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National Museum of Natural History

National Museum of Natural History Review

This is one of the world's great natural history museums, with 18 exhibition halls, one of the largest IMAX screens in the world, giant dinosaur fossils, glittering gems, creepy-crawly insects, and other natural delights. There are more than 126 million specimens in all, attracting more than 7 million visitors annually.

Highlights

In 2013, the museum opened Q?RIUS, a state-of-the-art, hands-on space featuring 6,000 natural- and human-made objects, onsite experts, and an array digital tools that focus on the natural world.

Walk among hundreds of brilliantly colored, live butterflies in the Butterfly Pavilion, which requires a separate admission. For a different kind of entomological experience, check out giant millipedes and furry tarantulas in O. Orkin Insect Zoo.

See perfectly preserved male and female giant squids, a jaw-dropping replica of a whale, and the vivid ecosystem of a living coral reef in the Sant Ocean Hall, the museum's largest exhibit. Tours are offered weekends at 11 and 2. The Ocean Explorer Theater stimulates a dive into the depths of the sea.

While the Dinosaur and Fossil Halls are under construction from 2014 to 2019, a new temporary exhibit lets you see not only dinosaur and other fossils, but also take a peek at what goes into making a new, large-scale fossil exhibition.

Drool over the jewels of the National Gem Collection in the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals: Marie Antoinette's earrings; the 77-carat Cindy Chao Royal Butterfly Brooch; and the Hope Diamond, a rare 45.52-carat blue gem donated by Harry Winston in 1958.

Tips

The IMAX theater shows two- and three-dimensional natural history films throughout the day. Buy advance tickets at the box office when you arrive, then tour the museum.

The Butterfly Pavilion makes a great photo op. Timed tickets sell out fast—buy them in advance online or when you arrive. The pavilion is free on Tuesday, but still requires a timed ticket.

The Discovery Room has hands-on activities and workshops for kids.

The museum's three restaurants received a 3-star certification from the Green Restaurant Association; they serve local, all-natural, organic, sustainable fare on compostable flatware.

    Contact Information

  • Address: Constitution Ave. and 10th St. NW, The Mall, Washington, DC 20013 | Map It
  • Phone: 202/633–1000
  • Cost: Free; IMAX $9; Butterfly Pavilion $6 adults, $5 kids, free Tues.
  • Hours: Museum daily 10–5:30, May–Sept. until 7.30; Discovery Room Tues.–Fri. noon–2:30, weekends 10:30–3:30
  • Website:
  • Metro Smithsonian or Federal Triangle.
  • Location: The Mall
Updated: 06-05-2013

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