National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum

#18 in Best Things To Do in Washington, D.C.
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Key Info

8th St NW & F St NW

Price & Hours



Museums, Free Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend


  • 5.0Value
  • 3.5Facilities
  • 3.5Atmosphere

The National Portrait Gallery most notably houses images of every previous president, allowing visitors to reminisce about each political figure as they progress through the increasingly eccentric hall of portraits. The presidential portraits aren’t alone, though, as the National Portrait Gallery also houses notable American citizens ranging from sports figures to civil rights leaders. Not to mention, the National Portrait Gallery only takes up half of the building and shares the space with the Smithsonian American Art Museum. This additional attraction showcases rotating exhibits, which means that the Smithsonian American Art Museum could expose visitors to work created in response to the Vietnam War, a gallery for folk and self-taught art or many other displays. 

Previous travelers insist that you take a few minutes to enjoy the shared building’s Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard, whose glass-paneled roof protects visitors from the elements while maintaining an abundance of natural light. These visitors also recommend that you take a few hours to explore both the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, as there are a variety of interesting, small exhibits that are easy to miss if you’re in a rush. Dipping in and out for lunch is also an option due to the building’s location in the Chinatown neighborhood.

The Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum are both open from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and admission to both is always free. The shared building sits adjacent to the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro station, while various bus routes stop nearby. The National Portrait Gallery’s website and the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s website include additional information, like current exhibitions and other events.

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#1 Lincoln Memorial

Although the Lincoln Memorial is just one of the District's many monuments, the larger-than-life Honest Abe is also among travelers' favorites. History buffs might enjoy the man of few (albeit powerful) words' two famous speeches, the second inaugural address and the Gettysburg Address, which are both etched into the memorial's opposing walls. Meanwhile, art history and architecture aficionados will enjoy admiring the building's striking design by Henry Bacon, complete with 38 Doric columns, 36 of which signify the states in the Union at the time Lincoln passed away.

Though most agree the Lincoln Memorial is worth checking out during the day or at night, many recent travelers say the most captivating time to visit is after dark when the attraction is lit and less crowded. Plus, evening temps will make peak summer visits more comfortable.

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