Last summer during our tour of the Washington, D.C. region, a fellow camper gave us a great tip about going to the National Museum of the Marine Corps. We had never heard of it before, but since we had some extra time in our schedule, we decided to go check it out, and we are thankful we did! Much like the extensive U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, the National Museum of the Marine Corps is a comprehensive and immersive experience that the whole family can enjoy together.
The National Museum of the Marine Corps is located in Triangle, Va., less than 30 minutes from where we were camping at Pohick Bay Regional Park. Although it is the opposite direction away from the traditional Washington, D.C. sites, it is well-worth the effort to visit! It is open every day except Christmas* and has free admission and free parking. The museum offers something for all ages, including special scavenger hunts geared for elementary-school children, a hands-on Children’s Gallery for younger children, and an outdoor playground.
(*Currently the museum is closed due to Covid-19.)
We began our visit by watching the introductory movie in the Scuttlebutt Theater. From there we entered the Legacy Walk, which chronologically guides visitors through the Marine Corps’ history, beginning with the birth of Corps in 1775 and concluding with the Marine Corps’ presence in Afghanistan and Iraq.
One of the things that impressed us about the museum was the way some of the displays incorporated sounds and sensations to make history more real. In the Korean War exhibit, for example, the thermostat is set at a low temperature to help visitors experience in a small way what is was like for soldiers enduring the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. In another room, you walk out of a rumbling plane and into a “hot zone,” simulating what soldiers would have experienced in a variety of war zones.
On the second floor of the museum, you will find two places to dine, as well as a special art gallery. At the time of our visit, the gallery featured art dedicated to canine service members who were injured or killed in the line of duty. In the very center of the museum is the Leatherneck Gallery, which features planes suspended from the ceiling. You can view these up closer from the second floor. And if you have time, drop in to the gift shop, which features a Lego display of Iwo Jima.
You would need several hours (if not more than one day) to thoroughly explore all of the exhibits. We were there for about four hours, and although we couldn’t read every display or spend long in every section, we were able to get a broad overview during that time. By the end of our visit, we had a much greater appreciation for this branch of the U.S. military, and we are so grateful to the men and women who have dedicated their lives to serving in the military.
Outside of the museum are sprawling grounds featuring several trails with memorials and statues dedicated to heroes of the Corps. The day of our visit we were racing against time before a storm moved in, but our kids were determined to located the statue of Sergeant Reckless before we left. If you’ve not read the book about this heroic horse*, it’s worth ordering or checking out at the library before your visit. While you are out exploring the trails, you can also stop in to visit the memorial chapel.
(*Note: This is an affiliate link. If you purchase this book through the link, we will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting The Touring Camper!)
Have you been to the National Museum of the Marines Corps? If so, what did you think of it?