In their eagerness to see the highlights of the nation's capital, visitors can easily bypass a wide choice of museums that are considered among the best in the country. Here is a sampling of what is waiting to be discovered among the treasure trove of museums sprinkled throughout Washington: Navy Memorial Museum and the United States Navy destroyer John Barry. A visit to these two attractions, located on the grounds of the historic Washington Navy Yard, can easily become an all-day outing.
The Navy Museum features exhibits commemorating the Navy's wartime heroes, battles, and peacetime contributions. The destroyer John Barry, permanently moored at a site next to the museum, welcomes the public to inspect its open decks, bridge, and mess decks.
Address: Washington Navy Yard, Ninth and M Streets, SE, Building 76. Museum hours: Mon.-Fri., 9-4; Sat., Sun., holidays, 10-5. No charge.
Explorers Hall, National Geographic Society. The world's largest globe and a working model of the solar system are the dramatic introductions to this museum's lifelike exhibits, models, stunning photographs, and films depicting the world's lands and peoples.
Address: National Geographic Society Building, 17th and M Streets, NW. Open Mon.-Sat. and holidays, 9-5; Sun., 10-5. No charge.
DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) Museum. Objects made or used before 1850 are on exhibit in this museum, housed in historic Memorial Continental Hall. There are 30 period rooms in one section of the museum, each presented by a different DAR state chapter and each designed to reflect regional variations in craftsmanship and style. Among them are an 1850 parlor from a California adobe home; kitchenware from a 19th-century Oklahoma farm family; and a New Hampshire attic filled with 18th- and 19th-century children's games, toys, and dolls.
Address: 1776 D Street, NW, between 17th and 18th Streets. Open Mon.-Fri., 9-4; Sun., 1-5. No charge.
National Museum of African Art (part of the Smithsonian Institution). Until the spring of 1986, when it will move to new quarters on the National Mall, this museum is on Capitol Hill in a remarkable group of nine 19th-century town houses. One of them is the first Washington home of American abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Devoted entirely to African art, the museum is the only one of its kind in the US to focus on this area with exhibitions, collections, and study.
Besides the permanent exhibits, the museum mounts three major exhibitions a year and a series of smaller, pinpointed shows. On a year-round basis, the third-floor gallery displays photographs, furniture, and memorabilia that chronicle the life of Frederick Douglass.
Address: 318 A Street, NE. Open Mon.-Fri., 10-5; weekends, 12-5.
Old Stone House. Situated on traffic-heavy M Street, where it has been since 1765, the Stone House is a refuge of quiet and serenity. A picket fence surrounding colorful beds of seasonal blooms and fruit trees lends a quaint kind of protection from outside distractions.
Five of the rooms within the sturdy structure, believed to be the only surviving pre-Revolution building in the District of Columbia, are furnished as they might have been by an 18th-century middle-class family.
Address: 3051 M Street, NW (Georgetown). Open Wed.-Sun., 9:30-5.
The Textile Museum. For anyone with even a slight interest in textiles and carpets, this museum, housed in a superb pair of adjoining former mansions, will be a fascinating surprise. It contains one of the most extensive collections in the world of Oriental carpets and textiles from many countries dating from ancient days to the present. To mark its 60th anniversary, the museum is holding a major exhibition, ``Collections and Recollections: The Textile Museum at Sixty'' (through Sept. 22). More than 100
textiles are on display in such groupings as classical and court carpets, textiles from the Near and Middle East, and pre-Columbian South American textiles.
Address: 2320 S Street, NW. Open Tues.-Sat., 10-5; Sun. 1-5. Free admission. (Suggested donation: adults $2, children 50 cents.)