite D.C. museums and exhibits in the comments.

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1. African American Civil War Museum

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1925 Vermont Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001

More than 200,000 African-American soldiers and sailors fought in the Civil War. At the African American Civil War Museum, these individuals are remembered through photography, newspaper articles, replicas of uniforms, and a memorial. The museum is currently being redeveloped.

A sculpture at the African American Civil War Museum. The sculpture depicts soldiers with guns. The Washington Post via Getty Im

2. National Arboretum

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Arboretum
Washington, DC 20002

Take a walk on the wild side by stepping away from city life and journeying through one of the District’s most beautiful gardens. As a "living museum," the National Arboretum features more than just trees and flowers. It also offers a look at the original columns of the old East Portico of the U.S. Capitol.

The National Arboretum in Washington D.C. There is a path and steps leading up to various monuments. Shutterstock

3. Dumbarton Oaks Museum

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1703 32nd St NW
Washington, DC 20007

This 1801 Federal-style estate in Georgetown serves as a house museum. It boasts Byzantine and pre-Columbian collections, and features a variety of tapestries, furniture, and artwork. It also supports scholarly research.

The exterior of the Dumbarton Oaks Museum in Washington D.C. The facade is red brick with white columns on the front. Shutterstock

4. IA&A at Hillyer

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9 Hillyer Ct NW
Washington, DC 20008

This cozy Dupont Circle art gallery is hidden in an alley behind The Phillips Collection. Composed of three separate rooms and run by International Arts & Artists, a nonprofit, it offers contemporary artwork and events. The gallery seeks to highlight local, regional, and international artists and is open daily.

5. The Phillips Collection

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1600 21st St NW
Washington, DC 20009

Just a couple blocks from the Dupont Circle Metro station is the nation's first museum of modern art. Some of the roughly 3,000 works in its collection are by well-known artists such as Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, and Matisse.

The exterior of the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C. The facade is red brick with a circular awning over the entrance area. Shutterstock

6. The Mansion on O Street

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2020 O St NW
Washington, DC 20036

The Mansion on O Street is a sight to be seen. Throughout the three connected Dupont Circle rowhouses comprising the mansion, there are themed rooms, all sorts of artwork, secret doors, and even guitars signed by stars like Eric Clapton.

7. Mary McLeod Bethune Council House

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1318 Vermont Ave NW
Washington, DC 20005

This Logan Circle house hosted the first headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women, an organization that works to reduce racial, class, and gender discrimination. The building also served as the last home of Mary McLeod Bethune, an education advocate who became the highest-ranking African-American woman in the the federal government in 1935.

8. Heurich House Museum

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1307 New Hampshire Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036

Did somebody say “Oktoberfest”? Referred to as the Brewmaster's Castle, the Heurich House in Dupont Circle is known for beer-focused events throughout the year. Every Thursday, it hosts a live “HOME/BREWED” exhibit in the site’s private backyard.

9. Old Stone House

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3051 M St NW
Washington, DC 20007

Behold, the oldest unchanged building in the nation’s capital, dating to before the Revolutionary War. When it was originally built, it was both a home and a shop for cabinetmaker Christopher Layman. The house reopened as a museum in 1960, offering visitors a glimpse at pre-Revolutionary architecture and furnishings. The museum is free.

10. National Geographic Museum

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1145 17th St NW
Washington, DC 20036

For those who love animals, traveling, and photography, the National Geographic Museum should be on your list. While it’s fairly small, it's a good place to learn about dinosaurs, the ocean, and cultures around the world.

The exterior of the National Geographic Museum in Washington D.C. The facade is white with multiple windows. Shutterstock

11. National Museum of Women in the Arts

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1250 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC 20005

Since 1987, this museum has celebrated women who have influenced the art world. From Frida Kahlo to Mary Cassatt, the National Museum of Women in the Arts ensures that women artists are never forgotten or under-acknowledged. The museum's collection has more than 4,500 pieces of art.

12. Smithsonian National Postal Museum

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2 Massachusetts Ave NE
Washington, DC 20002

Across from Union Station, this museum first opened in 1993 and once housed D.C.’s main post office. Visitors can learn about the history of the U.S. Postal Service, the Pony Express, and Owney, the first unofficial postal mascot. Admission is free.

The exterior of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. The facade is white with columns and an arched entryway. Shutterstock

13. National Building Museum

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401 F St NW
Washington, DC 20001

The National Building Museum highlights innovation in architecture and design. Exhibitions have included large-scale photos of D.C. landmarks and urban planning for natural disasters. The museum also hosts expansive interactive exhibitions each summer: among the, a ball pit, a maze, and a fun house. It will be closed for renovations from December 2 to next spring.

The exterior of the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. The floor is red and there are yellow structural columns. The ceiling is high and arched. Shutterstock

14. International Spy Museum

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700 L'Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, DC 20024

If you love movies from the “James Bond” or “Bourne” series, the International Spy Museum should be your next stop. Opened in a new building in 2019, the Spy Museum allows guests to decrypt secret audio conversations, interrogate suspected agents, and go on your own undercover mission.

