Smithsonian Natural History Museum

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One of the most iconic museums on the National Mall is the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. This large museum takes you through many different scientific periods and discoveries. It is great for kids because there are many animals, rocks, and other things they will be enjoy.

The first section of the Natural History Museum goes through the history of hominids. There are skeletons and comparisons of many of the Earth’s earliest inhabitants. This section is very interesting, but if you have small children, they will want to move on to the animals. We spent a little too much time and had to rush through some of the fun rocks and animals because of our time schedule. We would either skip the evolution section, or at least hustle through next time.

There were some great hands-on displays.

The animal rooms are arranged by their environments. You’ll walk through forests, savannas, and ocean areas. Each section has taxidermied animals along with descriptions and information. Our boys felt like they were at the zoo, but many of the animals are much more rare. Make sure to visit the giant squid, as it is a highlight of the Natural History Museum.

We had so much wandering around the Natural History Museum.
Our boys loved seeing the different animals.
The displays had lots of great information for families to learn.
Our boys were mostly grossed out by the squid.

The second floor of the museum houses rocks and gems. The Hope Diamond is the main feature, but there are thousands of different stones, all with unique combinations of colors. There are magnetic rocks, meteors, and rare semi-precious stones. We could easily have spent two hours just looking at rocks!

Our boys were underwhelmed by the Hope Diamond. They expected the largest diamond in the world to be, well, larger.
They were more impressed with some of the other stones and gems like this turquoise piece.
There were gems of every color. This was easily our favorite area of the museum.
This diamond necklace was cool.

Another section of the museum houses bones. There are dozens of skeletons of all kinds of different creatures. Some are ancient fossils, but most are the skeletons of modern animals that are rare to see in any other museum. This section is a bit smaller, but there is still plenty to see.

There are some neat dinosaur fossils.
We loved all the skeletons.

All this plus a “Birds of DC” collection can be found permanently in the Natural History Museum. But there are also rotating exhibits, so you could spend days and not see everything in this museum. We spent almost 3 hours wandering through the Natural History Museum, and could easily have spent more. Our kids said this was their favorite Smithsonian Museum.

We are bird lovers, so we enjoyed seeing the birds of DC exhibit.
There are a few live insects to see, too.
The Natural History Museum is a definite must see in Washington DC.

Tips for Families

  • Depending on how much time you have, pick your “must sees” before heading into the museum. Then plan your route around those items.
  • No food is permitted in the museum, but they do allow bottled water.
  • There is a butterfly pavilion in the Natural History Museum where you can walk among the butterflies. If you can plan your visit on Tuesday, visits are FREE. Otherwise it costs $7.50/adults and $6.50/kids. More info here.

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