Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History displays treasures of nature and of humankind. More than 81 million artifacts are presented, including dinosaur skeletons, an enormous collection of natural gems and minerals, exhibits on early man, an insect zoo, a live coral reef and much more. They tell of forces that generate, shape, and sustain natural and cultural diversity. More than a century of careful collecting and research by scientists has resulted in an unsurpassed world collection of more than 120 million natural and cultural objects. While sightseeing in DC, visit these exhibit halls and discover the joys of natural history.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Before you step inside the museum, stop outside first, on the 9th Street side of the building, to visit the extensive butterfly garden. The garden is at its best in warm weather, but it's open year-round, like most of the museums in Washington DC. Once inside, you won't want to miss Dinosaur Hall, which displays giant skeletons of creatures that dominated the earth for 140 million years before their extinction about 65 million years ago. Hanging from the rafters above Dinosaur Hall are models of prehistoric birds, among them a full scale replica of a pterosaur, which boasted a wingspan of 10 meters. Another popular exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is the O. Orkin Insect Zoo, where visitors can have fun examining centipedes, tarantulas, and other insects, as well as crawling through a model of an African termite mound.

Hope Diamond
Hope Diamond

Some exhibits are ongoing, and others stay only a few weeks. Recent exhibits included "The Spirit of Ancient Colombian Gold." For millennia, shamans in the region that is now Colombia used gold in their religious rituals to see the world through different eyes - as a bird, jaguar, or other animal. A different culture was represented in the recent "Frost: Life and Culture of the Sámi - Reindeer People of Norway," a photo journal of the Sámi people, the tribes indigenous to the Scandinavian region. Also exhibiting currently is the timely "Sikhs: Legacy of the Punjab," which explores the culture, art, history and beliefs of the Sikh people, who originally lived in the Punjab, an area now part of Pakistan and northern India.

Smithsonian Natural History Museum
Smithsonian Natural History Museum

Don't miss this treasure trove while sightseeing in DC. Free weekday highlight tours of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History are available beginning in the Rotunda. Whether self-guiding or with a group, leave time for the Discovery Center, funded by the Discovery Channel, featuring the Johnson IMAX theater with a six-story-high screen for 2-D and 3-D movies. Recent shows included Space Station, Fighter Pilot, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and Roving Mars. There is also a cavernous, airy food court around the Atrium Cafe, and gift shopping that have recently been enlarged. The museum also offers the small Fossil Café, located within the dinosaur exhibit on the first floor. Here, the fifty tables are really display cases full of fossils you can study whilst enjoying the cafe fare. According to adults and children alike, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is one of the most fun museums in Washington DC!

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