“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – First Amendment to the United States Constitution
After months of planning, rescheduling and anticipation, last Sunday I found myself reading these words on the massive 74–foot–high marble First Amendment wall on the front façade of the Newseum– I had finally made it!
The Newseum is located at the intersection of Pennsylvania Ave & 6th Street, N.W. While there is no designated parking for the museum, there are a few pay garages on the surrounding blocks. Alternatively, there are also a number of metro stops close by, making it easily accessible through public transit; this is how I arrived to the museum.
Admission is not cheap, but it’s worth every penny. An adult ticket will cost you $21.95 + tax, and a youth ticket (age 7-18) will cost $12.95 +tax. These tickets give you access to everything the museum has to offer for two consecutive days.
TIP: If you pre-order your tickets online you can save 10%. The museum also offers a special “family four pack” at a reduced rate. Be sure to check around on the internet for other special discounts like 2 for 1 specials (one ran during the month of February), or a Groupon deal of the day (this is what I had).
The 250,000 square-foot glass museum has seven floors, 14 permanent exhibits, 15 theaters and a number of traveling exhibits to see (whew!). It can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t have a plan. Luckily, the Newseum is prepared.
When you arrive and get your tickets, be sure to pick up: a visitors guide (contains maps of the floors and information on the exhibits), a 2-hour highlight tour brochure, the “TOP 10” must see list, and the current special exhibits flyer. Armed with these tools, you can be confident you’ll leave no exhibit unseen.
TIP: Are you a “Type A” planner? If you want to be extra prepared and have a mapped-out route before you arrive, visit the Newseum’s website here and you can download many of the brochures as printable PDFs as well as read about the current special exhibits.
While there are a number of interactive exhibits, items on display and movies, the museum is still based around “news” and requires quite a bit of reading. So be sure to arrive fully refreshed and ready to learn! If you really want to experience everything the Newseum has to offer, I would start early and devote a whole day to the trip, or spread your visit over two consecutive half days.
For families, I’d recommend your children be old enough to understand the exhibits, mature enough to see some difficult and intense stores, and comfortable in their reading level so they too can fully enjoy the museum.
On my visit, we began by venturing down to the concourse level (there is a food section down here if you get hungry) to watch the 4-D film “I-Witness.” Mixing news history with entertaining special effects, the 20 minute movie was both informative and fun.
Next, we headed over to the Berlin Wall, ATHLETE, and FBI exhibits. These house some notable pieces from major news stories throughout history – including a section of the Berlin Wall and the Unabomber’s actual cabin.
Our next stop was the glass express elevators that dropped us off on the 6th level of the museum. Here you’ll find the Pennsylvania Ave Terrace with great views of the city and a moving exhibit currently featuring Hurricane Katrina.
On the 5th level, you’ll find one of the largest collections of notable front page headlines spanning over 500 years, including the famous “Dewey Defeats Truman” flub from the 1948 presidential election. I really enjoyed seeing how historic events had been reported and just how much the front page of a newspaper has changed over the years.
TIP: Trying to go from the 5th level to the 4th ? Unless you take the elevator, you can’t! To take the stairs, you’ll have to head back up to the sixth level and use the stairs by the glass elevators. This confused me for a good 10 minutes before I asked.
The 4th level starts out with a gallery that might be too intense for younger visitors. The 9/11 gallery is a moving and powerful exhibit showcasing newspaper’s front pages from around the world and stories from journalists discussing the challenges they faced while reporting on the tragedy. The exhibit’s most prominent feature, the World Trade Center Antenna, rises up from the center of the floor and sent a reminiscent chill through me as I remembered how tragic that day truly was in our history.
Throughout the 4th, 3rd and 2nd levels there are a number of engaging exhibits and movies to enjoy – too many to list here, so I’ll leave it to you to experience them on your own. But be sure to visit the interactive newsroom on the 2nd level where you can try out your skills as an on camera reporter or test your knowledge with one of the interactive game kiosks.
Sadly, our late start put us back to the 1st level with growling bellies and only moments left before the museum closed (5pm daily), so we headed out the front door before realizing we had missed the Pulitzer Prize Photography Gallery. I was extremely disappointed I had missed the exhibit, as it was one of the ones I had most looked forward to viewing, but now I have an excuse to go back! (and I would have used the second day pass if it wasn’t a Monday!)
Overall, the Newseum lived up to all my expectations and I left the museum not only enjoying my time spent exploring, but also knowing a little bit more about the world we live in and our history.
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