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Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History reopens | It’s A DC Thing

Playing with butterflies make better souvenirs than postcards! On the 2nd floor next to the elevator is the Live Butterfly Pavilion where butterflies fly freely! You need to get timed entry tickets ahead of time online here. In the full Guides, I have Gift Shop Alternatives for each age group. Because all parents know how hard it is to get out of a gift shop!

Whether you are checking out the National Museum of Natural History for a specific exhibit or visiting with out of town guests this season, I hope this mini-guide was helpful! Comment below and tell us about your favorite part of the Natural History Museum.

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Hall Of Fossils: Deep Time

Dinosaur lovers rejoice: visitors will once again be able to roam among prehistoric giants, including a dramatically posed Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton, the plant-eating sauropod Diplodocus and gargantuan Ice-Age creatures such as the wooly mammoth.

As Riley Black reported for Smithsonian magazine at the time, the Natural Historys famed dinosaur hall reopened in 2019 after the most extensive renovation in the museums history. Now, the exhibition takes viewers on a trip through deep time to the present day, emphasizing humanitys own outsized role in determining the future of the planet.

How Much Time Do You Need

This museum is large enough that it would probably take weeks to thoroughly visit all of the exhibitions.

For this reason, we suggest that you pick a few exhibitions that interest you and set out to visit those first.

Its a good idea to plan on spending at least an hour in the museum.


Since this museum tries to cover all American History and culture, many guests can feel overwhelmed when deciding which exhibitions to visit.

Luckily, for this same reason, there really is something to interest everyone in the museum.

Here is a full list of exhibitions , and weve listed some of our favorites below.

Please note that the museum does sometimes close exhibitions or remove objections for preservation work.

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Metro To The Smithsonian Natural History Museum

The nearest Metro stations are the Smithsonian Metro station and Federal Triangle metro. The Smithsonian Metro is the equivalent of 4 blocks away from the Madison Drive entrance. The Federal Triangle Metro is the equivalent of 4 blocks away from the Constitution Avenue entrance. If you cannot walk up stairs, use the Federal Triangle Metro to go to the Constitution Avenue entrance to the museum.

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Everyone who receives their vaccination at the Museum will receive a voucher for complimentary general admission to the Museum for up to a group of four. You can redeem this voucher online to reserve timed-entry general admission for a future visit.

How do I redeem my voucher?

  • Go to to make a timed-entry reservation.
  • Check the box that says “I am an IDNYC member, corporate member, corporate rewards program member, a pass/voucher holder or have a library pass or Culture Pass.”
  • Select the number of visitors , click/tap the Reserve Tickets button, and then select a date and time.
  • Bring both your confirmation email and your voucher with you on the scheduled date.
  • Explore more about in the age of COVID-19.

    Learn more about what the Museum is doing to help .

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    Whats Inside The National Museum Of Natural History

    The museum contains some of the most famous artifacts in the world. The has the supposedly cursed Hope Diamond on display. Meanwhile, Q?rius, the museums education center, offers teens and tweens a lab where they can make their own scientific discoveries.

    After a five-year renovation, the museum has reopened its David H. Koch Hall of Fossils. The 31,000-square-foot exhibits theme is Deep Time, borrowed from a scientific phrase that illustrates how Earths history has played out over billions of years. Prepare to be amazed, overwhelmed, engaged and dazzled by one of the biggest exhibitions to come to DC in years.

    Other permanent exhibits include an insect zoo and The Sant Ocean Hall, which features an exact replica of a living North Atlantic right whale.

    Smithsonian Natural History Museum Opening Hours

    The Smithsonian Natural History Museum opening hours are from 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM most days of the year. During summer and on many busy weekends during the year, Smithsonian Natural History Museum opening hours are extended until 7:30 PM. The museum is open every day of the year except Christmas Day.

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    African American History And Culture Museum

    Sweet Home CaféSweet Home Cafe is temporarily serving a limited menu. The 2017 James Beard Award nominated Sweet Home Café boasts both refined and down-home cooking intricately linked to the geographic regions that inspired each dish, revealing stories about African American culture. through food.11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday

    Cant Get A Pass To Enter The Smithsonian What Else To Do In Dc

    Smithsonian Institution Natural History Museum Mammals exhibit in Washington D.C.

    Washington DC has some of the most amazing monuments and memorials that you will find anywhere in the world. Visiting the monuments on your own requires a great deal of walking and a lot of time. Your best option to see all the memorials in only 2-4 hours is to take a private tour of the monuments with Nonpartisan Pedicab.

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    Dining At The Smithsonian

    A wide variety of drinks, snacks, and dining options are available in and around our museums. Pick up quick bites from our food carts located on the National Mall side of the Air and Space, American History, and Natural History museums, and the Smithsonian Castle .

    Group sales options are available for parties of 10 or more. Please call Smithsonian Enterprises at 866.868.7774 or email

    Please note: No accommodations are available for eating bag lunches within the museums except in the Kogod Courtyard of the Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture.

