Museum Nerd Series #1: National Geographic Museum, Washington, D.C.

Museums are magical places that are equally enjoyable to visit in your hometown or when traveling, and if you can’t get away on a trip, or if most everything else is closed, visiting museums in your local area is a great way to have a travel experience in your own backyard. There’s always something new to learn, and new ways to look at the world through the perspective of a particular museum. With many museums currently closed or operating on scaled-back hours, cultural venues and the industry professionals who run them deserve our love and support.

As self-professed Museum Nerds who love visiting museums and historical sites wherever we go, we thought it was fitting to document our outings, hence the (*trumpet sound*) TrekSimple #MuseumNerd Series!

I first drafted this at the start of this year – remember those freewheeling, carefree times?! Caren and I were hanging out together at her home in Northern Virginia, a stone’s throw from Washington, D.C., aka Museum Central. We thought it would be inspiring for our work on this blog to visit a museum about exploring the world, so we set off to the National Geographic Museum, our second visit there in 13 months. The museum is located at the National Geographic Society Headquarters and is easily accessible from multiple Metro stops. Aimee, a friend from Fort Lauderdale who moved to the D.C. area, met us there, and also joined us for lunch afterward. As many can attest, I love bringing like-minded friends together, especially for museum visits! 

You know it’s going to be good if the Australian Embassy is in the same building.

The National Geographic Museum is home to two rotating exhibits, and entry is only $15. Sadly, it is currently (as of July 2020) closed due to COVID. The rotating exhibits that we visited in January were “Becoming Jane: The Evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall” and a photography exhibit titled “Women: A Century of Change.” On our prior visit, there was a great exhibit on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. 

I’m a sucker for a fancy floor seal.

NatGeo, as the cool kids call it, also has a permanent exhibit, a beautifully curated timeline of the Society, detailing how the organization and magazine came to be, and its many highlights in exploration, journalism and conservation over the years. The permanent exhibit, located in a separate building from the rotating exhibits, can be visited for free (during normal, non-pandemic times) if you have a short window of time, want to save money or aren’t interested in either of the rotating exhibits’ topics. It’s worthwhile to see and learn about the organization behind the iconic magazine. However, you can easily see each of the museum’s three exhibits during a three-hour window, if you wish.

Iconic sights like this await you in the permanent collection.

On both of our visits to the National Geographic Museum, we grabbed lunch at nearby Ethiopian restaurants. Ethiopian food is in short supply, but does exist, in Florida, but it is everywhere in D.C. I have been obsessed with Ethiopian cuisine since Caren first introduced me to it years ago, and don’t be surprised if a post dedicated to the magic of injera, wat, tibs and honey wine pops up on this blog at some point. Chercher was delicious – we highly recommend it. On our prior trip, we also roamed around the lobby of the historic Mayflower Hotel while waiting for NatGeo to open. The Mayflower’s back entrance is across the street from the Society, and is worth taking a peek. 

Next time you visit D.C., if it’s open of course, go visit National Geographic. In the meantime, for amazing photos of our world, check out NatGeo on Instagram, and give us a follow while you’re at it!


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