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Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

Indoor Free
Science Museums, Natural History Museums, School Trip, Educational, Cultural, Historical, Touristy
Smithsonian National Museum Of Natural History, Washington, DC
URL: Smithsonian Museum of Natural...  Phone: 202-633-1000

Activity Overview

At the Museum of Natural History, popular kid destinations include the Orkin Insect Zoo, Hall of Gems and Minerals, Discovery Room, and Dinosaur-Fossil Hall (which is under renovation until 2019).

The largest (stuffed) African bush elephant in the world is located at the rotunda's center. If your kids like spiders and insects, then check out the tarantula feedings at the Insect Zoo. The Discovery Center houses hands-on-activities and a state-of-the art Johnson IMAX Theater.

Things to See & Do

African Elephant (Rotunda) - The museum's 8-ton, 14-foot-tall African elephant is in a setting that re-creates the Angolan bush. The diorama also introduces important ideas in botany, entomology, mineral sciences, and zoology, as well as information the elephants' importance in African cultures.

Orkin Insect Zoo - A special exhibit hall on the 2nd Floor of the Museum where visitors can observe live insects and their many-legged relatives. Volunteers conduct tarantula feeding demonstrations, work with live insects that visitors may touch and hold, and answer questions about the many-legged creatures that live in the Insect Zoo.

Live Coral Reef (Ocean Hall) - In addition to seeing fabulous and ferocious fossils, amazing preserved specimens and models, the ocean hall's living model coral reef ecosystem-teeming with life!

Live Butterflies & Plants Pavillion - Immerse yourself in the tropical ecosystem of exotic plants and beautiful butterflies. There is a small ticket fee associated with this exhibit.

Hope Diamond - In addition to being the must see at the Smithsonian Institution, it is recognized around the world, and is even used by media in our society as the ultimate example of value and perfection. While certainly not the biggest diamond in the world (45 carats), it is one of the most well-known and beautiful. And blue diamonds are most rare. It may be one of the most visited museum pieces in the world.

Dom Pedro Aquamarine - In the late 1980s, an exceptionally large aquamarine crystal was found by three Brazilian miners in Pedra Azul, Minas Gerais, Brazil. These Brazilian prospectors, garimperos, accidentally dropped the meter-long aquamarine, breaking it into three pieces. A Brazilian buyer, whose identity is unknown to us, purchased the fragmented pieces. The finest and largest piece was saved and transformed into what is now known as the Dom Pedro Aquamarine.

Museum of Natural History Insider Tips

  • Getting There: Blue & Orange Lines to Smithsonian station
  • Dining: There is a large cafeteria with decent food on the lower level for museum visitors.
  • Online Maps & Tours: Here is a useful map of the museum to help you get your bearings on where things are. You can also take a nifty panoramic virtual tour.
  • Admission is free to the museum and programs, (except the Butterfly Pavilion, which is free Tuesdays only, and the IMAX Theatre).
  • Best times to visit: (least crowded) would be between Monday and Wednesday, (or any weekday) during September and February. The busiest times to visit (most crowded) would be anytime from late March - July.
  • Strollers & Wheelchairs should enter through the Constitution Avenue doors (there are ramps and automatic doors there).

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