Ten things to know before you visit The National Museum of African-American History and Culture

Megan Pinckney | 2/23/2017, 12:58 p.m.
I could spend even more weeks talking about The National Museum of African-American History and Culture and explaining why it ...
Brown paper bag exhibit Megan Pinckney

I could spend even more weeks talking about The National Museum of African-American History and Culture and explaining why it is so powerful, but the truth is words do not do it justice. It is one of those places that must be experienced to truly be appreciated. So now that I have (hopefully) convinced you to plan a trip to our country’s capital, here are a few things you should know before you arrive.

Give yourself enough time

Unlike most museums, which can be viewed from beginning to end in a couple of hours, The National Museum of African-American History and Culture simply cannot be. It is impossible, and I am speaking from experience. There are too many exhibits and galleries covering such a long time period that it just cannot be done. Not to mention the crowd (which is usually always at capacity) is much too large to quickly maneuver around. Plan to be at the museum until it closes at 5:30 p.m.

Use public transportation

Being that the museum is in the center of the city on the national mall, there is virtually no public parking around. Eliminate the stress of searching for a parking spot, re-feeding your meter once you are inside or having to walk several blocks by taking public transportation. Once you are inside exploring, the last thing you will want to think about is how much time is left on your meter. And once you have spent the entire day walking from floor to floor, you will not want to walk all the way back to your car. Ride the bus, jump on the Metro, find a cab or call an Uber. Do anything but drive. You can visit WMATA.com to get the most up-to-date information about the Metro and buses.

Dress appropriately

As I have stated, your visit will include a lot of walking, so the shoes you choose to wear will play a big role in how comfortable your trip is. I suggest wearing something flat with a good arch support. That will allow you to focus on the information being provided instead of how your feet feel. If you are visiting during the winter months, the museum does have lockers where you can store your coat (or other belongings). However, lockers are not always available because of the large crowds. I suggest wearing a coat you would not mind keeping on or carrying all day. If you are visiting in the summer, I suggest bringing a lightweight jacket because galleries (especially below ground) can get cool. Also, women should plan to bring smaller bags if possible. It would expedite the security process as you enter, and no one wants to have a 10-pound bag on her shoulder while walking all day long.

Same day passes are often available

If you are in D.C. but were not able to secure advanced entry passes to the museum before you arrived, do not let that stop you from trying. If you are in town, this museum is a MUST. Luckily, the museum offers a few same-day passes online at 6:30 a.m. every single morning. There are also a handful of walk-up passes available to the public on weekdays at 1 p.m.