Off the Beaten DC Path: Museums in Maryland and Northern Virginia

Checking out a display at the Calvert Marine Museum


Washington, DC, is well known for its legion of museums.  There are all the super popular venues along the National Mall as well as many off-the-beaten-path spots around other parts of the city.  And there are even more beyond the District lines that are great to explore with kids.  Here’s a round-up of museums in Maryland and Northern Virginia to add to your family’s activity mix. Happy Exploring!



Operating a control panel at the College Park Aviation Museum

College Park Aviation Museum
Where: 1985 Corporal Frank Scott Drive | College Park, MD
When: Tuesday – Sunday, 10am – 4pm
Admission: $5/adult, $4/senior, $2/child

Located right next to the College Park Airport, the oldest continuously operating airport in the world, the College Park Aviation Museum, is a great place for young visitors, with eye-popping displays and lots of hands-on fun. Early airplanes are on view along with more objects to get a close-up look and learn about the history of flight. There is also a kids area where they can dress up like aviators, create flight-inspired art, and much more.  PS: Keep an eye on the runway right outside the floor-to-ceiling windows — you might see planes take off and land right there.



Glenstone’s Split Rocker sculpture blooms from May to September

Where:  12100 Glen Road | Potomac, MD
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Free

This one is for the T(w)een Scene, as Glenstone requires visitors to be at least 12 years old.   The indoor/outdoor modern art museum sprawling gloriously over 300 acres in Potomac showcases modern works inside a gallery and outside around the beautiful grounds. Take advantage of the Guaranteed Entry program, which admits students and one accompanying adult without having to reserve tickets. Be sure to note that they don’t allow children under 12 at all, but it’s a wonderful place to visit with tweens and teens.



An “inside” look at the National Museum of Health and Medicine

National Museum of Health & Medicine
Where: 2500 Linden Lane | Silver Spring, MD
When: Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 5:30pm
Admission: Free

Originally established as the Army Medical Museum, the National Museum of Health & Medicine houses collections of medical specimens for research in military medicine and surgery. The collections are quite fascinating as they explore human anatomy, the history of medical techniques and tools, and historical exhibits like one about Abraham Lincoln that includes objects associated with his last hours of life, including bone fragments, the bullet that killed him etc. I should warn that it’s probably not best for young children or the faint of heart (read my post about it here), but if you’re into that kind of thing, it’s very compelling.



Building tube trails at he former Kid Museum space

KID Museum
Where: 3 Metro Center | Bethesda, MD
When: Sundays Open Explore, 10am – 5pm
Admission: $15/age 3+

KID Museum is all about learning through doing. Providing fun, innovative educational experiences for young makers, visitors can get hands-on with all kind of activities that encourage invention, creativity, experimentation, and discovery. Previously located on the lower level of Davis Library in North Bethesda, the museum now is in a larger space right in downtown Bethesda. There are various stations with different projects that will keep kids (and adults) engaged for awhile. It’s open to all visitors on Sundays, and workshops for different ages are offered other days of the week. Read more about KID Museum in this KFDC post.



See old street cars — and ride on them, too! (Photo: Wiki Commons)

National Capital Trolley Museum
Where: 1313 Bonifant Road | Colesville, MD
When: Days/hours vary by time of year
Admission: $10/adult, $8/child & seniors

Learn about a major part of the DC area’s history as you check out old street cars and even take a ride on one. This museum  transit systems that built and served communities across DC, Maryland, and Virginia  from 1862-1962. Check out exhibits in the Visitors Center, then climb aboard their collection of historic street cars for a ride down one mile of woodland track in Northwest Branch Park.


Whimsical works in Annmarie’s art center

Annmarie Sculpture Garden
Where: 13470 Dowell Road | Solomons, MD
When: Daily, except Christmas
Admission: $5 suggested donation
Anmmarie is more of an art center than a museum, but there are always fantastic exhibits to tour — and it’s all full of artistic delights. See beautiful works, both indoors and out, in a garden full of sculptures — some big and bold, others small and hidden — and inside the art center, where there is always beautiful and whimsical art on display.  Kiddos will love playing in the Fairy Lolly, the sweet playground outside, and creating their own art in the fantastic artLAB… and so will adults, for that matter.



The Megalodon model is one of many cool highlights at the Calvert Marine Museum

Calvert Marine Museum
Where: 14200 Solomons Island Road | Solomons, MD
When: Daily, 10am – 5pm
Admission: $11/adult, $6/ages 5-12, free/under 5

The Calvert Marine Museum highlights the environment and maritime history of the Chesapeake Bay. Several large scale exhibits, including display cases full of fossils and artifacts, live fish and other creatures, and a real lighthouse to tour are interesting and engaging for all ages. There are things to see both indoors and out, including beautiful scenic views. And you can bring along a picnic lunch to enjoy by the water.



