The National Postal Museum might be the best-kept secret in Washington D.C. Visitors can walk along a Colonial post road, ride with the mail in a stagecoach, browse through a small town post office from the 1920s, receive free stamps to start a collection and more. Museum presentations bring to life the story of “Owney,” the mascot dog of the Railway Mail Service, and tell the history of U.S. mail trains.
The National Postal Museum is one of the 17 free Smithsonian museums in Washington D.C., which means it is free. The free Smithsonian museums on the National Mall are notoriously crowded, but the National Postal Museum is much less visited. We went to the National Postal Museum over the busy Thanksgiving weekend, and the museum was practically empty. The kids never competed for turns at the hands-on exhibits or waited in line to climb in the semi-trailer. I am excited to show you how I was wowed by the National Postal Museum.
10 Things Families will Love at the National Postal Museum
Start with a Scavenger Hunt
Stop in at the Information Desk to pick up a scavenger hunt for each child. Bring a pen or a pencil. I don’t usually do museum scavenger hunts, but because the National Postal Museum wasn’t crowded, I felt like we could accomplish it, and we did. The scavenger hunt was a great way for my elementary-aged kids to read the exhibits and learn something along the way.
My younger kids loved the stage coach, semi-trailer, and railroad car that we could climb in and explore. While I enjoyed the exhibits, the kids took turns driving the semi or pretending to ride in the stagecoach.
Be a Postal Worker
In the Systems at Work exhibit, kid can help sort the mail, scan bar codes on mail, and explore mail routes on touch-screen exhibits. While the adults and teens in our group enjoyed the exhibit, our little ones learned through play.
Mail a letter or a postcard
There is a working post office in the basement of the National Postal Museum (next to the museum shop), so you can mail a letter or postcard. You can find free postcards in the lobby just behind the Information Desk, so we took a few minutes to write a note to grandma and mailed it downstairs.
Start a Stamp Collection
Are you a stamp collector? Would you like to start a stamp collection? There is a lovely table filled with interesting stamps and each guest is invited to take 6 stamps home to start or add to their collection. My daughter loved searching for stamps from her favorite countries. The William H. Gross Stamp Gallery is a fun place to learn all about stamp collecting.
Put your Face on a Postage Stamp
Kids will love designing their own stamps on a touch-screen computer with a camera. Email your design to yourself to print out at home when you want to play post office. You can see my nine-year-old son had fun playing with this exhibit.The National Postal Museum is a good choice for kids young or old because of the many hands-on activities. It is newer (built in 1990) and therefore “fresher” than many of the other Smithsonian museums on the National Mall. Give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.
Good to Know
Location: 2 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington D.C. Right next door to Union Station.
Hours: Open daily 10:00-5:30 except December 25.
Parking: We found metered street parking right behind the National Postal Museum on G street. If street parking isn’t readily available, you can park next door at Union Station.
Metro: Use the red line to Union Station and exit through the Massachusetts Ave. exit.
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Need a place to stay? Allison has stayed at Kimpton Hotel Madera and Hotel Harrington, which are both within a short walk or Metro ride from this and other popular attractions. Read her review of Hotel Madera HERE. Check rates and read reviews at TripAdvisor or Booking.com.
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