National Museum of the Marine Corps in Fredericksburg, VA

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Open in 2006, the National Museum of the Marine Corps is already expanding to include more exhibits and more presentation space. The 100,000 square foot museum also includes an outdoor Semper Fidelis Memorial Park, with 42 sculptures and memorials honoring individuals, battalions, and events; outdoor overlooks; and a chapel. The museum is situated on a 135 acre campus next to the Marine Corps base in Quantico and located less than one hour south of Washington D.C. and 30 minutes north of Fredericksburg, Virginia. It is one of the most beautiful, sobering, and enlightening museums we have visited.

Traveling with Kids:

  • The museum covers many serious topics, events, and concepts and may not be appropriate (nor engaging) for the toddler set. There are some spaces devoted to younger children, but I think it depends on the individual child. My upper elementary and middle school age children were very engaged and enjoyed the museum.

  • The museum is FREE to visit, 364 days a year (closed on Christmas). Check here for hours.

  • The entire museum is handicap and stroller accessible and several banks of restrooms are located throughout the museum.

  • A large museum store is located to the right of the main entrance.

  • Stop by the main information desk for maps, special programming, audio tours (there is a fee for audio tours, which has 55 narrated spots), special topic brochures, and walking stools.

  • There are two dining options at the museum: Devil Dog Diner offers grab and go items such as sandwiches, salads, and pizza and and has a large cafeteria for seating (similar style to a marine mess hall) and Tun Tavern is a full service bar and restaurant that includes a children’s menu.

  • Plan to spend 3-4 hours to fully explore the museum and general outdoor area; plan an additional hour to walk through the Memorial Park and visit the chapel.

Why Children Will Enjoy the Museum:

  • Children’s Gallery is the spot for the under 6 crowd. There is a dress up area, matching games, and spaces for pretend activities like cooking and flying a helicopter.

  • Defending the New Republic for the chance to practice knot tying skills

  • Marine Corps flag from 1840s

  • Walking through a tent simulating marine life in the Philippines in 1901. 

  • Listening to personal accounts from marines in many of the galleries- just pick up a phone.

  • Chester’s Corner, a place to read a book or color a picture located before the Korean War gallery. 

  • Learning about “Junk on the Bunk” inspections (and how to keep your bunk at home clean!)

Why Adults Will Enjoy the Museum:

  • Deciphering the full dress of various ranks of marines.

  • Collections of artillery and uniforms and medals from every war from the Revolutionary War through the Vietnam War in each gallery.

  • Three cannons used in the late 1880s in Defending the New Republic Gallery

  • Armored car used in testing for, but never directly in battle, WWI.

  • Timeline of the Marine Corps from 1775 through 2006.

  • An aircraft engine and Second Series Standard B Truck, known as a “Liberty Truck” both used in WWI.

  • Radio broadcasts announcing the attack on Pearl Harbor in the WWII Gallery

  • Photography from Iwo Jima and the original flag raised on Mount Suribachi in February of 1945.  

  • The sobering  display of marine and navy deaths in Iwo Jima.

Why Everyone Will Enjoy the Museum:

  • The main atrium “Leatherneck Gallery” with 5 original airplanes hanging from the ceiling.

  • The 14 minute introductory video in the Scuttlebutt Theater.

  • Honoring “The President’s Own”, the title given to the Marine Band by Thomas Jefferson in 1801 in the Defending the New Republic Gallery. See musical instruments and sheet music and listen to samples of patriotic songs.

  • Background videos about the Korean War in the Korean War Gallery

  • The Frozen Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War Gallery. Visitors can also walk into a LVT-3 tractor used in the invasion of Inchon and walk into a marine bunker staged to replicate the outpost in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea in 1952.

  • The Making Marines exhibit, where visitors can test their skills by simulating the steps a marine follows when enlisting: from getting their head shaved to testing observation kills about proper marine attire to reading a compass and map and testing marine vocabulary and physical strength. *** There is a rifle range where visitors can practice target for an additional fee. 

For more nearby history and family adventures, check out our Top 10 Guide to Fredericksburg, VA here.

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