Visit DC Museum of Natural History – in Person or Online

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. receives about 7,000,000 visitors each year. You can be part of that number and go there to see it for yourself (it’s free – no admission fee!), or “visit” by using the Smithsonian’s amazing virtual tour. Or, do both!

For a virtual visit of Venice, Italy, see the Sleeps5 description of Google Trek Venice.

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The Natural History Museum is located right on The Mall in Washington DC, just a few blocks from the Washington Monument, with the National Museum of American History on one side and the National Sculpture Garden on the other. See a fantastic map of the area on the National Park Service website.

Tips and Reviews:

With its giant IMAX screen, hands-on activities, and displays of humans and animals and earth features from around the world, it’s no wonder Fodor’s calls the museum “one of the world’s great natural history museums”.

Additional resources:

Parent reviews of the museum from Trekaroo.

Thorough description of the museum and many of its sections from KidFriendly DC.

Advice for managing kids on a visit to such a large museum from Everything Mom.

A frank, slightly negative review from Frommer’s that strongly urges visitors to avoid overwhelm by planning ahead.

Plan Your Visit:

Yes, the museum gets so many visitors that the museum’s own website has a calendar feature depicting the most crowded times of the year, and a colorful heat map showing which days of the week are crowded and which hours of each day are busy or quiet.

For general plan-ahead purposes, see the museum’s Plan Your Visit page, which shows hours, explains that admission is always FREE, though tickets must be purchased for IMAX movies and some exhibits such as the butterflies, and describes the shop and cafe options.

Fun Museum Preview Idea: Though the setting for the ‘Night at the Museum’ movies is mainly New York City’s American Museum of Natural History, kids might better understand what to expect for a visit to the DC Museum of Natural History by watching. Caution, the movies are PG-rated. There are three star-studded movies with Ben Stiller as the lead in each: Night at the Museum (2006), Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009), and Night at the Museum 3 (2014).

Visit Online – Virtual Tour:

If you want to ‘see’ the museum without actually visiting, or if you want a preview to help plan your in-person visit, see the National Museum of Natural History Virtual Tour!

How to Use Computer Mouse and Keyboard Functions to Explore the Museum’s Virtual Tour

In each area, you can click and drag your cursor anywhere to move around. Your scroll functions will zoom in and out.

The upper right of the screen has the words ‘ground’, ‘first’, and ‘second’ and clicking on one brings a popup diagram of that floor. Hover over any dot and the name of the area or display will appear. Click in any space of the floor diagram to move to that area.

An icon bar at the bottom explains the virtual tour’s keyboard functions and symbols to help you move around.

    *The question mark brings up a pop up box to diagram the cursor and mouse controls.
    *The arrows can move you left, right, up, or down.
    *The plus and minus symbols take you closer or farther away.
    *The left and right arrows at the outer edges of the icon bar move you from room to room.
    *The two boxes with an up arrow on top gives you thumbnail preview screens of the next rooms, which are also links to those rooms.

The house icon will get you to the home page. And the home page has links to additional virtual tours of select past exhibits and other resources.
See the Washington DC Hotels Sleeps5 page for hotels, suites, and a hostel with large rooms to accommodate a family of 5, 6, 7, or 8 people.

-Sandy Nielsen

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