The Crime Museum: DC’s Museum of Crime and Punishment

The entrance

The entrance

My seventeen-year old wasn’t excited to go to DC’s Crime Museum.  I think, to her, it probably sounded like a punishment for which there was no crime, but I got a Groupon deal and told her that this was her “educational” field-trip for the week and it would include lunch.


Parking: DO NOT PARK at LAZ at Penn Quarter.

Normally, I take the Metro in, but I wanted to get in and out quickly , so I drove and parked in the LAZ Penn Quarter lot which is only a block away from the museum.  I almost turned around when I saw the $28/day sign, but there wasn’t a lot of room, so I drove in.  This parking garage reminded me of Spain, and not in a good way.  The garage was narrow and cramped.  The lanes are two-way, but not wide enough for any two cars larger than a Smart car, there are large cement columns awkwardly placed that makes parking really difficult.  The elevator doesn’t go to each floor, and there isn’t even a stair option which seems unsafe.  People who cannot walk far or who use a walker or wheelchair should not use this garage.  You MUST take your ticket with you or you will not be able to get back into the pedestrian entrance as it’s a locked building and even then, the tickets are unreliable.

Penn Quarter Garage by LAZ
616 E St. NW
Washington DC 20004
(202) 667-3030


The Museum of Crime and Punishment:

This museum surprised both of us.  I suppose I expected something a bit more morbid, but instead, the museum takes you through historical periods discussing crime, criminals, and the methods of punishments used.  Colonists, the old west, pirates, gangsters… it’s all really interesting. I enjoyed the Western portion that brought up such real characters as Jesse James and Billy the Kid and told the real stories.  It’s interesting to see the reality of who these people were in contrast with what we’ve learned through the fiction of movies and books.  The Gangster area was similar in dispelling the myths of Hollywood.  The crimes were real, but the extent of the crimes have been so sensationalized that the truth has been blurred.

You’ll see different eras and types of crimes from murder to kidnapping to cyber crimes.  There’s an area on prisons that includes tattoos and prison art that’s interesting.  The room on animals in crime fighting is particularly poignant.

The first floor opens up with a crime scene, then leads you through the process of investigating the crime.  It shows the real forensic science used in solving crimes and debunks shows like Bones.

Children ages 7 and older could enjoy this.  Even younger ones may.  There are interactive quizzes in every room for the readers, and there are also hand on activities like a jail that you can go in, a western style shoot-out and a prison escape route.  They can take a  lie-detector test, get fingerprinted, practice driving in an emergency driving simulation and even do a police training simulation.  With the exception of the shoot-out, all the extra activities are free and will keep your little ones entertained while you peruse the rest of the collection.

My teen found the gangster area the most interesting as she’s studied the prohibition era in school, so although she already knew a lot of the information there, she also learned many new things.  In fact, we both were surprised by new things in every room.

We spend so much time on the second floor that we didn’t have enough for the first.  For those that want to read everything, you can easily spend four hours there.  We had three and it wasn’t enough.  You could do a quick visit in 1.5-2 hours.

Crime Museum
575 7th St NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 393-1099

Examine a Crime Scene and solve it.

Random things I learned (find where I learned these on your next trip).

  1. In the 1600’s, “quarrelsome women” were punished using a portable pillory referred to as a “shrew’s violin.”
  2. In Boston, in 1656, a man was charged with “lewd and unseemly behavior” for kissing his wife on the Sabbath upon returning home after three years at sea.
  3. Jolly Roger is a generic term for a pirate flag of which there are many designs with different meanings.
  4. Billy the Kid only killed 9 people in his 19 years as opposed to the fabled 21 in 21.
  5. Bonnie and Clyde were killed in a shoot-out.  Their car was riddled with 167 bullets.  Bonnie wrote poetry.
  6. Al Capone began several children’s charities in the Chicago area.
  7. A tattooed cross on an inmates chest in prison means “Prince of Thieves” and is the highest possible rank.  Other tattoos include candles and butterflies.
  8. It is possible to create a realistic portrait using only coffee as paint.
  9. Domesticated animals have a low sensitivity to tear gas, so police dogs and horses can be used in a riot even when tear gas is used.
  10. A DNA test takes about 2 weeks.


About Tiffany

I'm eclectic. Sometimes that's a good thing because I can do bits of everything. Sometimes it's aggravating because I get distracted by so many amazing things. Mostly, I love photography and family, travel and writing, cooking, reading, art, and coffee. Sundays are church days to regroup and refocus. God's in charge here.

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