Washington, D.C., is home to some of the most famous, most unique, and most important museums in the world. One of those is the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Chartered in 1980 by a unanimous Act of Congress, “the Museum’s primary mission is to advance and disseminate knowledge about this unprecedented tragedy; to preserve the memory of those who suffered; and to encourage its visitors to reflect upon the moral and spiritual questions raised by the events of the Holocaust as well as their own responsibilities as citizens of a democracy.” (Source.)
Here are the important things to know to plan your visit.
The museum is located on the south side of the National Mall, on 15th Street. The address is 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place SW; Washington, D.C. 20024.
You can drive to the museum and park in a paid lot across D Street. There is some metered parking on Independence Avenue as well. I do not recommend driving in D.C. if you’ve never done so before. Your trip will be much more enjoyable and less stressful if you can metro, walk, Uber, etc., instead.
The closest Metro station is the Smithsonian Station, serviced by the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines. Take the Independence Avenue exit and walk one block to the museum.
All the essential info: Your Ultimate Guide to D.C.’s Metro System
The museum and its exhibitions are open daily from 10:00am-5:30pm. They are closed two days per year: Yom Kippur (in September or October each year) and Christmas Day (December 25).
More here: The 7 Best Things to Do on the National Mall
Tickets to visit the museum are FREE. There is a $1 reservation fee to book online, and while reservations aren’t required, they are strongly encouraged. There is only a limited number of same-day tickets available for walk-ups at the museum.
Keep reading: The Best D.C. Tours Actually Worth the Price
Reserving tickets is easy and straight-forward. You will need to visit the Holocaust Museum website and click on “Menu” in the top left corner. Then click “Visit the Museum” and “Admission and Tickets.” You can reserve up to 25 tickets at one time; for 26 tickets or more, click here. Reservations are made available two months in advance. Click here for reservations.
*If reservations are unavailable for your dates, same-day tickets will be available online here at 7:00am Eastern Time.
Essential info: Tours in D.C. You Must Request in Advance
Know Before You Go
It’s always helpful to have information before you even arrive.
This is a solemn place.
This should go without saying, of course, but sometimes those are the very things that need to be said. This is a place that deserves respect, silence, and reflection. Please don’t take phone calls, listen to music (even with headphones in), or speak above a whisper, if you must speak at all.
You will need 2-3 hours to see everything.
And you still probably won’t get to every single thing. There is a lot of material, there are a lot of artifacts, there are a lot of true stories, and all of it is heavy. It all deserves time to sink in, so don’t plan on rushing through in an hour. Take your time, and notice the details.
There is a cafe.
The Museum Cafe is located on 15th Street, behind the museum. It’s an easy option for breakfast or lunch (closes at 3:30pm). All their menu options are grab-and-go style, so it’s a place for quick meal when you need one. You can see the menu here. There are not a lot of dining options on the National Mall, so this is a helpful option to have.
Items of Note
This is the part of a typical “Guide to Visiting a Museum” post where I talk about “Highlights of the Museum.” I can’t in good conscience call these “highlights,” but there are some notable points made in the museum that everyone should learn if you haven’t already.
It didn’t start out with concentration camps.
When we think of the Holocaust, we think of concentration camps. But that’s not where it all began. It was a series of small changes over time: Changes in attitude, changes in language, changes in policy. Small changes made way for bigger changes. Hindsight is 20/20.
Jews were not the only victims of the Holocaust.
While the vast majority of Holocaust victims were undebatably Jewish either by faith or ancestry, hundreds of thousands of Holocaust victims were Roma Gypsies, political ideologists, priests, pastors, homosexuals, disabled people, black people, husbands or wives of Jews, resistance fighters, etc.
Many non-Jews helped, knowing the risks.
Would you risk your life to save someone else? To do the right thing? To fight back against evil? Those who helped save others from the Holocaust are listed in a special place on a wall in this museum. Yes, Mr. Schindler made the list. And there is room on the wall to add more. There could still be people who helped that we just don’t know about yet.
Read next: Your Guide to Religious Sites in D.C.
I recommend doing some research before you visit. The Holocaust is not secret, but no matter how much World War II fiction you read (like me), there is always more to learn. The United States Holocaust Museum has many excellent resources online. Click here for more.
Want more? Get all my best D.C. guides, tips, and recommendations on my dedicated Washington, D.C., Page.
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