Little Known Museums in Washington DC - Come to Visit - Move Right In!

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Capital Properties DC AB15253

Everyone knows about the Smithsonian and the National Zoo in Washington DC, but do you know about the Kreeger? How about the American University Museum or the L. Ron Hubbard House?

If you are relocating to DC, you will quickly discover that Washington is so much more than just the Mall and the Smithsonian.  There are wonderful neighborhoods, quirky museums, charming little restaurants and unique shops.  There are theaters and outdoor events, places to taste wines and can tomatoes.  We are so much more than just the political part of our nation's capital.  We are a city where families grow and thrive, singles work and connect, and couples enjoy the riches of our area. 


Here are a few of my favorite museums in and around Washington DC - but there are lots more than didn't make this list!

Dumbarton Oaks

Dumbarton Oaks is a historic estate in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. which was the residence and gardens of Robert Woods Bliss (1875–1962) and his wife Mildred Barnes Bliss (1879–1969). The Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection was founded here by the Bliss couple, who gave the property to Harvard University in 1940. The research institute that has emerged from this bequest is dedicated to supporting scholarship in the fields of Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and garden design and landscape architecture studies, especially through its research fellowships, meetings, exhibitions, and publications. Dumbarton Oaks also opens its gardens and museum collections to the public, and hosts public lectures and a concert series.

The L. Ron Hubbard House

The L. Ron Hubbard House, also known as the Original Founding Church of Scientology, is a writer's house museum and former Scientology church located at 1812 19th Street NW in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C., United States. The home served as the residence of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard from 1955 until 1959, during which time he incorporated the Founding Church of Scientology and performed the first Scientology wedding.  The building is a contributing property to the Dupont Circle Historic District, a neighborhood listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The National Bonsai Foundation

The National Bonsai Foundation (NBF) is a nonprofit organization that was created to sustain the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum. NBF also helps the United States National Arboretum showcase the arts of Bonsai and Penjing to the general public. The National Bonsai and Penjing Museum is located on the 446-acre (1.80 km2) campus of the US National Arboretum in northeast Washington, D.C. Each year over 200,000 people visit the museum. Distinguished national and international guests of various Federal Departments are also among the visitors.

National Guard Memorial Museum

The National Guard Memorial Museum is a military museum hosted by the National Guard Educational Foundation. It is located in northwestern Washington, DC, near the National Postal Museum, Union Station and Georgetown University Law Center. Covering 5600 square feet, the Museum features six different thematic galleries all relating to the National Guard of the United States:

Militia Era

The National Guard Comes of Age

The Citizen Soldier in World War II

Cold War Era

National Guard in the Modern Era

Closing Sequence

National Museum of Women in the Arts

The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA), located in Washington, D.C., is "the only major museum in the world solely dedicated" to celebrating women’s achievements in the visual, performing, and literary arts.  NMWA was incorporated in 1981 by Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay. Since opening its doors in 1987, the museum has acquired a collection of more than 4,500 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and decorative art. Highlights of the collection include works by Mary Cassatt, Frida Kahlo, and Élisabeth Louise Vigée-Le Brun. Located at New York Avenue near the White House, the museum occupies the old Masonic Temple, a building listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

I confess that I am partial to this museum because it is a very pretty building with beautifully displayed exhibits.  I also like it because it was founded by Wilhelmina Holladay, the mother in law of one of my high school classmates!


The Newseum is an interactive museum that promotes free expression and the five freedoms of the First Amendment, while tracing the evolution of print and electronic communication from our nation’s earliest days to the technologies of the present and the future.

The modern seven-level, 250,000-square-foot museum is located at 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW and features 15 theaters and 15 galleries. The Newseum's Berlin Wall Gallery includes the largest display of sections of the Berlin Wall outside of Germany.

The Today's Front Pages Gallery presents daily front pages from more than 80 international newspapers. Other galleries present topics including the First Amendment, world press freedom, news history, the September 11 attacks, and the history of the Internet, TV, and radio.

It opened at its first location in Rosslyn, Virginia, on April 18, 1997, and on April 11, 2008, it opened to the public in its current location. Its mission is to promote, explain and defend free expression and the five freedoms of the First Amendment: religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. The new Newseum has become one of Washington's most popular destinations, attracting more than 815,000 visitors a year, and its high definition television studios hosts news broadcasts.

Old Stone House

The Old Stone House is the oldest unchanged building in Washington, D.C., United States. The house is also Washington's last Pre-Revolutionary Colonial building on its original foundation. Built in 1765, Old Stone House is located at 3051 M Street, Northwest in the Georgetown neighborhood.

Unlike many Colonial homes in the area, sentimental local folklore preserved the Old Stone House from being demolished. The Old Stone House was constructed in three phases during the 18th century and is an example of vernacular architecture.

During its history, the house was started as a one-story building and gradually became a used car dealership later. After a renovation by the National Park Service (NPS) in the 1950s, the Old Stone House was turned into a house museum.

