I considered your options and your audience and came up with several recommendations.
This list is tailored to five broad types, from the hipster to the traditionalist, and from the wide-eyed kid to the grown-up who has seen everything. Photography fans get a special nod in a city where you can find so much good camera work.
There is a safe bet for each type of visitor. But there also is a best best: more of an insider’s tip than a guidebook recommendation. As a bonus, you’ll find an additional recommendation of a nearby museum or show as well as a good restaurant to try.
The traditionalist: Wears reading glasses and sensible shoes. Not exactly closed-minded, but sniffs at anything made in the past 100 years.
Masterpieces of French Impressionism, including Renoir’s iconic “Luncheon of the Boating Party,” make up the heart of the Phillips Collection
, 1600 21st St. NW (Metro: Dupont Circle). 202-387-2151. www.phillipscollection.org.
Open since October, “Masterpieces of American Furniture From the Kaufman Collection, 1700-1830” is the National Gallery of Art’s first permanent installation of furniture and decorative art. The exhibition pairs fine craftsmanship with paintings from the permanent collection by American artists such as Gilbert Stuart. National Gallery of Art, Constitution Avenue at Sixth Street NW. 202-737-4215. www.nga.gov.
In the neighborhood:
Walk through the tunnel to the National Gallery’s East Building to see “Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective.” I know, I know, it’s modern art. But the cartoonish pop master was actually a painting purist.
Where to eat:
Garden Cafe. The American menu by chef Cathal Armstrong complements the furniture show. Ground floor of the National Gallery’s West Building.
The hipster: Can still fit into skinny jeans. Uses words like “investigate” and “subvert” without referring to congressional hearings.
Safe bet: At the Art Museum of the Americas, “
The Ripple Effect: Currents of Socially Engaged Art” celebrates public-practice-based art, which often looks more like activism than art. Through Jan. 13. 201 18th St. NW. 202-458-6016. www.amamuseum.org
One of the most avant-garde shows in town is at the Renwick Gallery
, the Smithsonian’s museum of American craft and decorative arts. Don’t think stodgy vases and bowls. “40 Under 40: Craft Futures” boasts Nick Dong’s interactive “Enlightenment Room,” a tile-lined chamber where one visitor at a time experiences Tibetan chanting and the gradual blast of more than 600 LED lights. Through Feb. 3 at 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW (Metro: Farragut North, Farragut West). 202-633-7970. www.americanart.si.edu/renwick.