The exterior of the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. The building is black with a glass exterior and sloped roof. The Washington Post/Getty Images

15. Octagon Museum

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1799 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC 20006

In Foggy Bottom, you can find this architecture and design museum. The house was built between 1798 and 1800 by the architect of the U.S. Capitol, Dr. William Thornton. It now serves as the home of the American Institute of Architects and showcases architects who have had some of the longest-lasting influence.

The exterior of the Octagon Museum in Washington D.C. The facade is red brick with multiple windows. Shutterstock

16. Anacostia Community Museum

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1901 Fort Pl SE
Washington, DC 20020

Visitors to the Anacostia Community Museum can learn about a wide array of social issues in urban communities. Exhibitions have centered on the popularity of African-American baseball teams during segregation, the original Native American population in D.C., and the Civil War’s effects on the District. The museum recently reopened after seven months of renovations.

The exterior of the Anacostia Community Museum. The facade is dark red with tan. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution

17. Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument

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144 Constitution Ave NE
Washington, DC 20002
202-543-2240 
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This easy-to-miss gem is located in a 200-year-old house near the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress. Dedicated to women's suffrage, the museum focuses mainly on the early 1900s. One high point is its collection of political cartoons by artist and suffragist Nina Allender. The property serves as the headquarters of the National Woman's Party also.

18. Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

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1411 W St SE
Washington, DC 20020

From 1877 to 1895, abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass lived in this single-family home, otherwise known as Cedar Hill. It was established as a National Historic Site in in 1988 and educates visitors about Douglass’s life and vision. Situated on a hill, the site also offers one of the best views of Washington, D.C.

The exterior of the Frederick Douglass National Historic site. The house is blue with white columns and a porch. AFP/Getty Images

19. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

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100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW
Washington, DC 20024

Since its dedication in 1993, the Holocaust Museum’s mission has been to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. More than 40 million total visitors have visited. The museum additionally provides online information and resources in more than a dozen languages.

20. Culture House DC

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700 Delaware Ave SW
Washington, DC 20024

Inside this early 1900s Victorian church, guests can find large-scale murals and dynamic contemporary art. The venue is located in Southwest and offers a unique space for private events. It was formerly known as Blind Whino.

The exterior of the Culture House in Washington D.C. The facade is multicolored. The Washington Post/Getty Images

1. African American Civil War Museum

1925 Vermont Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001
A sculpture at the African American Civil War Museum. The sculpture depicts soldiers with guns. The Washington Post via Getty Im

More than 200,000 African-American soldiers and sailors fought in the Civil War. At the African American Civil War Museum, these individuals are remembered through photography, newspaper articles, replicas of uniforms, and a memorial. The museum is currently being redeveloped.

1925 Vermont Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001

2. National Arboretum

Arboretum, Washington, DC 20002
The National Arboretum in Washington D.C. There is a path and steps leading up to various monuments. Shutterstock

Take a walk on the wild side by stepping away from city life and journeying through one of the District’s most beautiful gardens. As a "living museum," the National Arboretum features more than just trees and flowers. It also offers a look at the original columns of the old East Portico of the U.S. Capitol.

Arboretum
Washington, DC 20002

3. Dumbarton Oaks Museum

1703 32nd St NW, Washington, DC 20007
The exterior of the Dumbarton Oaks Museum in Washington D.C. The facade is red brick with white columns on the front. Shutterstock

This 1801 Federal-style estate in Georgetown serves as a house museum. It boasts Byzantine and pre-Columbian collections, and features a variety of tapestries, furniture, and artwork. It also supports scholarly research.

1703 32nd St NW
Washington, DC 20007

4. IA&A at Hillyer

9 Hillyer Ct NW, Washington, DC 20008

This cozy Dupont Circle art gallery is hidden in an alley behind The Phillips Collection. Composed of three separate rooms and run by International Arts & Artists, a nonprofit, it offers contemporary artwork and events. The gallery seeks to highlight local, regional, and international artists and is open daily.

9 Hillyer Ct NW
Washington, DC 20008

5. The Phillips Collection

1600 21st St NW, Washington, DC 20009
The exterior of the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C. The facade is red brick with a circular awning over the entrance area. Shutterstock

Just a couple blocks from the Dupont Circle Metro station is the nation's first museum of modern art. Some of the roughly 3,000 works in its collection are by well-known artists such as Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, and Matisse.

1600 21st St NW
Washington, DC 20009

6. The Mansion on O Street

2020 O St NW, Washington, DC 20036

The Mansion on O Street is a sight to be seen. Throughout the three connected Dupont Circle rowhouses comprising the mansion, there are themed rooms, all sorts of artwork, secret doors, and even guitars signed by stars like Eric Clapton.

2020 O St NW
Washington, DC 20036

7. Mary McLeod Bethune Council House

1318 Vermont Ave NW, Washington, DC 20005

This Logan Circle house hosted the first headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women, an organization that works to reduce racial, class, and gender discrimination. The building also served as the last home of Mary McLeod Bethune, an education advocate who became the highest-ranking African-American woman in the the federal government in 1935.

