National Museum of the Marine Corps

Happy Birthday America! Happy July 4th! A time we remember and celebrate American Independence. It was in 1775, in Tun Tavern, in Philadelphia that the Marine Corps was born. And so, in celebration of that awesome organization on this Independence Day, we share one of our favorite museums. The National Museum of the Marine Corps.

Photo Courtesy of the National Museum of the Marine Corps

It is hard to miss this amazing structure when driving down the I-95 corridor in Northern Virginia. It became a monument of awe and my little would shout – “there is the Corpseum!” as we passed by. The eye-catching structure is a tribute to the Marines at Iwo Jima.  Beyond the impressive nature of the architecture of the building are the history-filled, carefully curated exhibits inside. From the American Revolution to today – the history of the Marines involvement throughout the world and their development to today is outlined and displayed through pictures, personal letters, videos, interactive exhibits and stations.

Aerial Entry
Planes fly over the entrance

Upon entrance into the museum (which is free), there is a gallery of aircraft in front of and above you. The theater is directly to the left with a show continually running. The littles would immediately run to the “yellow feet” or the well-known to Marines yellow footprints of bootcamp. The yellow footprints stand in front of a large bus showcasing videos of those going off to bootcamp.  Exploring this area, you can hear a DI (Drill Instructor) shout instructions, climb a rope and shoot in the “rifle range”.  (Note: there is a charge of $5.00 for the rifle range, but it is a pretty awesome deal for such a cool experience!)

Chesty Jeep
Photo Op for kids

From here, the next stop for us was usually the American Revolution kids section, “Chesty’s Dock,” with interactive areas for dressing in colonial garb and “fishing.” The history continues to unfold from there moving through the years and campaigns of World War I through the Global War on Terror.  All of these exhibits are done so well and there are really no words to describe how awe-inspiring these sections are for adults. I will note that there are mannequins of corpsman or “docs” helping fallen Marines outside the World War II section that may incite questions from inquisitive children. I utilize this as an opportunity to share how the Navy and Marines work together at home and on the front. There are videos throughout exhibits as well which show real life footage of events that you may want to gauge ability for your children to watch based on their age or sensitivity.

There is a children’s section called Chesty’s Corner where they can wear minituare Marine uniforms, and read books geared toward children on the history and utilization of the military. There are usually coloring pages, crayons and legos at the interactive tables here as well. Checkout the Children’s Gallery that recently opened that is directly behind the staircase right in front of you from the entrance. Always make sure to grab a calendar of events.  There are monthly family days in the form of playdates, STEM education or interactive stations about the holidays or a time in history.  Our little’s favorite was World War I Family Day where she got to learn about the food kits that were carried by service members and see postcards that people wrote home from the front. Around any holiday from Halloween to the Christmas season, look for holiday specific events where children are invited to do a craft and there may be a visit from a special guy from that artic place up North!

World War I Day at the Museum in 2016

No museum stop is complete without a stopover into the store or gift shop. This museum store does not disappoint. From vintage campaign posters to a stuffed Chesty to Meals-Ready-To-Eat (MREs), you can pick up a pretty awesome reminder and treat to commemorate your trip to this amazing museum.

Park just outside along the parking lot

Outside the museum, just to the right of the parking lot, if you are looking at the museum, is a playground area. This is a great place to stop over if you have been hanging out in I-95 traffic and the kids just need to run.  I have also done lunch there after a museum morning. It has shade and tables, but can get hot in the warmer weather as there is not covering over the playground.

SemperFi park map (click for a printable map) On this map with the playground area circled – you will also see the extensive grounds outside of the museum itself with walking paths and trails to enjoy throughout the day, or to let your tot run out their energy!

100th Beallau
Photo Courtesy of the National Museum of the Marine Corps

Admission and parking is always free, but donations are welcome. They are open every day except Christmas   9AM – 5PM.  Whether you are stationed in Virginia or the DC area, or just driving through, this museum is definitely worth the stopover.

If you are in the area and have children, check out the new Facebook group just for kids – NMMC Kids. When I spoke with the Public Affairs Chief at the Museum, she shared that this new group will share all of the educational events held for children at the museum. After the events we have enjoyed there over the years, this promised to continue that legacy of learning, history and fun!

Are you planning a visit to the National Marine Corps Museum? What are you most excited about? Have you been before? What was your favorite exhibit?

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