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National Gallery of Art Washington DC

Our famiy's trip to the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, one of many stops for family travel.

National Gallery of Art

Living in the DC area or planning to visit? One of benefits here are the many FREE museums owned by the Smithsonian Institution, like the National Gallery of Art.

My kids like art museums, so we were excited to visit. My son had just completed an artist biography project on Georges Seurat, so we checked out the NGA website ahead of time to find the gallery that had the Seurat pointillism paintings.

National Gallery of Art

Compared to other museums we've visited (like the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore and the Delaware Art Museum), the National Gallery seemed very old fashioned. It's perfectly laid out for the large throngs of tourists that visit daily, but not so good for three active kids.

Room after room are laid out the same way, with a couch and many paintings to look at.  After the 25th room, my kids took to sitting on every single couch they could find, sighing heavily. There was no kids' room or anything hands-on to engage them.

There was one nice surprise–to me, anyway–I didn't know that the only Leonardo daVinci painting in America is at the National Gallery, Ginevra de' Benci, and it was incredible to see.

National Gallery of Art

Outdoors–we did a little better. The Sculpture Garden houses 17 works, all of which my kids found interesting. They especially liked the stainless steel tree, “Graft,” by artist Roxy Paine.

National Gallery of Art

I love the optical illusion “House” by Roy Lichtenstein. Once you're outside, there's room for the kids to run and stretch, and make a little more noise than inside the museum.

Unfortunately, this art museum wasn't a big hit with my family as other, smaller museums have been. We did only see the West Building with the older works of art. We'll need to give the modern art in the East Building a try before it closes for a three-year renovation.

What art museums does your family like?

Whether you're local or just planning to visit the DC area this summer, you may enjoy:


Thursday 9th of May 2013

We love the National Art Gallery. The last two times we went we used their handsets (they look like really OLD cell phones), and you pick them up at the entrance (leave your license) on the mall side. There is an adult tour and a child tour, where you punch in the numbers under the paintings to hear about it. I did the children's tour right along with my kids. My kids range in age from 6 to 12 and they all loved it. Best of all it's FREE. I tell everyone who comes to DC to do this "tour" of the West Building (I don't know if the more modern East Building has this too); it's a hidden gem for families.


Thursday 9th of May 2013

My boys (ages 4 & 7) liked the National Portrait Gallery. They are really into the presidents, so we headed straight for the presidents' portraits. My older son and husband went slowly past each president in order, while my younger son and I jumped around to some of the more recognizable names and colorful portraits. There are lots of other paintings and sculptures to see. It's set up with main hallways and with lots of little off-shoot rooms you can bypass if it gets to be too much. Aside from the constant reminders of not to touch, we all enjoyed it!