Shelton Family Trip: National Museum of African American History


My husband and I took our 3 kids to visit the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture earlier this month and our time exploring our rich history was eye opening and inspiring. I was in awe from the moment I spotted the museum. Its big brown structure with crisp sharp edges definitely stands out among the Washington, DC architecture to which we’ve all become accustomed.


The Sheltons (minus Relle…I was taking the picture) in front of NMAAH

NOTE: We used an app called Parking Panda to reserve a parking garage space prior to our visit. We saved $5 and did not have to worry about whether or not the garage would be full when we arrived. We rolled right in and when it was time to leave we held up the barcode on my iPhone as proof of payment, easy peasy. 

When we entered the museum we immediately went to the front counter for a map of the facility. The receptionist gave us two, but warned that some of the exhibits on the bottom floor might be too much for young children. She then directed our attention to the second floor where there were more kid-friendly interactive exhibits.


Front Hall of Museum

Rhys and I decided well before we arrived at the museum (actually when we reserved our tickets online) that the WHOLE family would see the whole museum. We took our kids with us down the timeline elevator and worked our way through the exhibits. There were questions from my two oldest kids, which Rhys and I eagerly answered. But there was nothing visually too graphic that a whole family wouldn’t be able to view together.


Relle and Queen Nzinga



Joshua and Ananda just before we stepped onto the timeline elevator. “We’ve got to tell the unvarnished truth.” -John Hope Franklin.



Mommy took all of the pictures. Thanks Mom!

NOTE: We skipped the Ku Klux Klan exhibit though. I couldn’t bring myself to go into that one. I was already pretty emotional, then I read a quote on one of the walls that mentioned slaves being mortgaged (which I already knew, but to see the word “mortgage” referring to a human life stuck with me…my ancestors were truly someone else’s property during this time in American history). When I think of a mortgage I think of a house or building…so that quote hurt. The KKK section did not get a visit from the Sheltons.


Princess Nandi learning about some of her history



Rhys and Joshua just before we stepped onto the timeline elevator.



Daddy next to his all time favorite, Muhammad Ali.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture was so big and there was so much to see (on the walls, hanging from the ceiling, you name it!) that I know for a fact we missed some things. We will definitely make a second trip back to see the rest very soon. We highly recommend the NMAAH as a great frugal family trip!

The Sheltons give NMAAH 5 stars.


Top 5 Tips for Families with Small Children Visiting NMAAH:

  1. Make sure you reserve your Time Pass and try to arrive at least 15 minutes before the assigned time. Anything we try to accomplish as a family will take at least an additional 5 minutes per kid. We always keep this in mind when planning our trips (we arrived right on time by using this method…*side eyes my whole family). Also, there are a limited number of walk-in passes, beginning at 1pm. That’s a little too risky if you’re traveling from out of town though.
  2. Bring a stroller for kids under 5 years old. Even if he/she complains (because obviously they are big kids), there’s a lot of walking. If you don’t want to hear whining from tired little people, heed this warning. There are elevators everywhere to accommodate the strollers, so no worries.
  3. Wear comfortable shoes. Like I just mentioned, there’s a lot of walking. My daughter loves her “Princess Shoes” (a pair of Mary Janes), but this is no place for that…believe me. Just wear sneakers.
  4. Eat the food in the Cafe. My family usually packs our own food whenever we go on a day trip. But the food in the Sweet Home Cafe was well worth every penny.
  5. Be prepared to answer a lot of questions. This one’s pretty obvious, but still needed to be mentioned. My two oldest kids had a lot of questions about what they saw and read throughout the museum. It was my pleasure to answer.



Black is Beautiful!



Practicing for the Step Show on the second floor of the NMAAH

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