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30 Best US Museums for History Buffs

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: Washington, DC

The Smithsonian holds a treasure trove of artifacts from the history of flight. From the actual 1903 Wright Flyer to one of the U.S.S. Enterprise models used for filming the original Star Trek, this museum is a can’t miss for those interested in all things that fly (fact or fiction). 

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National Museum of Natural History: Washington, DC

The National Museum of Natural History is the most-visited natural history museum in the world. The Museum has over 126 million specimens of plants, animals, fossils, human remains, artifacts, and more!

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The Smithsonian Institution: Washington, DC

This Institution maintains 17 facilities in the DC metro area alone, including the American History Museum and the Freer Gallery of Art. The most recent addition is the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is a can’t miss!

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Mount Vernon, VA

George Washington's homestead has been more or less open to visitors since the days of Washington himself. Today it is as preserved as it was towards the end of the president's life and serves as a museum to the man, his family, and the slaves who managed the estate.

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Gettysburg National Battlefield, PA

Gettysburg is the site of one of the nation's most horrific battles. It is also the site of a speech that's gone down as one of the most inspiring in the country's history. Any history buff must visit this museum displaying Civil War artifacts and a National Cemetery.

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The Freedom Trail: Boston, MA

From the infamous tea party to the ride of Paul Revere, Boston was a key city in the American Revolution. The Freedom Trail isn't a museum per se, but this 2.5-mile trail touches on no fewer than 16 locations of historic interest.

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The USS Constitution Museum: Boston, MA

One of the first ships made when America established a standing naval force, “Old Ironsides” is located at Dry Dock 1 at Charleston Navy Yard. It is open for tours and is staffed by active-duty Navy personnel. The museum is a separate, privately-run non-profit nearby.

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The Nethercutt Collection: Sylmar, CA

The Nethercutt Collection is a museum located in the Sylmar suburb of Los Angeles. It houses unique artifacts, like mechanical musical instruments and antique furniture. They also showcase classic cars and have a comprehensive restoration shop here. 

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Thomas Jefferson's Plantation Home: Monticello, VA

Thomas Jefferson's plantation home showcases the man's architectural leanings as well as his ingenuity. (He designed the place and many of the things within it). In addition to exhibits on the man and the slaves that worked the plantation, the site also has his final resting place. 

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National World War I Museum and Memorial: Kansas City, MO

Beginning as the Liberty Memorial, this place has expanded to be the nation's official museum dedicated to the Great War. The massive artifact collection began in 1920, shortly after the war's end. A redesign in 2006 expanded the facility to accommodate its growing size.

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Colonial Williamsburg: Williamsburg, VA

Colonial Williamsburg is an enormous living history museum dedicated to preserving, restoring, recreating, and presenting a colonial town as it was in the 18th century. While it can be a little strange interacting with the in-character staff, it's a fascinating glimpse into the country's past.

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The National World War II Museum: New Orleans, LA

The country's official National World War II museum is currently in the midst of an expansion to accommodate a larger collection that includes a Supermarine Spitfire, a Douglas C-47 Skytrain, a Higgins boat, and more!

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The USS Midway Museum: San Diego, CA

The USS Midway was commissioned a week after WWII ended. After 50 years of operation, it now serves as a naval museum with an emphasis on the role of naval warfare in World War II.

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The Field Museum of Natural History: Chicago, IL

The Field Museum is one of the largest natural history museums in the world. Its 24-million-specimen collection includes gems, meteorites, and fossils. It also houses "Sue," the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossil currently in existence.

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The Henry Ford Museum: Detroit, MI

The Henry Ford museum has an enormous repository of American artifacts that includes Thomas Edison's laboratory, the Wright Brothers' bicycle shop, Rosa Parks’ bus, and grim artifacts like Kennedy's presidential limo and Lincoln's chair from Ford's theater.  

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Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum: Oklahoma City, OK

The OKC National Memorial & Musem honors the victims, survivors, and rescuers in the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1955. Located on the bombing site, this museum and memorial has 10 different segments that can be visited at any time.

