Washington, DC

7 Tips for Visiting the African American Museum in Washington, D.C.

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February is Black History Month. A great way to honor the contributions of prominent African Americans and reflect on their achievements is by taking a trip to the National Museum of African American History and Culture located in Washington, D.C.

I’m fortunate to have been able to visit the museum twice since it first opened in 2016. I especially enjoyed visiting the upper levels of the museum that focus on the period after Reconstruction. Exhibits featuring renowned sports pioneers, arts and entertainment legends, and a timeline of The Great Migration period fill every inch of space on the top two levels of the 5 story temple that preserves the history of Africans in America. Plan to spend a full day exploring this museum by itself. I spent about three hours on the upper floors and another hour or two on the lower floors.

Below I’ve compiled a list of useful tips to help you plan your first visit to the museum.

Tips:

  1. It is possible to get same day tickets. A limited number of same day passes can be obtained starting at 1:00 P.M. You might also luck out and score an extra ticket from someone who had a last minute cancellation or just order too many.
  2. If you have tickets with a designated time assigned, you can go anytime AFTER your reservation, but you will have to wait in a shorter line until your designated time if you arrive early. DO NOT wait in the first line that you see because that line is for non-ticket holders. Walk to the back side of the museum where the entrance is located. The line will move relatively fast.
  3. The slavery exhibit had a very long line, as did the gift shop. Plan accordingly. The exhibits go from bottom to top – so slavery is in the basement (as well as the restaurant – the food was bland the day I went) and the other exhibits are on the 3rd and 4th floor. The 2nd floor is a good place to just sit and catch your breath or to meet up with your group if you get separated.
  4. If you don’t want to eat in the restaurant (entrees range from $12-15 on average) there are a plethora of food trucks parked along the avenue in front of the museum.
  5. Should you decide to drive, you should download the ParkMobile app so you can replenish your parking meter on your phone.
  6. You might consider leaving younger children at home. They don’t yet understand the significance and it really isn’t a kid-friendly type of museum. They have some computer interactive exhibits, but not enough to keep little kids engaged.
  7. Finally, I recommend going during the week and avoid going on a holiday. The space is very tight.

Have you visited the NMAACH yet? What was your favorite part of the museum?  What strategies do you recommend for navigating the museum? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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