The Old Stone House stands among the neighborhood's stores and restaurants as an example of local history for tourists, shoppers, and students. The building is part of the Rock Creek Parkway urban natural area and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. The Old Stone House is also a contributing property to the Georgetown Historic District, a National Historic Landmark. Today, the home is 85% original to its 18th-century construction.

President Lincoln's Cottage at the Soldiers' Home

To me, this is one of those quirky hidden treasures of Washington. President Lincoln and Soldiers’ Home National Monument, sometimes shortened to President Lincoln's Cottage, is a national monument on the grounds of the Soldiers' Home, known today as the Armed Forces Retirement Home. It is located near the Petworth and Park View neighborhoods of Washington, D.C..  President Lincoln's Cottage was formerly known as Anderson Cottage.

President Abraham Lincoln and his family resided on the grounds of the Soldiers' Home in the summer to escape the heat and political pressure of downtown Washington, as did President James Buchanan (1857–1861) before him. President Lincoln's Cottage also served as the Summer White House for Presidents Rutherford B. Hayes (1877–1881) and Chester A. Arthur (1881–1885).  You can tour the whole house and imagine the President and his family relaxing here.

The historic Cottage, built in the Gothic revival style, was constructed from 1842 to 1843 as the home of George Washington Riggs, who went on to establish the Riggs National Bank in Washington, D.C. Lincoln lived in the cottage from June to November 1862 through 1864. Lincoln drafted the preliminary draft of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Mary Todd Lincoln fondly recalled the campus; in 1865, she wrote, "How dearly I loved the Soldiers' Home."

Poet Walt Whitman, who was living on Vermont Avenue near the White House in 1863, often saw the president riding to or from Soldiers' Home. He wrote in The New York Times, "Mr. LINCOLN generally rides a good-sized easy-going gray horse, is dressed in plain black, somewhat rusty and dusty; wears a black stiff hat, and looks about as ordinary in attire, &c., as the commonest man...I saw very plainly the President's dark brown face, with the deep cut lines, the eyes, &c., always to me with a deep latent sadness in the expression." Whitman quoted this article in his 1876 book Memoranda During the War, adding the phrase: "We have got so that we always exchange bows, and very cordial ones."

Tudor Place in Georgetown

Tudor Place is a Federal-style mansion in Washington, D.C. that was originally the home of Thomas Peter and his wife, Martha Parke Custis Peter, a granddaughter of Martha Washington. Step-grandfather George Washington left her the $8,000 in his will that was used to purchase the property in 1805. The property, comprising one city block on the crest of Georgetown Heights, had an excellent view of the Potomac River.

They contracted with Dr. William Thornton, who also designed the United States Capitol as well as The Octagon House, to design Tudor Place. The decorations included four chair-cushions embroidered by Martha Washington in 1801 and described as "executed upon coarse canvas in a design of shells, done in brown and yellow wools, the highlights being flecked in gold-colored silk" and included a decorative cover for a bed whose trimmings also were embroidered by Martha Washington.  

A previous owner of the property had begun improvements by building what are now the house's wings. Thornton then provided the central structure and the joining elements to the wings, combining them with buff-colored stucco over brick. The "temple" porch and supporting columns provide a most striking addition to the front. The gardens and the historic house museum's collections are as rich and interesting as the home itself. A focal point is the collection of over 100 objects that belonged to George and Martha Washington, making Tudor Place the largest public depository of objects belonging to the first Presidential family outside of Historic Mount Vernon.

Woodrow Wilson House

The Woodrow Wilson House was the residence of the Twenty-Eighth President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson after he left office until his death in 1924.  The house was built by Henry Fairbanks in 1915 on a design by prominent masonic Washington architect Waddy Wood.

President Woodrow Wilson bought it in the last months of his second term as President of the United States as a gift to his wife, Edith Bolling Wilson. He presented her the deed in December 1920, although he had never seen the house. The former president and his wife moved into the home on Inauguration Day, March 4, 1921 (not the current date of January 20).

Wilson made several modifications to the house, including a billiard room, stacks for his library of over 8,000 books, and a one-story brick garage. It was from the balcony of the house that Wilson addressed a crowd on November 11, 1923, as his last public appearance. While the Wilsons had few guests, former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George and former French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau did visit the ailing former president there.

After Wilson's death in 1924, Edith Wilson lived there until her death on December 28, 1961. She hosted First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy for a brunch in the formal dining room. Edith bequeathed the property and all of its original furnishings to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  In the years since President Wilson's death visitors and staff of this house and several others built by Wood in the DC area have reported seeing or hearing what they believed to be ghosts.

Just as there are lots of different museums in Washington, so are there lots of different neighborhoods and homes.  If you are planning to move to Washington DC, you should give the Lise Howe Group a call.  We can help you find that perfect home!  






