Within sight of some of America’s most memorable national buildings, the Newseum chronicles more than just the past, present and future of news reporting. It also shows how journalism shapes our perceptions about history itself.
Washington DC, as the nation’s capital, is not short on things to do. Yet the Newseum, which moved across the river from its Arlington, Virginia home in 2008, consistently ranks in the top tier of attractions. It receives rave reviews on Yelp, has more than 72,000 Facebook likes and rates as No. 7 (out of more than 500) in TripAdvisor’s crowd-approved list of DC-area attractions.
At 250,000 square feet, the building’s size and modern glass-fronted style might well attract attention. It commands a view of Pennsylvania Avenue, too. But it’s the seven levels, 15 galleries and 15 theaters that unite to tell the history of the United States from a reporter’s perspective.
First-time visitors and group travel planners may justly feel overwhelmed with so much space and a veritable overload of information. Your group could easily spend the day (or days) checking out the permanent and temporary exhibits, films and interactive displays. Yet the museum is organized in such a way that a brief two-hour tour can hit the highlights of the trip. (Because the Newseum opens an hour before the nearby Smithsonian museums, some group travel planners make it the first leg of a DC museum tour.) The visitor’s guide offers pre-planned tours that cater to women’s interests, families and half-day trips. Near closing time, if guests want to continue their tour the following day, they can present their ticket at the admission desk for a free pass to experience even more.
A Quick Tour of the Newseum, One Level at a Time
Visitors enter the Newseum at the concourse level, where they’ll find an orientation video and Newseum’s signature video, What’s News? The concourse level also houses the Berlin Wall exhibit, the Unabomber’s cabin, an FBI exhibit, the history of cartoons and Pictures of the Year, which feature the best of 2013’s photos. This is also where the sports theater, documentary theater and the main dining area are located.
And that’s just the ground floor.
The folks at Newseum recommend that guests proceed from the concourse directly up to the sixth floor via a glass elevator. On this topmost level, you’ll find one of the museum’s must-see attractions, the Greenspun Terrace, which offers panoramic views of this part of DC. The other half of the floor is dedicated to showing the latest news from all 50 states; every day, a newspaper headline is selected from each state and displayed.
Take a staircase down to the fifth floor and you can view the Smith Theatre’s 90-foot-long video screen and virtual reproductions of important historical documents at the Pulliam Great Books Gallery. This is also where you’ll find News Corp. News History Gallery, the largest of all the Newseum’s galleries.
The fourth floor is home to galleries devoted to digital media and the First Amendment. It’s also where visitors can find one of the more stirring and poignant exhibits – the 9/11 Gallery, which features the twisted wreckage of a broadcast antenna that was taken from atop the World Trade Center.
World news, the Journalists Memorial and technology (in the form of internet, TV and radio) dominate the third floor, which is where several news shows are taped. Level two hosts the NBC News Interactive Newsroom, where guests can try their hands at “live news” reporting. It’s also the home to popular, more whimsical exhibits, currently including one highlighting the movie Anchorman and another about presidential pets.
Finally, the first level has a second restaurant and gift shop, several theaters, a collection of Pulitzer-Prize winning photos and a news helicopter soaring overhead – don’t worry, it’s stationary. This is also where visitors can view the 3D movie I-Witness, billed as “a 4-D time travel adventure” that takes people on a journalists-view experience of a selection of history’s most important events.
Five Can’t-Miss Newseum Sights
If you’re starting to feel a bit overwhelmed by the scope of this museum, don’t fret. Some of the most immediate, accessible exhibits include:
- The Berlin Wall (“Barrier to Freedom,” Concourse Level)
- The Greenspun Family Terrace (with the Pennsylvania Avenue Timeline, which runs around the perimeter of the terrace and offers a historical perspective to match the visual one. Level Six)
- 9/11 Gallery (Level 4; parents and teachers please note that this may exhibit not be suitable for all children)
- Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery (Level One)
- I-Witness 4-D Adventure (Follow the signs on Level One)
Group Tour Information
The Newseum regularly welcomes school groups and leisure groups of all sizes. If your group is holding a reunion or some other function, event spaces are available for rent. Musical and choir groups can also arrange performances through the Newseum. There are ample facilities for on-site dining; multiple group-dining options are offered, as is catering.
Please note that security screening will be used. While guests can bring cameras, no weapons, gum, or outside food or drinks are permitted. Signs within a certain size and banners are permitted only with advance permission from the Newseum.
The Newseum could be called a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view the interaction between the news and the world. But that actually sells this attraction short; many guests feel that multiple visits are the only way to truly experience this top-rated DC attraction.
Have you visited the Newseum or arranged for a travel group to tour it? Leave us a comment with your experiences. Thanks!