The National Law Enforcement Museum is a massive, 57,000-square-foot museum, much of which is actually underground.
With so much space, you’d be right to guess there is plenty to see and do inside.
The museum houses over 25,000 artifacts and plenty of high-tech, interactive exhibits and helps you “walk in the shoes” of American law enforcement officers so you have a better idea of the tough decisions they face on a daily basis.
We definitely found this to be the most interactive museum we’ve been to.
The museum is relatively new as it was opened in 2018 and will give you a whole new appreciate for the law enforcement profession.
They do a great job of connecting the community and law enforcement by taking you through educational journeys and immersive exhibitions.
What to See
While you’re at the museum, you’ll pick up plenty on the history of American law enforcement. There is a lot for everyone in the family to see, do and learn including:
- Early law enforcement tools and handcuffs
- Mug shots and photos of famous policy officers
- Some of J. Edgar Hoover’s (former FBI Director) personal items
- Simulated 911 calls from those in crisis
- Police interrogations
Probably one of our favorite exhibits had to be where we were able to see how to collect evident, take fingerprints and learn about patrol cars.
I don’t want to ruin some surprises but I’ll share that you will see some interesting exhibits that include the first 911 phone that was used and even Al Capone’s bulletproof vest.
What to Expect
The National Law Enforcement Museum explores both the history and modern-day world of policing from police officers walking the beat to undercover work to the world of training police dogs to the importance of community relations.
My kids (3, 8, and 10) all loved the museum and asked if we go back soon.
The museum is full of both exhibits and interactive experiences.
Everything from old police call boxes to police-themed games and toys to real equipment used in modern day forensics labs is on display.
My kids especially loved:
- Sitting in the real police car (yes, you can turn on the lights)
- Going in the tiny jail cell (yes, you can lie down on the cot and no, you cannot use the toilet)
- Watching a video about how police dogs are trained
- Trying their hand at the interactive exhibits involving playing the role of a 911 dispatcher
- Monitoring surveillance equipment
- The L3 Harris Patrolsim driving training simulator
My kids also loved the room dedicated to forensics and trying their hand at solving crimes by analyzing the evidence. They thought matching a shoe print to a real shoe was easier than matching two strands of hair.
The National Law Enforcement museum took a lot of care to make everything as realistic as possible.
The police car visitors can ride in is real and the information accompanying the car explains all of the car’s many features as well as why that particular was selected for the museum.
The Take the Case Exhibit has a lot of fun, interactive exhibits including DNA sampling.
My youngest loves helicopters so he enjoyd the Eagle One display that shows the Eagle One helicopter that saved 5 people after a crash in the Potomac River in 1982.
The museum also has many statutes of real police officers from various jurisdictions throughout the museum and each is a cast of a real police officer who has accomplished something noteworthy and whose story is told as part of the exhibit.
Even furniture from J. Edgar Hoover’s real office is on display as is Robocop.
I was a little concerned that some of the museum might not be kid-friendly, but I was pleased to see that the museum was designed with families in mind.
There are some exhibits you may not want your kids to see. For example, there is a room dedicated to officers who were killed in the line of duty.
I found the Wall of Remembrance and exhibit with items left at the nearby Law Enforcement Officers Memorial very moving, but if you would rather your kids not see this it’s very easy to simply skip that room.
My kids also loved a huge interactive board where they could tap on a crime to learn about how it was solved.
Crimes that may not be appropriate for kids are clearly marked so it’s easy to steer kids away from those.
There are also several videos throughout the museum, including a 15-minute video showing in the museum’s large theater about the history of law enforcement that my older kids and I really enjoyed.
My kids also really liked the videos exploring a day in the life of a beat cop, a corrections officer, and the stories of two hopeful police dogs.
Police Training Workshops
What won it for the whole family was the short workshop we took that was similar to what rookie police officers go through when they learn how to use deadly force.
Each partificpant is outfitted with a gun (fake of course) and holster.
There are some boxes to hide behind while watching an interactive computer video to show various situations. Hopefully you won’t die during the crisis, but hey, anything’s possible!
Hall of Remembrance
This section of the museum covers the stories of fallen officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. Outside the museum, they also have an outdoor memorial you can take a self-guided tour through where there are over 23,000 names of fallen officers engraved.
This National Law Enforcement Memorial is a monument dedicated to the law enforcement officers who have died while on duty.
What You Won’t See
We were a liittle unsure of how the museum may work hard to promote law enforcement, however, the museum was well done and focused on the evolution of American law enforcement including:
- History over time
It helps visitors appreciate the role of law enforcement and what they have to deal with on a regular basis.
We did find that there were some topics that many talk about today but that are not addressed at all at the museum. Some topics like racial profiling, facial recognition and other newer technologies, and others.
Also check out one of the museum’s many family-friendly events including STEM Saturdays, story times, and sensory-friendly mornings.
They also host an annual event called National Police Week which takes place every May. During this live event, many organizations come together to honor America’s law enforcement community.
Each year they also host a candlelight vigil for fallen officers and they add hundreds of names from various law enforcement agencies.
At some events, you will be able to see the honor guard stand for fallen officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Admission & Tickets
Admission is free for kids 12 and under. Adults cost $22. There are discounts for seniors, students, military andn law enforcement officers.
Active and retired law enforcement officers are $18.
Hours & When to Go
As the museum is large, you should expect to spent about 2- 3 hours at the museum.
The museum is open to the general public Thursdays through Saturdays from 10am to 5pm.
Keep an eye out for an Open House Day where you and the family can get free admission to the museum, plus they’ll have family-fun activities, demos and other activities.
Where to Eat
While the museum does have a cafe on-site, it is a self-serve cafe where you can pick-up sandwiches, salads and other cold foods and drinks.
If you’re looking for a restaurant with more options, Firehook café across the street in the Building Museum is an option. You’re also only a couple of blocks to Chinatown where there are many options as well.
On your way out of the museum, there is also a nice gift shop that is worth stopping at. As you can imagine, they have a lot of
Good to Know Before You Go
- If you want to support the cause, The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is an organization that honors fallen officers, tells their stories and helps make it safer for current law enforcement officers. They aim to show the valor of law enforcement and the sacrifices they make.
Getting There & Parking
The museum is located at: 444 E St NW, Washington, DC 20001 in Washington DC’s Judiciary Square in between 4th and 5th Streets, near the Capital One Arena in the nation’s capital. .
The museum is underground so it’s easy to miss as you arrive at the 400 block of E Street. Look for two large glass pavilions just past the memorial to find the entrance.
The museum is very close to the Judiciary Square metro on the red line so metro is a really easy way to get to the museum.
The closest parking to the museum can be found at 450 F Street NW.