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The National 9/11 Memorial & Museum: New York City, New York

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum commemorates the terrorist attack that took the lives of almost 3,000 people. The museum features more than 40,000 images, 14,000 artifacts, 3,500 audio recordings, and 500 hours of video from the event. 

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Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum: Nashville, TN

The Country Music Hall of Fame is one of the world's biggest museums and research centers that features music. What makes this museum unique is the dedication to preserving and interpreting American country music. This museum was founded in 1964 and has one of the world's largest music collections. 

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NASA Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex: Titusville, FL

Originally known as the NASA Launch Operations Center, this is one of only 10 National Aeronautics and Space Administration field centers and is the primary launch center for NASA's manned missions. The Space Center opened to the public in 1995 and features a variety of exhibits, artifacts, and attractions about the history and future of spaceflight. 

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The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: Washington DC

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) is the US's memorial for those who lost their lives in the horrific events during the Holocaust. This museum is dedicated to providing documentation, studies, and interpretations of the event's history while helping people confront hatred, prevent genocide, and strengthen democracy. 

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The Alamo: San Antonio, TX

The Alamo Mission in San Antonio is a historic Spanish fortress compound that was originally founded by Roman Catholic missionaries before being the site for the Battle of the Alamo in 1836. Since 2002, the museum has had more than four million visitors every year, making it one of the most popular historic sites in the US. 

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National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center: Columbus, GA

The National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center is a museum dedicated to telling the history of the US Army from the American Revolution to Afghanistan. It opened in 2009 and has exhibits from all of American history. There are interactive exhibits, memorials, combat simulators, and so much more to look at and learn about.

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National Museum of the Marine Corps: Triangle, VA

The National Museum of the Marine Corps is dedicated to sharing the history of US Marines ever since 2006. It's one of the top attractions in the state of Virginia and features nine permanent exhibits on different wars, the role of Marines in US history, and several memorials. 

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Legacy Museum: Montgomery, AL

The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration tells the history of slavery and racism in America including lynchings, segregation, and legalized slavery.  The museum was recently opened in 2018 and is considered the counterpart to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. With artwork, oral history, and interactive exhibits, this museum offers a great way to learn about some of America's less favorable history. 

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Lotz House Museum: Franklin, TN

The Lotz House, built in 1858, was the site of the Battle of Franklin, which is considered one of the bloodiest battles in the civil war. Today, the house is a museum that features interesting artifacts from the battle, right down to the cannonball holes and bloodstains.

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National Museum of the Pacific War: Fredericksburg, TX

The National Museum of the Pacific War is in the childhood home of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, who played a major role in the naval history of the US. The museum site includes a bonus: the Admiral Nimitz Museum. Reenactments of battles are held every year and there's even a research center located on-site, making this place a great learning opportunity. 

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Wiener Museum of Decorative Arts (WMODA): Dania Beach, FL

The WMODA is a world-class collection of ceramic art, blown glass, and pottery from over the years. While this is an art museum, it also gives you the rich history of the art of pottery and glass blowing. One of the current exhibits features works by Chihuly, one of the most famous glass artists in the world. 

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National Museum of the US Air Force: Dayton, OH

Formerly known as the United States Air Force Museum, this is the official museum of the US Air Force and is the oldest and largest military aviation museum in the world. Drawing more than one million visitors each year, some featured exhibits are the 360 aircraft and missiles, theater shows, and a gallery. 

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The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum: Key West, FL

The literary historian would love this museum because it was the home of author Ernest Hemingway, the man who wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Garden of Eden, and Snows of Kilimanjaro. The museum houses his writing desk, was featured in several films, and dozens of polydactyl (having more toes than usual) cats! 

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Lock & Load Museum: Miami, FL

The Lock & Load museum gives visitors the history and development of firearms throughout history. The exhibits are free to the public and also includes missiles, swords, and other weapons and wartime items. There's also a firing range where guests can try out some of the items on display–including machine guns!

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