You’re new to the area, so most likely you didn’t spend one of your elementary school field trips at the plethora of museums our area holds. No worries—these houses of history aren’t only for the younger set.
National Museum of the Marine Corps
Nowhere else can you get a glimpse into life in the military without actually joining up than at this museum. Pass through the German lines of World War II France, where Marines got the nickname “devil dogs,” or practice your marksmanship at the rifle range with standard-issue assault weapons. New this year: a Douglas SBD Dauntless dive-bomber plane from the World War II era and a UH-34D model helicopter used during the Vietnam War.
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in D.C. may get the nod in movies, but the Udvar-Hazy Center has the attractions people really want to see. Built as an annex, the Chantilly location holds the majority of the Smithsonian’s aeronautical offerings, including the Discovery space shuttle, the Enola Gay and a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. Onlookers can watch from a glassed-in mezzanine as restoration specialists work on preserving well over a hundred aircraft, parts, instruments and equipment. And the institution just opened up for the famous Smithsonian Sleepovers program, where kids and an adult chaperone can stay the night.
Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum
Yes, this museum focuses on the herbal botanicals and medical equipment used in the late 1700s and 1800s—a point that is intriguing enough—but what will really get the kids, and you, magically interested? The focus the museum puts on Harry Potter through the character’s birthday celebrations and tours that explore the uses behind ingredients found in Professor Snape’s classroom.
Oatlands Historic House & Gardens
With sprawling grounds, a historic manor home and more, Oatlands, a National Trust Historic Site, is a hub of historic education in Loudoun County offering self-guided or interpretive guided tours of the 1700s-era plantation. Patrons can take in rolling pastures, terraced and herb gardens and a reflecting pool, while inside they can learn about the families who resided at the mansion circa 1804 or take the Enslaved Community tour focusing on the Carter Family, the largest slave owners in Loudoun County during the late 1800s.
George Washington’s Mount Vernon
George Washington created his 8,000-acre manor here at Mount Vernon. Now, thanks to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, our first president’s home is open to the public. For a fee—admission is free for kids under 6 and up to $17 for adults—people come from across the nation to tour Washington’s mansion, as well as a blacksmith shop, an operating farm and the Mount Vernon museum. And just down the road is first president’s distillery and gristmill.
We doubt there are any shrines to Breaking Bad’s Hank Schrader here, but you’ll certainly find thorough exhibits that chronicle the Drug Enforcement Administration’s history. Stop by and discover how illegal drugs, medicine and drug laws affect our lives.
Freedom House Museum
Much of Virginia’s history revolves around the slave trade, and this museum, previously the site of the largest slave trading company in the United States, focuses on preserving the stories of those who passed through the house in an effort to escape the bondage of the South.