Kids love this museum and so did we. The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History is a national treasure. Its three floors, interactive exhibits and more than 145 million specimens make this a bucket list daytrip destination. The museum is an exceptional collection of one-of-a-kind treasures. You can spend two hours there, or ten — and there’ll still be more to see.
The National Museum of Natural History is one of the most visited and most popular museums in the world Multiple halls explore topics including the animal kingdom, dinosaurs, skeletons, under the oceans, ancient Egypt, human origins, pandemics, and more.
Of course there’s also the iconic bull elephant in the rotund which has greeted visitors from the National Mall entrance since 1959.
Opened in 1910, the museum was one of the first Smithsonian buildings constructed exclusively to hold the national collections and research facilities.
What To Expect at the National Museum of Natural History
This is a huge museum. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. We recommend heading to the exhibits you want to see the most first, then looping in the other exhibits as your time allows.
One of the most popular exhibits is the Hall of Dinosaurs, with its multiple assembled dinosaur skeletons and more than 700 fossils. Of course, you’ll want to see the authentic Tyrannosaurus Rex, the centerpiece of the hall. But you’ll also want to take in the Sauropod which saurs (get it? I crack myself up) above the heads of children and adults alike.
I loved the exhibit of minerals and gems. We went there for the infamous Hope Diamond, but then got lured in to all the other amazing pieces of gems and rocks. The gemstone exhibit, located on the third floor, features some of the rarest jewelry in the world. You’ll want to see the Star of Asia, a giganto star saphire, among others.
If you’ve never been to a butterfly garden, then you’ll want to carve out time for a visit to the Butterfly Pavilion. This is where you can stroll through a tropical oasis where butterflies float freely around guests. You’ll need a timed ticket for this exhibit. You can reserve your ticket online (there’s a small service charge) or purchase them at the Information Desk in the Rotunda or the kiosk next to the pavilion.
Know Before You Go
The closest Metro stations to the museum are the Federal Triangle Metro station, located on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines; the Archives/Navy Memorial station on the Green and Yellow lines; and Smithsonian Station. There is exceptionally limited parking on the street.
The museum offers easy access for strollers and wheelchairs; there are multiple elevators, several shops for souvenirs and gifts, as well as a nice café area.
Plan to spend at least 2 hours if you want to see the museum’s highlights. If you want to read and learn about the exhibits, allow yourself a half day.
Getting there: 10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC
Hours: 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., including holidays with the exception of December 25
Website: Natural History Museum
Check out other attractions on the National Mall in the articles below:
- Eisenhower Memorial
- Hirshorn Museum
- National Gallery of Art East Building
- National Museum of American History
- National Museum of the American Indian
- National Sculpture Garden
- Smithsonian Castle
- US Botanic Garden
Looking for more great things to see and do in and near DC?