The new National Museum of the United States Army is a must-see museum while visiting the Washington, DC area. It honors the men and women who have fought in the US Army throughout our nation’s history along with providing great historical details on battles, both small and large. Kids of all ages will find its interactive galleries interesting, and adults will be amazed at the realistic portrayals of life in the Army. Veterans Day is the perfect time to learn more about this state-of-the-art museum.
The National Museum of the United States Army opened its doors on Veterans Day in 2020, and it is a stunning museum located on the Fort Belvoir Army Base in Northern Virginia just outside of Washington, DC. It’s the first and only museum to tell the 245 year history of the US Army through galleries, movies, hands-on exhibits, and real artifacts.
From the founding of America to our current changing world, the museum is accessible for people of all ages and is a place every American should visit to honor the lives of those who fought for our freedom.
The National Museum of the United States Army is a brand-new museum with modern facilities and exhibits. It is chock full of information and historical details so be prepared to leave wanting to spend more time there!
The museum itself is located just 30 minutes outside of Washington, DC so it makes a great day trip for families visiting our nation’s capital. The museum building is beautiful and striking as you drive up to it. Don’t miss the Path of Remembrance from the parking lot with soldiers’ names on the bricks – you can add your own family’s soldiers here.
After going through security (nothing bigger than a backpack allowed), you’ll enter the inspiring lobby. Your eye immediately goes up to the colorful ceiling which visually represents all of the Army’s campaigns throughout history.
Grab your museum map at the lobby desk and turn left towards the poignant soldiers’ stories pylons.
Check out the schedule for the next showing of the introductory movie, Of Noble Deeds. This fantastic 15-minute long film takes you through the history of the Army using its core values. It’s a must-see with older kids (10 and up) as it’s an immersive experience with rumbling seats and cool breezes. Note for younger children, there are sensory-friendly show times.
To begin your tour, head left down the concourse to the Founding the Nation gallery.
You’ll go through each gallery, walking through American history. From the American Revolution through the Civil War to World War II, each gallery outdoes the others with artifacts, interactive exhibits, and realistic models. We spent over two hours wandering the galleries, finding more and more to learn as we progressed. Note that all of the mannequins used were created in the likeness of current Army soldiers to tell a historical person’s story – you can even see the sweat on their brows!
You’ll feel like you’re walking in the fields of Belgium in World War I or climbing the cliffs of Normandy on D-Day.
My son liked the wall of soldiers’ pictures from WWI where you flip them to learn more about their service in their own words. It is very moving.
The realistic street scenes from France and Baghdad will give you chills.
My son was especially interested in the Cold War gallery where we got to participate in a secret phone call simulation.
The galleries about the Korean War and Vietnam War are especially good since there are so many details we haven’t learned about in school.
My son was fascinated viewing a piece of the Berlin Wall.
We visited just a week before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks so those exhibits were especially poignant.
As you exit the last gallery, you’ll be at the Army Action Center, my son’s favorite part of the museum! This is where you’ll find fun simulation activities such as the HoldOut Bunker Defense Virtual Reality experience. My son did all three of the experiences, and it was the highlight of his trip! Tickets can be purchased ahead of your visit to reduce waiting times.
Don’t miss going back down the concourse to visit the Army and Society gallery.
With kids, you don’t want to skip the Experiential Learning Center, located near the entrance. It is built specifically to help kids understand the different aspects of the Army. We loved the hands-on activities like finding the threat using sonar technology or how to balance a load of goods in an Army helicopter.
There are many interactive activities for even the youngest visitors!
Upstairs are two additional exhibits, The Art of Soldiering and the Nisei Soldier Experience, recommended for ages 14 and up.
The museum gift store is excellent so don’t miss that before leaving!
The National Museum of the United States is a must-see attraction while visiting Washington, DC. Plan a trip today to honor the brave men and women of the US Army.
- Cost: Tickets are free but you do need to make timed-entry reservations ahead of time here.
- Recommended: all ages
- Tour time: 3-4 hours
- Extensive gift shop located onsite. Order online here!
- Transportation: Best accessed by car, there is plenty of parking (be sure to check your GPS coordinates). It is accessible on the weekdays via the Metro train/bus system. See its site for additional details.
- Dining options: The museum cafe is excellent and easy to use. It has plenty of options, including kids’ meals and delicious sandwiches!
- Hotel options: The museum makes a great day trip from Washington, DC or Richmond. Locally, the nearest hotel is the Embassy Suites in Springfield. Hotels in Alexandria are also a good option.
- Nearby attractions include: I highly recommend pairing a visit to this museum with the nearby National Museum of the Marine Corps (25 minute drive). Other nearby historical sites include Mount Air ruins, Woodlawn and Pope-Leighey House, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, George Mason’s Gunston Hall, and Old Town Alexandria.
Books to Read:
Amazon links are affiliate links.
- 14 and up:
- 10 and up:
- Soldier (DK Eyewitness Books)
- National Geographic Kids Everything Battles
- Any of the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales books – latest is Cold War Correspondent (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #11): A Korean War Tale
- What Was the Vietnam War?
- 6 and up:
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