Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

#8 in Best Things To Do in Washington, D.C.
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History picture
Alex Proimos/Flickr

Key Info

1000 Constitution Avenue Northwest

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Museums, Free Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
4.5scorecard
  • 5.0Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 4.0Atmosphere

With more than 126 million artifacts on display, this robust Smithsonian museum on the National Mall attracts millions of visitors each year. Some of the museum's highlights include tarantula feedings in the O. Orkin Insect Zoo and the replicas of giant whales and other marine life in the 23,000-square-foot Sant Ocean Hall. You can also venture to the Samuel C. Johnson IMAX Theater for a show or the Butterfly Pavilion for some fluttery fun with multi-colored bugs. And no stop at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History would be complete without stopping by the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins, which traces the history of human species over the past 6 million years and displays life-size models of early human faces generated using modern forensic techniques. While the museum's famous National Fossil Hall is currently closed while it undergoes renovations, dinosaur fossils can be viewed in "The Last American Dinosaurs: Discovering a Lost World" exhibit on the second floor.

Although this museum is especially appealing to families, past visitors said there's something for everyone here. However, the property can get quite crowded on weekends, holidays and during the busy summer season, so consider arriving on a weekday or in the offseason if you don't want to rub elbows with crowds. Recent museumgoers also suggested saving some time for the Hope Diamond exhibit.

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History's exhibits and facilities (including restrooms, four gift shops and two cafes) are free to visit, but fees do apply for the IMAX theater and the Butterfly Pavilion. IMAX screenings cost $9 per adult and $7.50 for children between 2 and 12; for $6, you can explore the Butterfly Pavilion (kids ages 2 to 12 can enter for $5). The museum welcomes visitors daily between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., with extended hours in the summer months. It can be reached by taking the DC Ciruclator's National Mall bus or the Metro to Federal Triangle, Smithsonian or Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter stations. More information about the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is available on the property's website.

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More Best Things To Do in Washington, D.C.

Lincoln Memorial
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#1 Lincoln Memorial

Although the Lincoln Memorial is just one of the District's many monuments, the larger-than-life Honest Abe is also among travelers' favorites. History buffs might enjoy the man of few (albeit powerful) words' two famous speeches, the second inaugural address and the Gettysburg Address, which are both etched into the memorial's opposing walls. Meanwhile, art history and architecture aficionados will enjoy admiring the building's striking design by Henry Bacon, complete with 38 Doric columns, 36 of which signify the states in the Union at the time Lincoln passed away.

Though most agree the Lincoln Memorial is worth checking out during the day or at night, many recent travelers say the most captivating time to visit is after dark when the attraction is lit and less crowded. Plus, evening temps will make peak summer visits more comfortable.

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