Off the grid museums in Washington, D.C.
Smithsonian museums tend to steal the spotlight... and attract the most crowds. Check out these unique museums on your next visit to D.C.
National Museum of Crime and Punishment
The National Museum of Crime and Punishment, described as a "must see for CSI fans" by Good Morning America, includes a simulated shooting range and high-speed police chase, crime lab and filming studios for America's Most Wanted. The museum is divided into five interactive galleries: A Notorious History of Crime (showcases crime through the ages from medieval knights and pirates to Bonnie and Clyde and today's white-collar criminals), Punishment: The Consequence of Crime (portrays the harsh reality of crime with an interactive booking room, police lineup scenario and lie detector test), Crime Fighting (explores the world of safety and security officers through high-speed police chase simulators, a simulated FBI shooting range and a thermal imaging technology exhibit), Crime Scene Investigation (places guests in the middle of a fully intact crime scene, where they can start an investigation by gathering clues through forensic science technology like ballistics, blood analysis, fingerprinting and dental and facial reconstruction) and America's Most Wanted Studio (a show that has led to the arrest of more than 1,000 fugitives).
Corcoran Gallery of Art
While the Smithsonian museums have impressive art collections, you may spend more of your energy battling the crowds than actually soaking in the art and culture. Instead, head slightly north of the National Mall to the Corcoran Gallery of Art — the largest privately supported cultural institution in Washington, District of Columbia. The main focus of this museum is American art, and the permanent collection includes works by Rembrandt Peale, Edgar Degas, John Singer Sargent, Edward Hopper, Pablo Picasso and many more. Don't miss the upcoming exhibit Ellen Harvey: The Alien's Guide to the Ruins of Washington, D.C. — a glimpse into the distant future, in which aliens have turned the uninhabited Earth into a prime tourist destination. Next door, the Corcoran College of Art and Design is the only professional college of art and design in D.C. and features a rotation of student-produced exhibits.
Heurich House Museum
A trip to the Heurich House Museum near DuPont Circle is like a trip back to the Victorian era. Built in 1892 of poured concrete and steel by German immigrant and local beer brewer Christian Heurich, the Heurich House was D.C.'s first fireproof home. The 31-room Brewmaster's Castle still contains most of its original furnishings and decorations, including hand-carved wood, 15 fireplaces with individually carved mantles, hand-painted ceiling canvases and turn-of-the-century Heurich family collections. Considered a technological marvel of its day, visitors can view the home's "modern" inventions of complete indoor plumbing, circulating hot water, central vacuum systems, venting skylight, electric lighting fixtures and elevator shaft. This summer, the Heurich House Garden hosts free movie screenings of classic films like Casablanca and Some Like it Hot on Friday nights.
National Museum of Women in the Arts
The National Museum of Women in the Arts is the only major museum in the world solely dedicated to showcasing the creative contributions of women. The museum is home to a collection of 4,500 objects and it presents 10 world-class exhibitions of women artists each year. In addition to exhibits, the museum offers programs, including concerts, films, staged readings and other performing arts events. Don't miss the outdoor New York Ave Sculpture Project: Chakaia Booker — a public art exhibit that will feature changing installations of contemporary works by women artists until March 2014.