One of the prime repositories of US cultural artefacts is the National Museum of American History, which was imaginatively renovated in 2008. A wide common area off the lobby is lined with “artefact walls” that show off some of the items that the museum previously had to keep in storage – from 200-year-old tavern signs and toy chests, to the John Bull, the nation’s oldest functioning steam locomotive, dating from 1831. Elsewhere in the museum, you’re apt to find anything from George Washington’s wooden teeth to Jackie Kennedy’s designer dresses to Judy Garland’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz. You could easily spend a full day poking around the displays, but three to four hours would be a reasonable compromise – and to stick to this time frame, you’ll have to be selective. The museum’s biggest draw is the battered red, white and blue flag that inspired the US national anthem – the Star-Spangled Banner itself, which survived the British bombardment of Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812. Until the new National Museum of African American History and Culture opens on the Mall (due in 2015; nmaahc.si.edu) exhibits from its collection are on display here.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

USA features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Total eclipse of the heart (of America): where to see the 2017 solar eclipse

Total eclipse of the heart (of America): where to see the 2017 solar eclipse

Most visitors who trek through the vast interior of the USA are in search of natural wonders on the ground. But on August 21, 2017, they’ll be in search of a…

24 Nov 2016 • AnneLise Sorensen insert_drive_file Article
A Las Vegas survival guide: the dos and don’ts of Sin City

A Las Vegas survival guide: the dos and don’ts of Sin City

Few destinations can match the unbridled hedonism of Las Vegas. Nevada’s pulsating desert city, a tangle of neon-lit casinos and roaring freeways, is one of t…

16 Nov 2016 • Eleanor Aldridge insert_drive_file Article
The dos and don'ts of Thanksgiving travel

The dos and don'ts of Thanksgiving travel

The only thing more challenging than an interminable turkey meal with a squabbling family? Getting there in the first place. Thanksgiving may kick off the mo…

11 Nov 2016 • AnneLise Sorensen insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month