Go big at the Maryland Science Center

Baltimore Museums
Where: All around Baltimore
When: Hours vary by venue
Admission: Varies by venue

Baltimore is home to so many wonderful museums, and it’s an easy 45-minute to get to most of them. Port Discovery, Maryland Science Center, American Visionary Arts Museum, Baltimore Museum of Industry, B&O Railroad Museum, Fort McHenry, National Aquarium, Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Walters Museum, are some of the of the many places that make the drive up very worthwhile.  There is a whole KFDC Guide to Exploring Baltimore with Kids that has details on all of them, plus some extra tips for eating in and exploring Charm City.


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Get a close look at Discovery (photo credit: KFDC Contributor Emily Moise)

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
Where: 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway | Chantilly, VA
When: Daily, 10am – 5:30pm
Admission: Free, but parking is $15

Discover Air & Space beyond the National Mall at the Udvar-Hazy Center out near Dulles. Some say the Chantilly arm of the museum is even cooler than its DC counterpart. Showcasing extra fascinating artifacts of flight, you can see all kinds of air and space crafts, pretend to pilot in flight simulators, get hands-on in a discovery station, and so much more.



Learn about the life of George Washington at Mount Vernon

George Washington’s Mount Vernon
Where: 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy | Mount Vernon, VA
When: Daily
Admission: $28/adult, $15/child, free/5 & under

The iconic estate of our nation’s first president covers hundreds of sprawling acres along the banks of the Potomac River. Mount Vernon offers a glimpse into the world of George Washington and life as it was in colonial times. Washington’s Mansion and many of the estate’s original structures still appear just as they did over 200 years ago. A four-acre working farm offers demonstrations of Washington’s farming practices. You can even talk with people who knew George Washington at one of the interpretive character programs. A museum features exhibits filled with hundreds of artifacts detailing the history of Mount Vernon and the legacy of the first POTUS. There are also two high-tech theatres that let you experience history in uniquely interactive ways.




Exhibits that let you get hands-on

Alexandria Archaeology Museum
Where: 105 N. Union Street | Old Town Alexandria, VA
When: Weds-Fri 10am-3pm, Sat 10am-5pm, Sun, 1-5pm
Admission: Free

This one-room space within the Torpedo Factory is worth a stop if you’re visiting the art center in Old Town. Several exhibits and displays offer insight into Alexandria’s history, several letting you handle bits of artifacts and get a close look. It’s located on the third floor, and visitors are welcome to pop-in.   KFDC Tip: Plan for time to browse the many artist studios at the Torpedo Factory and head outside to the waterfront area, where you can take in the views and see boats, and there are sometimes special art installations and historic ships temporarily moored.



A historic landmark in the heart of Old Town

Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum
Where: 105-107 South Fairfax Street | Alexandria, VA
When: Weds-Fri, 11am-4pm, Sat 11am-5pm, Sun 1-5pm
Admission: $5/age 13+, $3/age 5-12
, $8/guided tour
The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum boasts a vast collection of herbal botanicals, hand-blown glass, and medical equipment. It also has a spectacular collection of archival materials, including journals, prescription and formula books, ledgers, orders and invoices. The museum is also a National Historic Landmark!



Visit the museum within the US Patent & Trade Office Building

National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum
Where: 600 Dulany Street | Alexandria, VA
When: Mon-Fri, 10am – 4pm | First Sat of the month, 11am – 3pm
Admission: Free

Located in the building that houses the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, is a museum all about inventions.  You can experience the past, present and future of American ingenuity as you are introduced to more than 600 world-changing Inductees/inventors and immersed in stories of passion, perseverance, and progress.



A sample of artifacts on display (Photo: Wiki Creative Commons)

National Museum of the Marine Corps
Where: 1775 Semper Fidelis Way | Triangle, VA
When: Daily, 9am – 5pm
Admission: Free

Located next to Marine Corps Base Quantico, the museum is a tribute to the commitment, accomplishments, and sacrifices of U.S. Marines. Exhibits cover all the wars and include innovative technology and unique artifacts that recreate scenes and tell a story of what it’s like to be a marine in action. Tanks, aircraft, and artillery will fascinate museum-goers of all ages.



A peek inside the US Army Museum (Photo: Duane Lempke, Wiki Creative Commons)

National Museum of the U.S. Army
Where: 1775 Liberty Drive Fort | Belvoir, VA
When: Daily, 9am – 5pm
Admission: Free with timed-entry tickets

Capturing over 245 years of Army history, the museum “brings to life that history in times of war and peace as told through the eyes of Soldiers. The Museum also offers educational experiences illustrating the Army’s role in building and defending our nation, humanitarian missions and technological and medical breakthroughs built on Army ingenuity.”


Are there any great museums in Maryland and Northern Virginia missing from this round-up?  Let us know in the comments!

1 Comment

Filed under Educational, Maryland, Museums, Virginia

One Response to Off the Beaten DC Path: Museums in Maryland and Northern Virginia

  1. Anne Guarnera

    The Cold War Museum in NoVA is great!

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