I first moved to DC about 10 years ago and have had plenty of time to explore the city and its museums. I have visited most of them, multiple times. That does not make me an expert by any means. But it means that visiting museums with standing collections that I’ve already seen is not high on my priority list.
Just a few weeks ago I heard about these fun and interactive tours of the National Gallery of Art by a company called Museum Hack. Museum Hack currently operates in DC, New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago.
In DC, there are two types of tours: the Un-highlights tours and the Badass Bitches tours. I had the opportunity to participate in one of the tours, and I picked the Un-highlights tour simply because it worked better with my schedule. On a sunny but cold Saturday morning, my friend K and I arrived at the National Gallery of Art for our tour.
First of all, it is a two-hour tour. At first, that seemed like a very long time. Trust me, it is not too long! I was enjoying myself so much that I had not even noticed that two hours had gone by at the end of the tour.
What should you expect? Expect to:
- meet new people: the three other people on the tour were visiting DC and were just lovely. The tour was small and there were only five of us so we learned quite a bit about each other. Our tour guide, Will, was charming, hilariously funny, passionate about art, and very informative.
- learn a ton: there is some discussion of technique, materials used, time period, and art movements but that is not the main focus of the tour.
- get all the juicy gossip: I don’t want to give too much away, but you will learn about acquisition rivalries, painters’ background stories, muses and lovers, arranged marriages, and so much more. For example, you get to see the face of a young lady who caused a tiff between Whistler and one of his close friends. If you need a hint on that last point: you can see another part of her body at the Musée D’Orsay in Paris–my jaw dropped, I had no idea of what this woman’s face looked like or the drama that she caused IRL!
- get involved: You will not be bored. This is not your typical museum tour. There are fun activities throughout the tour that everyone participates in. The activities are low-key, fun, and they really help you get involved and see the artwork from another perspective.
This is a great tour of the National Gallery of Art for tourists, DC residents, and anyone who is an art lover. The tour doesn’t cover all of the museum but it touches on the most important works, and most of the exhibits. If it’s your first time there, you might want to spend a little bit more time looking at some of the pieces that the tour does not cover.
If you are in need of a snack after your tour, take a short walk to City Center where you can grab a DC-made gelato at Dolcezza, a slice of cake at RareSweets, a cocktail at DBGB, or softserve at Momofuku/Milkbar. You can also walk to one of the many Jose Andres-owned restaurants in Chinatown.
Disclosure: I was invited to participate in one of Museum Hack’s tours. I loved it, and I can’t wait to recommend them to all my friends. In fact, I want to book the Badass Bitches tour, because the Un-highlights tour was so much fun. I was not compensated for writing this post. All views are my own.