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  1. Roy Kelley 02/05/2017 02:00 AM
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James Dray
Fathom Realty AR LLC - Bentonville, AR
Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results

Good morning Lise. With my one and so far only visit to DC I like many only had time to hit the well known places.  Just the other day I was telling my wife we need to go back when we have more time.  So many things to see, so little time

Dec 22, 2016 03:32 AM #4
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good morning Lise. This is wonderful. I didn't know about any of these places but am tempted big time now. Thank you.

Dec 22, 2016 06:50 AM #5
Michael Jacobs
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena Area Real Estate 818.516.4393

Hi Lise --- you  have shared some of my favorite places in Washington, DC and showed me a couple of new ones as well.   I especially like The National Building Museum which is also a bit under the radar too.  A return trip is definitely on my list of things to see/do again.  

Dec 22, 2016 07:26 AM #6
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Lise, the Old Stone House and the Lincoln Cottage are my two favorites. 

Dec 22, 2016 04:26 PM #7
Lou Ludwig
Ludwig & Associates - Boca Raton, FL
Designations Earned CRB, CRS, CIPS, GRI, SRES, TRC


I have missed a few of the museums in Washington DC . . . . I bookmarked  the post to visit them the next time I'm in Washington.

Good luck and success.

Lou Ludiwg

Dec 23, 2016 08:10 PM #8
Lisa Von Domek
Lisa Von Domek Team - Dallas, TX
....Experience Isn't Expensive.... It's Priceless!

Another great local post for your D.C. area Lise Howe 

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

Dec 24, 2016 08:16 PM #9
Ginny Gorman
RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate - North Kingstown, RI
Homes for Sale in North Kingstown RI and beyond

Lise, how cool to identify all these 'hidden treasures of visits in DC'  I would never have known about them...many thanks!

Dec 27, 2016 06:19 PM #10
Debbie Reynolds
Platinum Properties - Clarksville, TN
Your Dedicated Clarksville TN Real Estate Agent

Thank you for pointing out some of these historic and places of notoriety. We visted Woodrow Wilson's home last year and will put a couple of the other ones on the list for next year.

Dec 27, 2016 06:33 PM #11
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker and Attorney Licensed in DC, MD, VA,

Debbie Reynolds - I hope that you will let me know when you come to DC again - i would love to meet you in person! 

Dec 27, 2016 06:34 PM #12
Will Hamm
Hamm Homes - Aurora, CO
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way!"

Hello Lise Howe,  Back in the 80's I spend lots of time in your area (1 week every month) and wish I would of had this list back then.


Dec 28, 2016 08:23 AM #13
Debe Maxwell, CRS | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
Charlotte Homes for Sale - Charlotte Neighborhoods

Oh my goodness!  This is incredible local information, Lise Howe!  I'm bookmarking for the next time I'm there, I'll definitely add some of these to my list!  Thank you for sharing!

Dec 28, 2016 09:28 PM #14
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

What a lot to choose from!  I think I'd like to see the Old Stone House, among some of the others.

Dec 29, 2016 01:35 AM #15
Gabe Sanders
Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales - Stuart, FL
Stuart Florida Real Estate

Hi Lise.  Looks like lots of museums to see for those that have the time when visiting Washington DC.

Dec 29, 2016 04:27 PM #16
Amanda S. Davidson
Amanda Davidson Real Estate Group - Alexandria, VA
Alexandria Virginia Homes For Sale

Lise, I just wanted to stop by and wish you a Happy New Year! I really need to take advantage of all the great museums our area has. I don't visit them nearly enough. 

Dec 30, 2016 10:07 AM #17
Robert Bob Gilbert
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Anderson Properties - Katy, TX
Your Katy TX ( West of Houston) Real Estate Expert

Lisa, Thanks as this is a great list of places to visit that most folks have never heard of. There are sveral on your list i would enjoy visiting. 

Jan 13, 2017 01:48 PM #18
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Hi Lise - I think Washington, like many large cities, has many hidden museums worth exploring. 

Jan 31, 2017 10:24 AM #19
Lou Ludwig
Ludwig & Associates - Boca Raton, FL
Designations Earned CRB, CRS, CIPS, GRI, SRES, TRC


I now have some new museums to visit on my next visit to Washington DC.

Good luck and success.

Lou Ludwig

Jan 31, 2017 08:14 PM #20
Roy Kelley
Realty Group Referrals - Gaithersburg, MD
Roy and Dolores Kelley Photographs

This is great information to share with visitors and with families moving to the area.

Feb 04, 2017 07:28 AM #21
Beth Bromund
Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel - Rochester, MI
REALTOR (248) 651-3500

So many intersting things to do outside of the mainstream tourist spots.  Thanks for sharing this comprehensive list.

Feb 05, 2017 05:44 AM #22
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Lise Howe Love this kind of information. The next time I get to visit the area I may just have to go see some of these places. Thank you for sharing.


Feb 05, 2017 07:49 AM #23
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