    As we reopen, were putting safety first. See our hours and admission information and safety protocols to plan your visit. Timed-entry passes are required at three locations. All locations are closed Dec. 25.

    Parking At The Smithsonian Commercial Parking Lots Nearby

    There are commercial parking garages on all the cross streets north of Pennsylvania Avenue. The nearest to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum is on 10th Street between Pennyslvania and E Streets. A popular garage that never runs out of space is the parking garage under the Ronald Reagan Building. Very centrally located. Weekday rates in 2021 are $25 for up to 15 hours and $17 all day on weekends.

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    National Museum Of Natural History

    The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History virtual tours allow visitors to take self-guided, room-by-room tours of select exhibits and areas within the museum from their desktop or mobile device. Visitors can also access select collections and research areas at our satellite support and research stations as well as past exhibits no longer on display.

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    Café Italian restaurant and caterer Tarallucci e Vino operates our new ground-floor café, featuring a contemporary layout and expanded seating inside and outside in the adjoining Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden.

    A seasonal menu offers Tarallucci’s popular pastries, legendary espresso, salads, soups, and panini, as well as a large selection of wines by the glass.

    Open during museum hours. Tickets are not required to visit the café.

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    American History Museum Opening Hours

    Summer hours between Memorial Day and Labor Day are from 10:00 AM 7:30 PM unless a special event is going on. During the rest of the year, standard operating hours are from 10:00AM 5:30PM. On some weekends during the standard year, the museum is open late. Here is the extended hours calendar.

    Click here for the Best Tours of DC!

    Visit The Worlds Largest Natural History Museum Highlights Include The 45

    Visit the worlds largest natural history museum. Highlights include the 45.5-carat Hope Diamond, Ocean Hall, Mammals Hall, Hall of Human Origins, Insect Zoo, dinosaurs, and the magnificent African bush elephant in the museums rotunda. The Butterfly Pavilion features hundreds of live butterflies. Atrium Café offers food court dining. Theater and group dining reservations: call toll-free 868-7774. Regular hours are 10am-5:30pm spring and summer hours are 10am& #8211 7:30pm Thursday& #8211 Saturday. To verify late hours, call 202-633-1000 or visit

    Additional Information

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    Parking At The Smithsonian Natural History Museum

    Parking at the Smithsonian is never easy, but is also not impossible. Your best chance to score a parking spot at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum is to arrive by 10:00 AM. Parking on Madison Drive is metered at $2 per hour for a maximum of 3 hours. There is no parking on Constitution Avenue.

    Be careful to read the signs. There are a multitude of special parking spots on Madison Drive. Most importantly, do not park in handicapped parking. If you do not have tags, you can count on a $250 ticket when you come out of the museum. Parking in a taxi stand, a loading zone or other special zones will usually set you back $32 for a ticket.

    Best Exhibit For Elementary Age

    Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History Fossil Hall Time-Lapse

    Dinosaurs! The newly opened David H. Koch Hall of Fossils: Deep Time exhibit is not only enormous but also incredibly well thought out for this age group. The 700 fossils definitely steal the show but in the process, kids travel through Earths past and learn more about our present. My kids personal favs include: watching real scientists use a microscope to look for fossils, touching fossils at the volunteer cart and sketching in their museum passport. Check out this DC Area Moms Blog post for a deeper dive into Deep Time!

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    Final Phase Of Smithsonian Reopening Begins In June Including Popular Natural History Museum

    After reopening seven museums and the National Zoo earlier this month, the Smithsonian will welcome visitors to the popular National Museum of Natural History and nine other sites over a span of 11 weeks beginning June 10, officials announced Wednesday.

    Like the other Smithsonian facilities, these 10 museums will open at about 25 percent capacity, with reduced hours and social distancing measures. The museums have been shuttered since March 14, 2020, because of the coronavirus pandemic. The capacity will increase over time.

    After 461 days of being closed, Im so looking forward it, Natural History Museum Director Kirk Johnson said about reopening June 18. You think of the 6 or 7 million people who could have come during that time. And our exhibit, Outbreak, is about pandemics. You really wish people could have been here.

    The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City will be the first of this final group to reopen on June 10. The Natural History Museum opens June 18, followed by the National Museum of the American Indian in New York on June 23.

    The National Museum of African Art and the National Museum of Asian Art Freer Gallery will reopen July 16. The National Air and Space Museum and the public galleries in the Smithsonians administration building, known as the Castle, reopen July 30.

    Visiting The Smithsonian Natural History Museum In Dc

    The Natural History Museum is one of the most popular museums in Washington DC. If you’re picturing a T-Rex in the middle of the entrance, that is the Natural History Museum in NYC – we have an elephant in the rotunda. The dinosaurs are in the back. As part of the Smithsonian Institute, the National Museum of Natural History has a prime location on the National Mall and three levels of wonder.

    After visiting the museum, why not explore American history in person with one of our National Mall tours? They start just 5 minutes away!

