Air and Space tops list of most-visited museums in US

WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum has once again topped the list of the most-visited museums in the United States, and it is the second most popular museum in the world.

Other D.C. museums are prominent on national and international lists, compiled by the global engineering and design firm Aecom.

Seven D.C.-area museums make the group’s list of the top 20 museums in North America.

Air and Space tops the list with 7.5 million visitors last year. The National Museum of Natural History is second with 7.1 million.

Click through the gallery to see all the D.C. museums that made the list.

In this photo taken April 19, 2015,  people walk in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington. A record number of U.S. tourists visited Washington last year.
The city’s tourism bureau, Destination DC, announced Tuesday, May 3, 2016, that the nation’s capital welcomed 19.3 million domestic visitors in 2015. That’s up one million from the 2014 total, and it shows the continuing strength of Washington’s tourism industry after the Great Recession. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
1. Air and Space tops the list with 7.5 million visitors last year. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) (AP/Andrew Harnik)
Chris Cellini of Charlotte, N.C., left, lifts his son Aiden Cellini, 5, onto his shoulders after a visit to the Natural History Museum on the National Mall in Washington, Tuesday, April 7, 2015. Widespread power outages affected the White House, State Department, Capitol and other sites across Washington and its suburbs Tuesday afternoon — all because of an explosion at a power plant in southern Maryland, an official said. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
2. The National Museum of Natural History is second with 7.1 million. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)
3. The National Gallery of Art, with 4.2 million visitors. (Thinkstock) (Getty Images/iStockphoto/AndreyKrav)
4. The National Museum of American History, with 3.8 million visitors. (Paul Morigi/AP Images for The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian) (AP Images for The Smithsonian's/Paul Morigi)
The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is hosting an open house event and the museum will display the original starship "Enterprise." (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)
5. The Udvar-Hazy Center (in Chantilly, Virginia), with 1.6 million visitors. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli) (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)
FILE - In this June 12, 2009, file photo, people stand in line to enter the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The U.S. museum is requesting that smartphone users refrain from "catching" Pokemon when they are inside the museum. Museum Communications Director Andrew Hollinger tells The Washington Post that officials are trying to reach game developers to get the museum removed as a prominent location in the popular new "Pokemon Go" smartphone game. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
6. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, with 1.6 million visitors. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File) (AP)
(Courtesy National Portrait Gallery)
7. The Donald Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture (home to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery), with 1.2 million visitors (Courtesy National Portrait Gallery)     ((Courtesy National Portrait Gallery))
(1/7)
In this photo taken April 19, 2015,  people walk in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington. A record number of U.S. tourists visited Washington last year.
The city’s tourism bureau, Destination DC, announced Tuesday, May 3, 2016, that the nation’s capital welcomed 19.3 million domestic visitors in 2015. That’s up one million from the 2014 total, and it shows the continuing strength of Washington’s tourism industry after the Great Recession. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Chris Cellini of Charlotte, N.C., left, lifts his son Aiden Cellini, 5, onto his shoulders after a visit to the Natural History Museum on the National Mall in Washington, Tuesday, April 7, 2015. Widespread power outages affected the White House, State Department, Capitol and other sites across Washington and its suburbs Tuesday afternoon — all because of an explosion at a power plant in southern Maryland, an official said. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is hosting an open house event and the museum will display the original starship "Enterprise." (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)
FILE - In this June 12, 2009, file photo, people stand in line to enter the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The U.S. museum is requesting that smartphone users refrain from "catching" Pokemon when they are inside the museum. Museum Communications Director Andrew Hollinger tells The Washington Post that officials are trying to reach game developers to get the museum removed as a prominent location in the popular new "Pokemon Go" smartphone game. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
(Courtesy National Portrait Gallery)

 

“Certainly the Smithsonian museums are a part of every tourist plan for when they come to Washington,” said Linda St. Thomas, chief spokesperson for the Smithsonian Institution.

Free admission to the Smithsonian museums helps boost attendance, but the Smithsonian’s vast collections also provide significant drawing power, St. Thomas said, because people want to see the real thing.

“They want to see the real Apollo capsule or the real Wright Brothers flyer or real dinosaur bones,” she said. “So I think that no matter how much virtual reality you have, nothing takes the place of the real thing.”

Free museum admission remains in the Smithsonian’s future plans, St. Thomas indicated.

“We’ve been really clear that we want the museums to be free for everyone,” she said.

Washington places four museums on the group’s list of the top 20 museums worldwide: Air and Space, Natural History, American History and National Gallery of Art.

The list indicates that Beijing’s National Museum of China is the most-visited museum in the world, with 7.55 million visitors last year.

Other museums on the worldwide list include the Louvre in Paris with 7.4 million visitors and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York with 6.7 million.

London is the only other city in the world to place four museums on the top 20 list.

The newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture — while two and half times smaller than the Air and Space Museum — is on track to average about 1 million visitors annually, St. Thomas said.


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