13 Museum Exhibits in DC to Check Out Before They Disappear

From otherworldly art exhibits to limited-time shows where you’ll learn about birds, baseball, and more.

Of the many national treasures to be found in DC, some of the most impressive monuments are actually housed in the many museums around the District rather than on the National Mall. From some of the world’s most coveted gems in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History to presidential renderings at the National Portrait Gallery to aerial accolades at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the museum scene in DC is rife with educational and inspirational works that can appeal to a wide range of interests.

As the brutal summer heat turns to fall, no doubt you’ll be looking for new things to do around the city. So if you’re looking for a way to spend a morning, an afternoon, or heck, a whole day, check out one of DC’s many world-class museums. There’s a lot to see, so to make things easy for you, we’ve rounded up all the coolest museum exhibits in DC right now that you can check out.

Revealing Krishna at the National Museum of Asian Art

This stunning exhibit tells the story of a larger-than-life figure of the Hindu god Krishna. Visitors will learn about the sculpture, which was recovered from cave temples on the two-peaked mountain of Phnom Da near the ancient metropolis of Angkor Borei, through art, immersive video installations, interactive design, and an original short film directed by renowned Cambodian-American filmmaker praCh Ly. The entire exhibit examines the role of ancient sacred sites in present-day religious landscapes, and the transformation of religious traditions in Cambodian-American communities.
Dates: Now through September 18
How to visit: The museum is open every day except Tuesday from 10 am to 5:30 pm.

Photo courtesy of Fever

From the same group that brought you the Van Gogh immersive experience now comes Mexican Geniuses: A Frida and Diego Immersive Experience.The 360-degree digital art experience features one of the most extensive displays of both Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's work, all in true-to-size replicas to demonstrate the sharp contrast in size (yet somewhat convergent style and subject matter) that the two artists employed. With more than 300 projections of light and sound and an exclusive VR experience, this exhibit will delight adults while being simultaneously kid-friendly. The team behind the exhibit has spent nearly two years perfecting the show, and now presents original artworks, more than 100 images of original photographs, and 100 CGI assets. At the end of the exhibit, you'll have a capstone VR experience that brings you on a fictionalized imagining of how Frida and Diego's meeting in the afterlife might transpire.
Dates: Now through December
How to visit: The museum is open on weekdays from 10 am to 7 pm and weekends from 10 am to 8 pm. Tickets are required and can be purchased online.

National Gallery of Art
National Gallery of Art

American Silence at the National Gallery of Art (West Building)

Whether you’re a photography enthusiast or not, it’s hard not to be moved by this stunning collection that explores America’s landscape, its natural and manmade beauty, and our often insignificant or inadequate responses to it. Robert Adams’ photography career spans five decades, and this exhibit explores his remarkable canon, much of which focuses on the American West. As you move from gallery to gallery, you’ll explore the changing environment of our country over time. The exhibit features three distinct sections—The Gift, Our Response, and Tenancy—and nearly 200 of the artist’s most important works.
Dates: Now through October 2
How to visit: The museum is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm.

National Gallery of Art
National Gallery of Art

The Woman in White at the National Gallery of Art (East Building)

One of America’s most celebrated artists, James McNeill Whistler, was inspired for over two decades by his romantic and business partner, Joanna Hiffernan. She’s the subject of one of Whistler’s most famous series of paintings, “Symphony in White,” but little is known about Hiffernan. While Whistler’s letters to his muse have been carefully preserved, almost everything about the woman (or one of the women) in his life has been lost. This exhibit not only shows the “Symphony in White” paintings together for the first time in the US, but also sheds light on Hiffernan and the role she played in Whistler’s life and work, a subject that has been woefully under-examined.
Dates: Now through October 10
How to visit: The museum is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm.

National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution
National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Sport Aviation at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

At the Virginia outpost of the National Air and Space Museum, lovers of all things aerial can explore the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center and its wealth of exhibits. Sport Aviation brings together a celebration of flying for pleasure rather than military, commercial, or business purposes. You’ll be able to see a range of aircrafts designed by companies including Beechcraft, Cessna, Piper, who made flying far more accessible and economical to much of the world.
Dates: Ongoing
How to visit: The museum is open daily from 10 am to 5:30 pm.

