These nine historic sites in Washington are open even when Federal government sites are closed. And when everything is open and operating normally, they’re still worth a visit any time of the year. If there's one you recommend we add, please note it in the comments.
In addition to these and others in the District, within a short drive you’ll find several other historic sites open, including Mount Vernon, as well as sites in Alexandria and Annapolis and, further out, Colonial Williamsburg, and more.
— Jennifer Clifford, Contributing Editor
Folger Shakespeare Library
201 East Capitol Street SE
Hours: Monday-Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm, Sunday 12:00pm-5:00pm
The Folger Shakespeare Library is home to the largest Shakespeare collection in the world and their collections include 260,000 printed books and 60,000 manuscripts. The collection’s standouts are the 82 First Folios of 1623 that the Folger has acquired. The Folger Library has a spectacular reading room, that can be seen through advanced reservations, as well its beautiful Elizabethan theater, where visitors can enjoy performances, lectures, and concerts.
Photo Credit: Folger Shakespeare Library
National Museum of Women in the Arts
1250 New York Avenue NW
Hours: Monday-Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm, Sunday 12:00pm-5:00pm
Admission: Adults-$10, Seniors (65 and over)-$8, Students-$8, Children-Free
National Museum of Women in the Arts is housed in a beautiful Renaissance Revival Building and features works from the likes of Mary Cassatt, Élisabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun, and more than 1,000 women artists. The current exhibition is Rodarte, the eclectic fashion brand of California sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy and displays 90 important works from their collections.
Photo Credit: (Left) National Museum of Women in the Arts
(Right) Élisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun, Portrait of a Woman, 1803, Gift of an
anonymous donor, National Museum of Women In the Arts
The Phillips Collection
1600 21st Street NW
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm, Sunday 12:00pm-6:30pm
Admission: Permanent Galleries Tuesday-Friday Free for all ages
Seniors (62 and over)-$8
Ticketed exhibitions Tuesday-Sunday Adult-$12
Seniors (62 and over)-$10
Free for furloughed government employees
Phillips Collection considers itself America’s first museum of modern art and displays works from the likes of Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Mark Rothko, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Vincent van Gogh. It was founded by Duncan Phillips, whose father was a Pittsburgh window glass millionaire. The current exhibition is Bice Lazzari: The Poetry of Mark-Making showing the work of Bice Lazzari, an Italian female painter whose mid-century works focused on simplistic and abstract lines, dots, and irregular shapes.
Photo Credit: (Left) Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1880-1881, Phillips Collection
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection
1703 32nd Street NW
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 11:30am-5:30pm
A part of Harvard University since 1940, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection was gifted by Robert Bliss, a six-year Ambassador to Argentina. The site of Dumbarton Oaks itself is of significance as it was the place for several diplomatic meetings during World War II, including the “Dumbarton Oaks Conversations” that led to the United Nations Charter in San Francisco in 1945. The Dumbarton Oaks collection reflects the Bliss family’s interests in Pre-Columbian and Byzantine Art.
Photo Credit: (Left) Head of Maize God, Maya-Late Classic, 715CE, Dumbarton OAks Research Library
(Right)Mosaic with Apollo, Late Roman, 3rd-4th Century, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library
Library and Collection
President Lincoln’s Cottage
140 Rock Creek Church Road NW
Hours: Sunday-Saturday 9:30am-4:30pm
Admission: $5, Free for furloughed government employees
The Gothic Revival Style home and its surrounding campus was bought by the government in 1851 to make it a home for veterans. President Lincoln spent his summers at this residence and drafted the Emancipation Proclamation here. Additional presidents such as Rutherford B. Hayes and Chester A. Arthur also spent time during their presidencies at the home. President Lincoln’s Cottage is open for self-guided tours on the hour and half hour and this month’s theme is “A Good Deed in a Weary World.”
Photo Credit: President Lincoln’s Cottage
The George Washington University and The Textile Museum
701 21st Street NW
Hours: Monday 11:00am-5:00pm, Wednesday-Thursday 11:00am-7:00pm, Friday 11:00am-5:00pm, Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm, Sunday 1:00pm-5:00pm
Admision: Suggested $8 Donation, Children Free
The George Washington University’s Textile Museum is home to one of the most important private study textile collections in the world and features textiles from five continents and five millennia. In addition, GWU has the Albert H. Small Washingtonia Collection that includes prints, maps, and documents relating to the founding and history of Washington DC. A highlight is George Washington’s letter to Congress describing the ten-mile square that would be the District of Columbia.
Photo Credit: (Left) Washington and His Family. Engraved by William Sartain, Philadelphia, after the
painting by G. Schussele, Philadelphia. Published by Bradley & Co., Philadelphia, 1864.
Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection, The George Washington University and The
(Right) The George Washington University and The Textile Museum
2715 Q Street NW
Admission: Pay What You Wish*
Dumbarton House, located near the Georgetown section of D.C., is a spectacular example of Federal style architecture. Built in 1799, it has a fantastic collection of period furniture and decorative arts. It is also home to The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America, whose membership involves those whose ancestors resided and served during the colonial period.
*Normally, Dumbarton House is not open during the month of January and will only be open during the government shutdown. The Pay What You Wish Policy is only for this period.
Photo Credit: Dumbarton House
National Building Museum
401 F Street NW
Hours: Monday-Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm, Sunday 11:00am-5:00pm
Admission: Adults-$10, Seniors (60 and older)-$7, Students-$7, Youth-$7, Free for furloughed government employees
The National Building Museum focuses on the history of architecture and landscape design and features a collection of 130,000 architectural prints. The gem of the National Building Museum is its Great Hall, with 75 foot tall Corinthian columns and a 1,200 foot terra cotta frieze. Current exhibitions include Flickering Treasures: Rediscovering Baltimore’s Forgotten Movie Theaters and Secret Cities: The Architecture and Planning of the Manhattan Project.
Photo Credit: (Left) Wikipedia
(Right) DC Curbed
Society of the Cincinnati
2118 Massachusetts Ave NW
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10:00am-4:00pm, Sunday 12:00pm-4:00pm
The Society of the Cincinnati, founded in 1783, is the oldest private patriotic organization in the United States whose membership requires ancestry from the Continental Army and Navy. The Society is located in the Anderson House, originally owned by Larz Anderson (of the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, MA). Its collections focuses on eighteenth century naval and military history and includes portraits from the likes of Charles William Peale and John Trumbull.
Photo Credit: (Left) Society of the Cincinnati
(Right) Allegorical portrait of Thomas François Lenormand de Victot, 1742-1782, Nicolas
René Jollain, Society of the Cincinnati