Smithsonian Institution

"The Nation's Attic," the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, is the world"s largest museum complex and research organization. Composed of 17 museums and the National Zoo in metropolitan Washington DC, and two New York facilities, the Smithsonian Institution museums offer visitors a window on its enormous holdings, including in excess of 142 million artifacts. The Smithsonian Institution museum's holdings are so vast that exhibitors display only about 1% or 2% of the collection's holdings at any given time.

Smithsonian Institution Museums
Smithsonian Institution Museums

The Smithsonian institute in Washington DC's holdings range every area of human interest, from a 3.5-billion-year-old fossil to part of a 1902 Horn & Hardart Automat. The Smithsonian has funded countless exploratory projects for science, increasing our knowledge of the furthest reaches of civilization. The Smithsonian Institution museums in Washington DC include the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of the American Indian, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the National Museum of American History, the American Museum of African Art, among others. Somewhat prominent is Smithsonian Institution Building.

This red, nineteenth-century palace of sandstone, commonly referred to as the "Castle," is the national mall's oldest structure, nonetheless it houses the high-tech comprehensive Smithsonian Information Center. Its Great Hall shows a half hour film summarizing the institution for visitors, which runs regularly all day. There are also enormous electronic maps and models depicting the national mall. Extensive interactive exhibits and videos allow tourists to find almost 100 popular destinations, as well as their respective public transportation stops.

The castle makes a good first stop, as you wander through the ten museums on the National Mall. Enter through the gardens, and pay attention to the beautiful entrance hall, which has been restored to its late nineteenth century appearance. It was originally designed to display exhibits at a child's eye level. The ceiling, gilded with gold, depicts a lush arbor of grapes with royally plumed birds, and cobalt sky peeping through trelliswork. There is a coffee kiosk outside near the Enid A. Haupt Garden, where you can settle on a bench and plan your day. On Sundays, start to your Washington DC Smithsonian adventure at the Castle, which serves a fabulous brunch from 11 am until 2pm in the Commons Room.

Smithsonian Institution Map
Smithsonian Institution Map

Since it is impossible to visit all of the fifteen fascinating museums in a single visit, it's best to pick a few, and save the rest for your next trip. Most of the Smithsonian museums in Washington DC are located within a one-mile region between Independence and Constitution Avenues downtown. Admission is free for all Smithsonian museums in Washington DC, so walk at leisure but wear comfortable shoes. The easiest way to enjoy getting to the museums on the National Mall is to avoid parking if possible. Take a cab, or better, experience Washington's Metrorail, which has several stops of use, the most central being the one bearing the name Smithsonian. Who knows what you will enjoy most, but everyone finds something interesting at the Washington DC Smithsonian. An ongoing celebration of our national and world cultures, the Smithsonian institute in Washington DC represents for Americans the treasured icons of our past, the vibrant art of our present, and the scientific promise of our future.

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