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

One with Eternity at the Hirshhorn Museum

Yayoi Kusama took the District by storm when the artist’s work was on display back in 2017. Now the contemporary artist’s work is back at the Hirshhorn Museum as part of a highly anticipated exhibit called One with Eternity that will soon be part of the museum’s permanent collection. Featuring sculptures, an early painting, photographs of the artist, and two of the famous rooms from the Infinity Mirrors exhibit, a trip to the Hirshhorn will deliver you into the world of this acclaimed artist as you pay homage to the visionary's life and otherworldly work.
Dates: Now through November 27
How to visit: The museum is open every day from 10 am to 5:30 pm and this visit requires timed passes.

American Witnesses at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

This powerful exhibit is recommended for those age 13 and up and explores American reactions to the horrors of Nazi concentration camps. Using oral and written testimony, photographs, and film of the men and women who saw the atrocities of the Holocaust firsthand, the exhibit exposes and documents Nazi crimes and the challenges of bringing prisoners back to life. The exhibition includes an audio tour, as well as a transcript of the tour.
Dates: Ongoing
How to visit: The museum is open from 10 am to 5:30 pm daily except on Yom Kippur and Christmas Day. Timed entry passes are required.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Sea Monsters Unearthed: Life in Angola’s Ancient Seas at the National Museum of Natural History

Thanks to Angola scientists, we can now explore the fossils of real-life sea monsters who roamed the South Atlantic Ocean basin 120 million years ago. This exhibit allows you to explore modern Angola’s fossil-filled cliffs and better understand the evolutionary, geological, and environmental forces that shaped life in the ocean.
Dates: Now until 2023
How to visit: The museum is open every day from 10 am to 5:30 pm.

Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian
Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian

Preston Singletary: Raven and the Box of Daylight at the National Museum of the American Indian

This show was initially slated to open in the fall of 2020, but after more than a year of delays, it has finally made its way to DC. The exhibit tells the story of the Raven, creator of the world and giver of the stars, moon, and sun. Featuring works by Tlingit glass artist Preston Singletary, the exhibit takes us on a journey that includes original music, soundscapes, and projected images for a fully immersive, multisensory experience.
Dates: Now through January 29
How to visit: Open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5:30 pm.
 

Teen Portrait Competition at the National Portrait Gallery

If you’re looking to be inspired, check out the National Portrait Gallery’s presentation of the winners and finalists of the 2022 Teen Portrait Competition. You’ll see works from artists all younger than 18 who explore themes of American life through the perspective of the US teenager. Topics addressed by this next generation of artists range from identity, race, and body image to the condition of US workers, crimes committed against Indigenous women, and more.
Dates: Now through February 26
How to visit: The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:30 am to 7 pm.

National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution
National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution

Iké Udé: Nollywood Portraits at the National Museum of African Art

This unique exhibit celebrates what is known as “Nollywood,” the burgeoning film and media scene in Nigeria. After three decades in New York City, photographer Iké Udé returned to Lagos in 2014, and has been capturing some of the nation’s brightest stars from behind the lens. The collection showcases the evolution of African identity and celebrity in the 21st century through a series of photographs.
Dates: Now through February 28
How to visit: The museum is open every day except Tuesday from 10 am to 5:30 pm.

Susie Ganch, The Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery | Photo by David Hale

This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World at The Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery

The Renwick Gallery may be small, but it is a mighty museum hosting exhibits that always pack a punch. This Present Moment is no different, as it spotlights activism and resilience in art. The exhibit focuses in particular on women, people of color, and other underrepresented and marginalized populations, featuring nearly 150 artworks from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s permanent collection and 135 new acquisitions making their public debut.
Dates: Now through April 2
How to visit: The museum is open daily from 10 am to 5:30 pm.

Smithsonian National Postal Museum
Smithsonian National Postal Museum

Baseball: America’s Home Run at the National Postal Museum

This massively underrated museum deserves a visit any time of year, but now that a delayed exhibit paying homage to America’s favorite pastime is on display, there’s no better time to visit the National Postal Museum. Baseball: America’s Home Run features hundreds of stamps celebrating some of baseball’s brightest stars like Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth, as well as objects loaned by other Smithsonian museums and the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and some memorabilia making its first public debut.
Dates: Now through January 2025
How to visit: The museum is open daily from 10 am to 5:30 pm.

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Lulu Chang is a contributor for Thrillist. Follow her on Instagram.