In Washington, D.C., there is a Smithsonian Museum Association, which runs the National Museum of Nature, the Aerospace Museum and the Indian Museum, all of which are the largest in the world.
Probably my favorite museum on planet Earth. Growing up in the DC metro area, I had the good fortune of regularly dragging my poor parents, grandparents and school teachers here time and again, and never did I tire of seeing it all over. My favorites have changed over the years, from a childhood love of dinosaurs to a youthful love of Pleistocene mammals, and now I'm partial to the new Ocean Hall and the impressive IMAX theatre. I shouldn't be surprised that I ended up working in a field that has allowed me behind-the-scenes and after hours access for late night events at this venue - but nevertheless I feel special in that a childhood wonderland has turned into important landmark of my adult profession. If you're visiting DC as a tourist, forget the Declaration of Independence - this is THE not to be missed attraction!
All of the Smithsonian museums are amazing, and considering they're free they certainly make sure you get your money's worth, but some kids (especially younger ones) just don't get into it.The Natural History Museum is a great exception. There's plenty for young people to do and look as, with interactive exhibits and enough electronic widgets around to make the experience feel modern for young visitors. My son has always enjoyed going, even at a very young age! Parking can be difficult but the Smithsonian Metro stop isn't far away, so consider that as an option to save some time and headache.
A must see - go directly to the Gems and Minerals exhibit and check out some of the most beautiful specimen in the world, including the Hope Diamond. Also of interest, although there is a charge: the Butterly Room. It is fabulous. Great experience, terribly crowded (Saturday), but that is how it goes. Hint: go against the grain of traffic in the Jewelry exhibit - you will find it much less of a frustrating experience if it is crowded. Gives you ability to poke your head in and then step away and out of the masses.
The first time I visited this museum I was quite young. We walked in the doors, my father took one look at the crowds and decided visiting wasn't worth it so we left. I held that decision against him for years. How can one decide to NOT visit a Natural History Museum? I made it back on my own and had a fantastic time. The exhibits were great and I particularly enjoyed all of the prehistoric creatures in the collection although I think they could stand to improve their lighting.
This is really an impressive place and by the way it's free. If you went exhibit by exhibit you could spend a few hours here and if you wear a Fitbit or similar product you are going to get your steps for the day by the time you see everything! Great place for families and I honestly don't have anything really negative to say about it. Did I mention it's free? This one was definitely a little more hands-on and toddler friendly then the Space Museum but we made a day out of both of them.
The Smithsonian Institution—the world’s largest museum and research complex—includes 19 museums and galleries and the National Zoological Park. Eleven Smithsonian Museums line the National Mall; the Mall is an open green space extending almost two miles from the west front of the U.S. Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial on the Potomac River. All of the Smithsonian Museums are FREE and open every day except Christmas.
This museum is my favorite in DC. There is a giant elephant that welcomes you right when you walk in. Another great part of the museum is it's underwater Jurassic exhibit in Life in the Ancient Seas on the 1st floor. Great place to spend the day, but allot for plenty of time since this museum is big and full of cool exhibits. It can also great really crowded on the weekends...especially around the holidays.
Can you hear the soundtrack playing? (Hums Almost Paradise) I could spend hours upon hours here. And then go back and do it all again. And, yet again, it's free! As fabulous as the Hope Diamond (currently on display) is, it's not the most interesting item here. Nature truly is the greatest artist - full of surprises and constantly changing, evolving art forms, and a color palette that Crayola can only envy.
All of the Smithsonian’s 20 museums - the Museum of Natural History, the National Air and Space Museum, the Museum of American History, the National Portrait Gallery, and the National Zoo, to name just a few - are absolutely free to visit. Same with the Capitol Building and the Library of Congress. Unless you go in the middle of a weekday you’ll probably have to battle crowds, but the visit is well worth it.