The National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in September 2016 and it has been nearly impossible to get tickets since. I reserved our April tickets way back in January! They also have same-day tickets available, but I had not been able to secure any prior to January. Everyone I know who was able to secure tickets has said that the NMAAHC was amazingly moving and that it was a must-visit. Like many of the other Smithsonian museums, the NMAAHC did not disappoint.

My First Visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Our visit began by taking the escalators below ground to the History Galleries. There was a 15-minute queue to take the elevator down to C3, where the museum path begins. Thankfully, the queue seemed to move quickly even with a large number of visitors. As the elevator lowers, you are transported back in time through the visual listing of significant African American dates on the elevator shaft walls and the words of the museum guide. After a short ride, the elevator drops you off on Level C3: Slavery and Freedom 1400-1877.

We were not fully prepared for what we would find in the History Galleries. We were a bit overwhelmed at times and any visitor would be hard pressed not to get emotional during the exhibits. In the end, we read nearly all the panels, watched the videos, and absorbed the immense historical and cultural significance of the exhibits. It took us just over 3 hours to get through the first floor (C3) of the History Galleries!

I’ve shared a handful of photos from our visit below, but in all honesty, I didn’t take that many during our visit. Park of the reason was out of respect and part of the reason was that I just forgot as I was caught up in my visit.

National Museum of African American History and Culture National Museum of African American History and Culture National Museum of African American History and Culture National Museum of African American History and Culture National Museum of African American History and Culture National Museum of African American History and Culture National Museum of African American History and Culture National Museum of African American History and Culture National Museum of African American History and Culture

My Reflections on the National Museum of African American History and Culture

We obviously need to make return trips to the museum. Thankfully, we already have tickets for later this month and again in July. I’m glad that we have the luxury to make multiple visits. I talked to several people in the museum who were overwhelmed by trying to explore it in one day. I was pleased to see people of all races and cultures visiting the museum. At no time did I feel anything but welcome. It’s hard to summarize my reflections

I was pleased to see people of all races and cultures visiting the museum. At no time did I feel anything but welcome. It was, however, very difficult for me to read personalized accounts of the travesties I learned about in history books and my travels. I have had similar emotional reactions to the various Holocaust museums and war crimes exhibits I have visited. I appreciated that the NMAAHC stuck true to their roots and told stories and history from the perspective of African Americans. It was refreshing to see history told from that perspective.

Tips for Visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture

• Reserve tickets in advance whenever possible.
• Plan on having lunch at one the 30+ food trucks that line the city block around the NMAAHC.
• Wear comfortable shoes as there are very limited areas to sit down within the galleries.
• Use the bathroom at the start of C3 (to the right when you get off the elevators)! There isn’t another one until you work your way up three flights to the Concourse level.