1318 Vermont Ave NW
Washington, DC 20005

8. Heurich House Museum

1307 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036

Did somebody say “Oktoberfest”? Referred to as the Brewmaster's Castle, the Heurich House in Dupont Circle is known for beer-focused events throughout the year. Every Thursday, it hosts a live “HOME/BREWED” exhibit in the site’s private backyard.

1307 New Hampshire Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036

9. Old Stone House

3051 M St NW, Washington, DC 20007

Behold, the oldest unchanged building in the nation’s capital, dating to before the Revolutionary War. When it was originally built, it was both a home and a shop for cabinetmaker Christopher Layman. The house reopened as a museum in 1960, offering visitors a glimpse at pre-Revolutionary architecture and furnishings. The museum is free.

3051 M St NW
Washington, DC 20007

10. National Geographic Museum

1145 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20036
The exterior of the National Geographic Museum in Washington D.C. The facade is white with multiple windows. Shutterstock

For those who love animals, traveling, and photography, the National Geographic Museum should be on your list. While it’s fairly small, it's a good place to learn about dinosaurs, the ocean, and cultures around the world.

1145 17th St NW
Washington, DC 20036

11. National Museum of Women in the Arts

1250 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC 20005

Since 1987, this museum has celebrated women who have influenced the art world. From Frida Kahlo to Mary Cassatt, the National Museum of Women in the Arts ensures that women artists are never forgotten or under-acknowledged. The museum's collection has more than 4,500 pieces of art.

1250 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC 20005

12. Smithsonian National Postal Museum

2 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002
The exterior of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. The facade is white with columns and an arched entryway. Shutterstock

Across from Union Station, this museum first opened in 1993 and once housed D.C.’s main post office. Visitors can learn about the history of the U.S. Postal Service, the Pony Express, and Owney, the first unofficial postal mascot. Admission is free.

2 Massachusetts Ave NE
Washington, DC 20002

13. National Building Museum

401 F St NW, Washington, DC 20001
The exterior of the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. The floor is red and there are yellow structural columns. The ceiling is high and arched. Shutterstock

The National Building Museum highlights innovation in architecture and design. Exhibitions have included large-scale photos of D.C. landmarks and urban planning for natural disasters. The museum also hosts expansive interactive exhibitions each summer: among the, a ball pit, a maze, and a fun house. It will be closed for renovations from December 2 to next spring.

401 F St NW
Washington, DC 20001

14. International Spy Museum

700 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Washington, DC 20024
The exterior of the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. The building is black with a glass exterior and sloped roof. The Washington Post/Getty Images

If you love movies from the “James Bond” or “Bourne” series, the International Spy Museum should be your next stop. Opened in a new building in 2019, the Spy Museum allows guests to decrypt secret audio conversations, interrogate suspected agents, and go on your own undercover mission.

700 L'Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, DC 20024

15. Octagon Museum

1799 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC 20006
The exterior of the Octagon Museum in Washington D.C. The facade is red brick with multiple windows. Shutterstock

In Foggy Bottom, you can find this architecture and design museum. The house was built between 1798 and 1800 by the architect of the U.S. Capitol, Dr. William Thornton. It now serves as the home of the American Institute of Architects and showcases architects who have had some of the longest-lasting influence.

1799 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC 20006

16. Anacostia Community Museum

1901 Fort Pl SE, Washington, DC 20020
The exterior of the Anacostia Community Museum. The facade is dark red with tan. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution

Visitors to the Anacostia Community Museum can learn about a wide array of social issues in urban communities. Exhibitions have centered on the popularity of African-American baseball teams during segregation, the original Native American population in D.C., and the Civil War’s effects on the District. The museum recently reopened after seven months of renovations.

1901 Fort Pl SE
Washington, DC 20020

17. Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument

144 Constitution Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002

This easy-to-miss gem is located in a 200-year-old house near the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress. Dedicated to women's suffrage, the museum focuses mainly on the early 1900s. One high point is its collection of political cartoons by artist and suffragist Nina Allender. The property serves as the headquarters of the National Woman's Party also.

144 Constitution Ave NE
Washington, DC 20002

18. Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

1411 W St SE, Washington, DC 20020
The exterior of the Frederick Douglass National Historic site. The house is blue with white columns and a porch. AFP/Getty Images

From 1877 to 1895, abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass lived in this single-family home, otherwise known as Cedar Hill. It was established as a National Historic Site in in 1988 and educates visitors about Douglass’s life and vision. Situated on a hill, the site also offers one of the best views of Washington, D.C.

1411 W St SE
Washington, DC 20020

19. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW, Washington, DC 20024

Since its dedication in 1993, the Holocaust Museum’s mission has been to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. More than 40 million total visitors have visited. The museum additionally provides online information and resources in more than a dozen languages.

100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW
Washington, DC 20024

20. Culture House DC

700 Delaware Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024
The exterior of the Culture House in Washington D.C. The facade is multicolored. The Washington Post/Getty Images

Inside this early 1900s Victorian church, guests can find large-scale murals and dynamic contemporary art. The venue is located in Southwest and offers a unique space for private events. It was formerly known as Blind Whino.

700 Delaware Ave SW
Washington, DC 20024