    The Natural History Museum is OPEN! Timed tickets are required through Monday July 19.Not sure what to see? We also offer private tours of the museum. Find out more here.

    Getting to the National Museum of Natural History

    Parking Near the National Museum of Natural History

    Street parking is very limited in the area, and it is a popular site to visit, so be sure to budget some time to find a spot. There are free parking spaces open to the public along Jefferson and Madison Dr, but the competition for these is fierce. A lot of the on-street parking is limited to 2 or 3 hours, so check nearby signs before you leave your vehicle.

    The National Museum of Natural History has partnered with SpotHero to help visitors easily find and reserve parking spots in the area. Use their website to view all of the available parking facilities and find cheap deals!

    Do I need a ticket for the Natural History Museum?



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    The History Of The Museum

    Tracing its roots back to the founding of the institution, the museums collection was initially housed in the Smithsonian Castle. Then known as the National Museum Building, the Arts and Industries Building was constructed in 1881 to house the institutions growing number of exhibits. As the collection outgrew its second home, building, Congress authorized the construction of a larger structure. Opening in 1910, it was the first Neoclassical-style building to be erected on the north side of the National Mall. The buildings green dome is an iconic landmark along the Mall.

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    Mili Kàpi CaféTemporarily closed.Mili Kàpi means give me some coffee in the Native language of the Lenape people, the original inhabitants of New York City. The Café features hot and cold beverages and light casual faresandwiches, salads and sweetshighlighting ingredients indigenous to the Americas. The Café serves coffee from Stumptown Coffee Roasters.10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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    Hirshhorn Museum And Sculpture Garden

    Temporarily closed.

    Handmade seasonal gelato, specialty espresso drinks, and small batch pastries from one of D.C.s most popular locally-owned coffee purveyors, housed in a stunning new lobby coffee bar designed by celebrated artist and architect Hiroshi Sugimoto. The space also features furnishings created by Sugimoto and his studio, including tables from a 700-year-old Japanese nutmeg tree.8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends

    10% discount for Federal employees with ID and Hirshhorn members

    Free visitor Wi-Fi

    Hotel Near Smithsonian Museum Of Natural History

    Stay minutes away at our hotel near the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and experience one of the most popular museums in Washington. Attracting over 8 million visitors each year, the National Museum of Natural History offers visitors a look at the natural world through collections of more than 126 million specimens and artifacts. Discover rocks, fossils, preserved plants, animals and ancient human cultural relics during your stay at our hotel near the Smithsonian Museum, in Washington, DC!

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    Taking The Metro To The Smithsonian Natural History Museum

    This is a much better option. There are several nearby stations. On the Blue/Orange/Silver lines, both Smithsonian Metro and Federal Triangle are equidistant from the Natural History Museum. If you come in on the Yellow/Green lines, the Archives/Navy Memorial stop is not far away either. If you come in on the Red line, perhaps you should change trains to get on one of the other lines that are somewhat closer to the museum.

    Opening Hours at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum

    Summer hours are usually 10:00 AM until 7:30 PM. Occasionally, there are special events and the museum will close at 5:30 PM. During the rest of the year, the hours are from 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM. At busy times of the year and on some weekends, the museum will stay open extended hours until 7:30 PM.

    Hall Of Geology Gems And Minerals

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    The National Gem and Mineral Collection is one of the most significant collections of its kind in the world. The collection includes some of the most famous pieces of gems and minerals including the Hope Diamond and the Star of AsiaSapphire, one of the largest sapphires in the world. There are currently over 15,000 individual gems in the collection, as well as 350,000 minerals and 300,000 samples of rock and ore specimens. Additionally, the Smithsonian’s National Gem and Mineral Collection houses approximately 45,000 meteorite specimens, including examples of every known type of meteorite, and is considered to be one of the most comprehensive collections of its kind in the world.

    The collection is displayed in the Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals, one of the many galleries in the Museum of Natural History. Some of the most important donors, besides Hooker, are Washington A. Roebling, the man who built the Brooklyn Bridge, who gave 16,000 specimens to the collection Frederick A. Canfield, who donated 9,000 specimens to the collection and Dr. Isaac Lea, who donated the basis of the museum’s collection of 1312 gems and minerals.

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    Outbreak: Epidemics In A Connected World

    Believe it or not, this informative exhibition about viruses opened 18 months before the Covid-19 pandemic upended daily life around the globe. Johnson remembers standing on a podium next to Anthony Fauci at the exhibitions opening, as the pair prepared to offer remarks. And he turned over to me and said, Hey, I bet you anything therell be a global pandemic during the run of this exhibit, Johnson recalls.

    While the museum was closed, curators updated some displays to reflect the Covid-19 pandemic, Johnson says. Visitors can also explore newly relevant reflections from frontline workers and epidemiologists who rushed to combat other modern outbreaks, such as HIV/AIDs, the Ebola virus, influenza and the Zika virus.

    I always say that science can kind of see the future, and museums interpret science. So, in a way, museums interpret the future. This is a really good example of this playing out, Johnson says.

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