All Smithsonian Museums and the National Zoo are closed at this time due to COVID-19. A re-opening date has not yet been announced. You can’t visit the museum in person at the moment, but you can tour it virtually here.
The Smithsonian Natural History Museum is the third most visited museum in the world and for good reason; it doesn’t cost a dime to tour some of the greatest natural artifacts on earth. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m every day (except Christmas), visitors can sneak a peak at the Hope Diamond, explore the recently opened David H. Koch Hall of Fossils or watch a live feeding of a tarantula. Read on for the best things to see and do at this museum, located on the National Mall and 10th St. and Constitution Ave. NW.
Meet Henry, the African bush elephant that has greeted visitors from the National Mall entrance since 1959. Henry, located in The Rotunda by the National Mall Entrance, is a great place to start your museum visit (there is a second entrance on Constitution Ave.). Here you'll find an Information Desk where you can pick up a museum map and get details on the day's events. You can also purchase tickets for the Butterfly Pavilion. Can you "feel" Henry's greeting? Stomp, stomp, Hello! In The Rotunda, you will feel" an elephant voice, the vibrations used by these large mammals to communicate over long distances.
David H. Koch Fossil Hall
Get ready to march, march, march your way through this 30,000 square foot exhibit space while you hum "We are the Dinosaurs" quietly to yourself while roaming the still-new Fossil Hall. There's a lot to see here, but the authentic T. Rex is the show stopper.
Sant Ocean Hall
Dive into this underwater exhibit where the ocean's top secrets are on display. Taking center stage is a 45-foot replica of Phoenix, a real-life whale who regularly migrates from George to Canada (and back). If the ocean's very own unicorn, the narwhal, is more your speed, you'll find a model of one of those, as well! You'll also find 600 more sea creatures to explore in this hall.
The Butterfly Pavilion
Enjoy a stroll through a tropical oasis where butterflies float freely around guests. Be still and a butterly may land on your shoulder, head... or nose! You need a timed-ticket to visit these winged insects; tickets are $6.50/2-12; $7.50/13-59 and $7/60 & up. Entry is free every Tues. (but timed tickets are still required). You can reserve your ticket online ($2/service charge) or purchase them at the museum. They do sell out fast, so be sure to make your first stop the ticket counter. Tickets can be purchased at the Information Desk in the Rotunda or at the kiosk next to the pavilion. The Butterfly Pavilion is wheelchair accessible, but strollers are not permitted. Be sure to wear layers for this experience, it is a humid 80 degrees inside the pavilion.
Q?rius, The Coralyn W. Whitney Science Education Center
Focused on hands-on activities and education, Q?rius (pronounced curious) has over 6,000 artifacts and exhibits kids can touch, explore and play with. This Center also features lectures and workshops. Have a kiddo under 6? The Q?rius Jr. area lets kids hold and handle butterfly wings, rock specimens and authentic dolls from around the world.
— Meghan Yudes Meyers