D.C.'s hidden gems

April 22, 2011, 3:06 p.m. | By Allison Daitch, Liv Jacobson | 13 years, 1 month ago

Make your spring break exciting with these D.C. museums you've never heard of

Another spring break, another week spent alone while your friends travel the world (unless you are the one doing the traveling – in that case, hooray for you!). With the recent crazy weather, local beaches probably aren't the best option for a quick getaway, and college visits remind us too much of school. After all, it's called a break for a reason! We here at SCO do not wish for you to be lazy and rot on the couch your entire break, so we have compiled a list of some of the quirkiest and most unknown museums right in our great backyard. These museums will surely make for an interesting day trip to some of Washington D.C.'s best attractions you've never heard of.

National Museum of Health and Medicine

A face and hand mold of President Lincoln accurately replicates the president.  Photo courtesy of Allison Daitch.

There is only one place one can find bullet hole-riddled skulls, civil war surgical saws, gory photographs, deformed babies in jars and the bullet that killed President Lincoln – and that place is the National Museum of Health and Medicine. This creepy and freaky museum lurks within Walter Reed Army Medical Center, not far from Downtown Silver Spring. With just a simple stroll around the one-floor building, one finds a fascinating history of military medicine, along with oddities that can't be found anywhere else. As strange and unique as this museum is, one should not enter it without knowing its most notorious rumor. It's an urban legend that stored deep in the basement of this museum lies a certain part of American gangster John Dillinger's anatomy (check out the urban legend if you're curious) – and only this one of a kind museum could gain such an outrageous rumor. But after visiting, one might suspect it just may be true.

The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and admission is free.

National Postal Museum
Have you ever wondered what the "life” of a letter is like? Or pondered on the importance of the Pony Express? The National Postal Museum is one of the least known Smithsonian museums to tourists and D.C. natives alike. It is conveniently located right next door to the Union Station Metro stop, and is home to one of the most fascinating collections of stamps, letters and mail memorabilia in the United States. The museum also houses antique mail-carrying airplanes, train cars and trucks. Take a journey through U.S. history through the viewpoint of one of the oldest and most personal forms of human communication: mail.

The museum is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and admission is free

National Aquarium

Behind the construction and below the U.S. Commerce Building is the small and unknown National Aquarium. Photo courtesy of Allison Daitch.

Deep beneath the floors of offices that fill the U.S. Commerce Building remains a tiny yet impressionable aquarium. The National Aquarium in Washington D.C. is commonly overshadowed by its much larger competitor in Baltimore – but don't underestimate this small treasure. In an average rectangular room, visitors can walk around the perimeter to see an array of fish, from the most fantastical, colorful fish to the ugly, unidentifiable creatures. And though the National Aquarium doesn't have the largest assortment of sea life, it has a nice, mild selection to give the taste of an aquarium without the overwhelming, in-your-face aspect of the big guys.

The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and tickets are available for $9.95.

National Bonsai and Penjing Museum
Located in the National Arboretum, the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum is one of the best museums to check out on a Spring day. Completely outdoors, this museum showcases some of the most unique and beautiful trees in the world. Bonsai and Penjing trees are small trees that are carefully manicured to mimic their larger tree counterparts. The plaques on each individual tree reveals the age of these spectacular plants; many far exceeded one hundred years old. These trees are awe-inspiring works of skilled artisans, and visitors will not be disappointed. This museum follows a maze-like structure, in which visitors start at the entrance and can work their way to the pavilion building, home to the special exhibits wing and visitor information. On a sunny day this museum, as well as the rest of the National Arboretum, can be a fun excursion for you, your friends and your family.

The museum is open every day from 8 a.m. to 5p.m. and admission is free.

National Museum of the U.S. Navy

Just a short distance outside of the National Museum of the U.S. Navy is the Display Ship Barry which visitors can walk through and experience the life of a sailor.  Photo courtesy of Allison Daitch.

When crossing over into southeast D.C., visitors can spot a large boat on the horizon. After managing a closer look, it's clear that this is the Washington Navy Yard containing the fascinating National Museum of the U.S. Navy. The museum itself is surrounded by anchors, cannon balls and blown sheet metal with two working periscope towers shooting out from the ceiling of the building. Inside are endless exhibits from the inner workings of a submarine to the forgotten Americans wars. Then, after a short walk across the field full of naval artifacts, the Display Ship Barry, which floats in the Anacostia River awaiting visitors, comes into sight. Inside, spectators can see a realistic view of life on a Navy ship as they squeeze through the one-person hallways.

The museum is open weekdays from 9 am to 5 pm and weekends from 10 am to 5 pm and admission is free.

Allison Daitch. "Are you a mod or a rocker?" "No, I'm a mocker." I'm Allison, a.k.a. Allie. I love The Office, How I Met Your Mother, Seinfeld and Harry Potter. I could live off of Cosi TBMs and Signature Salads, with the occasional Quattro Formaggio pizza thrown … More »

Liv Jacobson. Liv is from the class of 2012 and has greatly enjoyed her time on Silver Chips Online. She's most known for her entertainment stories, and thus came about her nomination as Entertainment Editor. She loves everything about pop culture and isn't afraid to admit it. … More »

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