Marine Corps Museum Visitors Say It's Better Than Bootcamp - My Family Travels

History buffs eager for a unique, immersive experience should spend a weekend at the Marine Corps Museum in Virginia. The 135-acre National Museum of the Marine Corps site proudly honors the accomplishments of the Marine Corps through exciting public programming. 

Marine helicopter and costumed troops hitting the beach in a display at the Marine Corps Museum.
Marine troops jump out of helicopter and hit the beach in an exciting display at the Marine Corps Museum.

The galleries combine a vast collection of historic Marine Corps artifacts with interactive exhibits. Talk to enthusiastic, trained guides and you’ll see that they will literally walk guests through the history of the Marines.
 
With free admission and a wealth of information, a visit to the Marine Corps Museum is a truly priceless experience for families to learn about some of the nation’s celebrated heroes.

A Multimedia Living History at the Marine Corps Museum

The museum is committed to telling the story of the US Marines through a mix of clever interactive stations, films, and informed volunteers. Immersive programs certainly leave an impression on guests.
 
Begin your journey at the Leatherneck Gallery, a beautifully designed space that depicts the Marines’ transition from ocean to shore. Kids love the watercraft, tanks and planes on display that were key to Marine history. This impressive entrance welcomes guests into the “next” part of their journey as they can choose to enter the museum’s Theater — that plays an informational film on Marine history — or walk into the popular Making Marines Gallery.

Bootcamp for Marine Corps Museum-Goers tests Marine Worthiness

The Making Marines Gallery was a favorite spot on our trip, and with good reason. That’s because this gallery presents a first taste of the museum’s overall exciting and innovative approach to education. Step inside and be whisked down the path of what it takes to be a marine. Experience a variety of “stations” that depict the memorable experiences that forge recruits into cadets and, with luck, privates and lieutenants.
 
Guests meet their drill instructor (DI) and have a hands-on opportunity to see what Boot Camp is really like. Think you’re tough enough to make it in the Marines? Try your hands at lifting and carrying gear. For more of a challenge, try to make at least one pull-up on a bar and learn how to solve problems in simulated scenarios. For a greater accomplishment, try to make a bullseye at the museum’s own laser simulator M-16 rifle range. (This gallery has limited its operations to weekends only to minimize the impact of Covid 19.)

New Legacy Walk Gallery Adds to Marine Corps Museum Experiences

Kids art workshops take place often at the Marine Corps Museum.
Younger kids can join an arts and crafts workshop and still learn about the Marines and their history at the Marine Corps Museum.

This first gallery marks the beginning of a series of interactive spaces. Guests not only touch, but also see and even in some cases smell, what it’s like to be a US marine. The Legacy Walk illlustrates more than 200 years of Marine Corps history. A new extension, opened in 2020, explores the service’s role in the 2001 terror attacks, aspects of Marine culture, tributes to the fallen and more recent Marine deployments.
 
Families play dress-up with Revolutionary war wear and handle touchable artifacts. Watch interactive videos and meet volunteers who are readily available with information and, in some cases, even personal stories to share with guests. 
 
A note for travelers with small children: Some of the museum’s exhibits depict scenes of combat and, in some cases, combat casualties, including interactive environments complete with loud sounds that may frighten small children. Museum staff and guides will help you determine whether exhibits are appropriate for littler ones.

Marine Corps Museum Children’s Activities & Program

The museum makes a commitment to educating the public on the history of the Marines. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the museum also hosts all sorts of special programs made just for kids. These kid-friendly activities range from gallery scavenger hunts to special kids’ areas and programs.
 
When entering the museum, kids should pick up one of the Gallery Hunts, and follow along with a series of activities as they make their way through the museum.  Kids will also be pleased with many of the touch activities at the museum, and even certain stations decked out with clothes and gear to try on.
 
Two special kids activity areas feature the museum’s bold bulldog mascot, as well as a variety of activities, books, toys, and more. 

Littler guests who need a break can check out all the bits and bobs tucked in Chesty’s Corner, which includes comfy chairs and a large bookcase, as well as a special desk with paper and crayons for kids to leave messages for the museum.  Chesty’s Dock, located just outside the Defending the New Republic gallery, has a variety of Revolutionary War themed activities designed for littler hands.

Shopping & Dining with the US Marines

National Museum of the Marine Corps.
The National Museum of the Marine Corps commemorates this branch of the military, their history and accomplishments.

Hungry travelers appreciate the Devil Dog Diner, located on the museum’s second deck, for a cafeteria-style restaurant that honors Marine mess hall operations.  This diner features several grab-and-go items, homemade soups and chili, pizza, sandwiches, and even a salad bar. It’s open Friday to Sunday only.
 
Guests can also visit the museum’s Tun Tavern, also on the second deck. This restaurant was based off of the legend that the Marine Corps was founded in 1775 at the original pub in Philadelphia.  With décor to match the famous colonial era tavern, this restaurant offers up a full lunch menu of Southern classics and alcoholic beverages.
 
Also be sure to visit the museum’s gift shop for a souvenir to commemorate your trip! 

Trip Planning Tips for a Marine Corps Museum Weekend

The National Museum of the Marine Corps can be found at 18900 Jefferson Davis Highway Triangle, VA 22172.  It is accessible by car and by public transport, including via Amtrak, Metrorail and local buses. There is no charge for museum parking.

The Marine Corps Museum hosts special Family Days on the second Saturday of every month, where children of all ages are invited to participate in fun, educational activities to learn about Marine Corps history. The museum’s education department produces many themed Family Days and special events. For more information and for a complete listing of family programming, check out the museum’s calendar of events here. And, just like “admission” into the museum, all family programs are free of charge.

Turn a trip to this unique museum into a weekend getaway by setting up a “base camp” at the nearby Holiday Inn Express at 14030 Telegraph Road, Woodbridge, Virginia  22192. This hotel is within driving distance of not only the National Museum of the Marine Corps, but also other local attractions such as the Potomac Mills Mall.

Families can also take the car out for a drive on the Prince William Parkway towards Manassas to spend the day strolling through charming Old Town Manassas or to soak up the sights at the historic Manassas National Battlefield. be sure to check out our review of the battlefield and tips on what to see and do.

For more information, please visit the official website or call the museum directly at 877/635-1775.

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