One of the best things to do while visiting Washington DC ( in addition to visiting the Monuments) is visiting the Smithsonian Museums (like National Museum of Natural History). Luckily for us, they are all FREE to get into. I would recommend taking public transportation, as it will be cheaper in the long run. The museums aren’t far from each other, for the most part. Totally walkable, especially the weather is nice.
Seeing as we were there for 3 days (and one of those days were cut in half as we arrived late morning), we didn’t get to see as much as we wanted to see. At the minimum, you would want to set aside at least 2 hours for most of the museums. Also with time as a factor, we carried snacks with us to eat when we exited the buildings.
With so much to see, I would recommend looking ahead a time at the maps of the museums so you can pinpoint if there is anything that may not interest you or if you are strapped for time like we were, than you can make note of the areas you want to view the most. It is a little overwhelming walking into any of the Smithsonians. They’re huge, with a lot of items to see, and trust me, you’ll want to try to see them all.
National Museum of Natural History
The first stop we made was National Museum of Natural History. The building was built-in 1910 and can be most recognized by the green dome on the roof. You’re greeted by the iconic Rotunda Elephant that stands tall in the museum’s lobby. It’s quite a massive museum and as soon as we walked through the doors I knew the hour and a half that we set aside was not going to be enough.
National Gem and Mineral Collection
Our first stop was a preconceived. My friend had her heart set on seeing the Hope Diamond, so up to the gems we went. The Hope dates back all the way to the 1600’s! It has altered in shape throughout the years and has had a handful of owners (and has even been stolen once) until being gifted to the Smithsonian by Harry Winston, Inc in 1958.
Just a few short steps from the Hope Diamond is a Tuscan Ring Meteorite. My son wanted to create a more action photo, as seen below. The Meteorite has been in the Smithsonian for almost 40 years. There are so many gems, rocks, ect to see, well over 100. We spent about 20 minutes in this section.
Skin and Bones Exhibit
Our next venture inside the Natural History Museum was the Skin and Bones exhibit. As soon as we walked in we knew we had to get a “reenactment” photo.
Being the oldest exhibit with the National Museum of Natural History, the Bone Hall houses hundreds of skeletons.
With an array of mammal skeletons, it allows you the see evolution of man, but also other animals. In addition, you can view reptile skeletons, fish and really get an idea how they all move certain ways or even how the fit in areas that look impossible.
A More Interactive Way to Learn at National Museum of Natural History
The Smithsonian offers a great app to download for FREE for Apple users! Get that app HERE. If you are in front of a Skeleton, hold your device up to it as if you are taking a photo to see how the animal looks like with skin. It also has games, audio, and videos. I wish they had the app for Android, it would have been a great way to see the display in a different perspective.
The turtles were interesting. The varying in sizes was amazing!
Last American Dinosaurs Exhibit
Exiting the Bone Hall exhibit will lead you into the Last American Dinosaurs exhibit. The had a couple interactive games. We played one that would ultimately tell you how you would survive as a fossil, with you choosing different aspects that will reflect the outcome (habitat, living breathing animal or dinosaur, plant, etc).
They also have a fossil lab, you cannot go inside, where you can view the staff working through a window. Unfortunately the National Fossil Hall is closed until 2019, but click here for updates.
The Ocean Hall is the biggest exhibit in the Natural History Museum. Packed with information from hundreds upon hundreds ocean life through videos, specimens, and replicas.
A couple of the replicas that the museum houses is a giant squid and a 45-foot whale.
We learned a lot here, a little fact we learned was that the tallest forest in the world are actually underwater. Interesting, right?!
On Display is also a large shark jaw, perfect for a photo opportunity!
And look at those teeth. There’s no coming back after that. #noforkneeded
By this time, we knew we needed to leave so that we could visit some of the other museums. Before exiting, we decided to view the mammal exhibit, but not before we look at the Iceland Exhibit, because clearly we have ADD. It was quick to walk through, and lead us into the Mammal Hall, so win-win.
The Mammal exhibit is great for kids. It is in a very bright space. I love how the mammals are displayed as they may look in the wild. Really allows your imagination to soar.
Somehow I don’t think it ended well in the photo above.
The National Museum of Natural History is a great museum, and a fun museum for kids. If we would have spent about 3 hours, that may have been sufficient. This is a snippet of what the National Museum of Natural History has to offer. There are also moving exhibits and other Halls we didn’t have time for. Oh, and here is a tip, Tuesdays you can view the butterfly exhibit for free! So if going for a week, than you will want to spend Tuesday here. All-in-all, it’s definitely a museum you should go to. We went, we saw, we conquered and totally recommend. We give it two thumbs up!
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