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National Museum of Natural History

  • Constitution Ave. and 10th St. NW Map It
  • The Mall

Updated 05/23/2014

Fodor's 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.


Discover Q?RIUS, a state-of-the-art, hands-on space featuring 6,000 natural- and human-made objects, onsite experts, and an array of 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 the 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.

Watch in amazement as paleobiologists study the newest addition to the museum's collection of 46 million fossils, including the Wankel T. rex found in Montana in 1988. One of the most complete T. rex skeletons ever discovered, it will form the centerpiece of the new 25,000-sq. ft. dinosaur hall that's under construction and scheduled for completion in 2019. Currently, selected dinosaurs and fossils, including a cast of this T. rex skull, are on display in other parts of the museum, but in 2015 "The Last American Dinosaurs: Discovering a Lost World" will open and remain on display throughout the construction period.

Drool over the National Gem Collection in the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals, including 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 and said to be cursed.


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.

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Sight Information


Constitution Ave. and 10th St. NW, Washington, District of Columbia, 20013, United States

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Sight Details:

  • Free; IMAX $9; Butterfly Pavilion $6 (free Tues.)
  • Daily 10–5:30 (until 7:30 May–Sept.); Discovery Room Tues.–Fri. noon–2:30, weekends 10:30–3:30

Updated 05/23/2014


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