“The news is the first rough draft of history” so they say. And the Newseum is certainly a history museum by that token, but a history museum like no other. This museum gives you unique feeling about history because it sees everything through the eyes of the news and media. This creates a much more present and raw view of historical events than the typical past view that we so often see.
How to Get to the Newseum
Getting to the Newseum is easy because it is right off of the National Mall. Take the metro to the Archives stop (Yellow and Green lines). Then walk Southeast on Pennsylvania Avenue (towards the Capitol) one block. The Newseum will be the building with all the newspaper front pages displayed outside the door.
Those pages are the headlines from all over the world for the day you are visiting. Reading them (the ones in English anyway) can make standing in line a little more interesting. The Newseum opens at 9:00 and hour earlier than the Smithsonians so plan to get here early. Even so, you should expect to stand in line to get in as this is a very popular museum and D.C. area schools can come for free.
You, however, will have to pay and as normal we suggest booking your tickets online before you come. Booking online gives you a 15% discount over the gate price, and while it won’t stop you from waiting in line for security, it will keep you out of the ticket line once you are inside. The online price is $21.21 for adults and $12.71 for children.
I know that price can seem expensive when the Smithsonians are completely free, but we feel it is well worth the price. Of all the museums I have been to in Washington, D.C. this is my favorite. Plus your online ticket can be used for any day before the end of the year in which you bought it, and is also good for the day after you first use it. That way if you don’t get to see everything the first day, or you just want to break up your time here, you can come back.
What You Will See at the Newseum
Like most of the D.C. museums, the Newseum is quite large. You may well need to come back the second day to see it all, especially if you have children who need the museum time broken up.
The Newseum focuses on the news, the media, and the five freedoms of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. When you first enter the museum you will be in a room with a huge T.V. showing a current news broadcast and with a huge news ticker running around the outside wall.
You will start the main run of the museum by going downstairs, but on this first floor you can visit the Pulitzer Prize exhibit first if you want. This exhibit contains a print of every photo that has ever won the Pulitzer. You will also end on this main floor so you can choose to look at the Pulitzers then if you wish.
Advisory: Many heart wrenching photos of terrible events have won the Pulitzer Prize and this exhibit may not be appropriate for some children.
Begin the main experience by going down to the bottom floor using the stairs to the left of the main entrance. There are several theaters at the bottom of the stairs two of which contain a looping orientation film. There is also a special exhibit space on this floor that we suggest seeing first if you are interested in the topic. Currently it is about the FBI, Terrorism, and Cyber Crime. This exhibit features some very recent and traumatic events, so it hits very close to home.
The main thing to see on the first floor is the Berlin Wall section and Guard Tower. This is extremely moving to be able to see, there is even one piece that you can touch.
From the wall you will circle around to the glass elevators that will take you to the top floor. Like the Holocaust Museum the Newseum’s main exhibits flow from the top floor down.
Note that the Newseum cafeteria (appropriately called the Food Section) is located on the first floor. It is your best choice if you don’t want to go through security a second time. It will cost you about $10 per person and features a pretty wide selection of food.
There are many exhibits in the Newseum, and I love most of them so I won’t tell you about all of them here, you need to go see them for yourself. I will just mention a few highlights. First when you come out the elevator you can walk outside onto the terrace which gives you great views of the city and especially the Capitol building.
As you come up the glass elevator you will certainly notice the World Trade Center antenna. This is part of the 9/11 Memorial exhibit in the Newseum and is probably the one thing you must see while visiting. It is very difficult to be there, but I think it is important to go.
Other highlights include the Newspaper Room which contains newspapers from the beginning of printing until now. I probably spent to much time here, but it was amazing. I also really like the Freedom Map showing how free the press is in all the countries of the world. This exhibit really made me feel lucky to be in America.
There is a “4D” movie at the Newseum that is included in the price of your ticket. It plays every half hour throughout the day, and is worth watching if you can handle 4D effects. To get to it follow the signs near the Food Section. You will have to wait in a room until they open the doors to the theater. This is a nice chance to sit down and take a rest. The movie is pretty cool and tells the stories of some important journalists and the risks they took for the news.
There is also a new exhibit on Virtual Reality (VR) where you can actually experience clips of the top VR experiences that week. You need to sign up for a timed entry to this experience, and you must be 13 years or older to participate. It is included in the price of your ticket though, so its a great chance to see what VR is like. The experience itself only takes about 5 minutes.
In case you couldn’t tell already we highly recommend the Newseum to you while you are visiting Washington, D.C. It is an awesome experience and one of the most engaging museums in a city full of them. We both absolutely loved visiting here. The freedoms that the Newseum represents are very important to me and I hope that everyone will go visit here in order to better understand them.