On a recent visit to Washington DC, everyone told me it would be impossible to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the newest gem in the Smithsonian Museum's crown, without having procured passes months earlier. Admission is free (as are all of the Smithsonian museums -- the biggest bargain anywhere), but timed passes are required, and are booked months in advance. However, being an early riser pays off, as the museum issues a limited number of same-day passes online, beginning at 6:30 in the morning, and I was able to snag them on my first try. When you go, allow a full day to explore the museum. Begin at the bottom, with three floors of gut-wrenching history from pre-slavery to the civil rights movement and beyond. Work your way to the top floor, which focuses on culture (food, music, art and craft), and ends your visit on a joyous note. This museum is worth a special trip to Washington DC, even if you're not going there for a march, and if you can get there during Black History Month, there are many special events.