Visiting the Smithsonian Natural History Museum put a pretty good hole in my “Travel America Bucket List” along with the rest of my family – and all for different reasons! For my kids – they just HAD to see “dum dum” (you know, from the Night at the Museum movie!). Which I’m pretty sure is on every kid’s dream list! But it’s turned into a great history lesson for them!
Their lives were pretty much complete after we darted through what seemed like a zillion people to grab a photo with one of the famous Easter Island Statues. For me – I just wanted to go to a Smithsonian museum – any of them! But once I went to the Natural History Museum I found myself craving to go to the other museums. It’s no joke – they are BIG museums filled with priceless history from around the world. And dragging a family of 5 around DC walking for miles is serious stuff, but this museum was an awesome experience for all of us and our kids LOVED it!
Although all of us had heard of the Hope Diamond none of us knew much about it or had seen it before so that was a treat. I won’t lie though, in my mind I always imagined it as this gigantic larger than life necklace even though I know that wasn’t the case so it seemed much smaller than my mind had pictured! It’s also on a rotating stand so taking a photo of it while fighting the crowds with a baby is quite the task!
I’m not going to lie – walking through the halls of the gems and minerals was my absolute favorite (until I went to the next exhibit of course!). I’m a NUT over rocks and minerals so I was pretty much in heaven. My kids walked through the stunning displays rattling off all of the stones they use in Minecraft that they could find which made for a pretty cool educational experience! I told myself I’d remember the names of these amazing pieces of nature but of course now I don’t have a clue what any of it is! This was, however, one of my favorite items!
This jewel encrusted bug was stunning to view!
The colors, the displays, the descriptions and the time it took to put together these exhibits is absolutely amazing. Unfortunately visiting during the summer means peak season with thousands of other visitors. Top that onto 3 kids between the ages of 7 months and 8 years old and although they were enthralled with the stunning collection – it could only hold their amazement for so long!
These minerals here are grey but there were oodles of exhibits filled with breathtaking bright colors that I never dreamed could be found naturally in our great outdoors. I hope someday I can go back without small children and big crowds and really take my time through these exhibits!
Usually when we travel and visit museums we have a game plan, especially with one so vast as any of the Smithsonian museums. But this time – we didn’t! And it was OK! Because of our extremely tight time frame it was overwhelming to try and figure out what we wanted to see first and the path to take so we decided to just go and enjoy – not micromanage our experience. I’m glad we did. It was far too busy during the summer to try and move around quickly so I definitely recommend just going and enjoy your own pace!
Our “MUST SEE” here was the Insectarium area though. Having 2 boys means our family is quite bug friendly! It was insanely packed when we went which meant unfortunately we didn’t acquire tickets to the butterfly exhibit but in the middle of the insanity a museum worker was brave enough to have his cart of critters and even let the children handle each of them – I was very impressed! I really appreciated the opportunity they offered to kids by holding and teaching them about caterpillars, roaches, praying mantises, and more!
Make sure you look UP for this polar bear! We almost didn’t see it and we were right underneath!
There is also an AMAZING monsterous sized room brightly lit with ceiling to floor displays of incredible taxidermy animals. From seals to a walrus, big cats and yes, even a full sized giraffe – it was an amazing up close opportunity my kids may not ever get again. And I’m pretty sure they won’t be getting that close to a lion’s face again! We were within an inch from this strong lion!
We found ourselves wandering through a crisp blue room packed with rarities from the sea including this deep see anglerfish – the only “real” one I’ve ever seen in my life. My kids especially loved the RARE jellyfish on display – a tiny one in which only 3 have ever been found in the world! And THEY got to see it!
The architecture was stunning which you can easily miss by staring at all of the amazing exhibits. Tall vaulted ceilings and beautiful decor – it’s like stepping back in time!
The last exhibit which we almost missed altogether as we were running out of time was his interesting bird exhibit – all perfectly labeled and perched on different tree branches. It was really amazing for my kids to see all of the different species and animals they’ll never see again in their lifetime lined up in a row just a few inches from their face!