Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
4.5
10:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Monday
10:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Tuesday
10:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Wednesday
10:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Thursday
10:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Friday
10:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Saturday
10:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Sunday
10:00 AM - 5:30 PM
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About
Established in 1910 and located on the National Mall, this prestigious museum, part of the Smithsonian Institution, holds the world's most extensive collection of natural history specimens and human artifacts including the remains of dinosaurs and tools used by early man.
Suggested duration
2-3 hours
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The area
Address
Neighborhood: National Mall
How to get there
  • Federal Triangle • 5 min walk
  • Archives • 6 min walk
See what other travelers are saying
  • Gayla D
    10 contributions
    Worth the time!
    I learned so many new things and got to see more dinosaur skeletons and gemstones than I ever thought possible in one place. Pros: Fantastic learning experience! Many different topics and categories Cafes and gift shops in the building Somewhat handicapped accessible (the building itself is handicap friendly. The sheer number of people there would make it almost impossible to get close enough to see anything behind glass, which all of the most interesting things are) Very clean, even the bathrooms at the end of the day Cons: The employees are very rude and not helpful. Every interaction with any employee there was just unpleasant. Horrendous, slow moving crowds The price for food is ridiculous. $5 for a CAN of soda!! Not a lot of info provided on the plaques for each exhibit. Just the bare minimum. I know people don’t like to stand and read a lot, but a bit more info would have answered more of my questions. If you are sensitive to crowds or loud places, I do not recommend going during summer months. I hated Washington DC as a whole, but I would return for 2 days just to return to this museum. I loved all the exhibits.
    Traveled with family
    Written June 24, 2022
  • djinnooi
    316 contributions
    Modern and engaging museum, we preferred this to the AMNH in NY
    We hadn’t planned on spending much time in the Natural History Museum in DC, having just been to the American Museum of Natural History in New York the week before. I thought we would just view the Hope diamond and the gems section, and gave us a couple of hours at the end of the day for this. However, Master Eight was keen to come back the next day, and I’m glad we did. We never made it back to the geology section as planned, spending most of our time in the Ocean and Mammal Halls instead. We browsed the Fossil Hall quickly (my husband was a bit tired of looking at dinosaurs, but I was interested to see how it compared to the AMNH), and enjoyed the Fossil Lab, where we could observe a scientist at work; there were also signs at various stations describing some of the work that is done in the Fossil Lab. We also very much liked the section on Human Origins. Master Eight was hoping to return to this section the next day, but unfortunately we didn’t have the time in our schedule. There were many interactive and audiovisual elements to complement the items on display, and written information was brief and mostly at a level and height suitable for children to read also. The halls were also typically well lit and felt inviting. We didn’t manage to see everything in the museum, but everything we did see felt modern and quite up-to-date, unlike some parts of the AMNH in New York. Master Eight preferred this museum to the one in New York, and actually he preferred this to all the museums we saw in New York, which is about the highest praise I can offer! The cafe next to the Ocean Hall was closed when we went, with the cafe on the bottom floor the only one open. The food was priced as per other museums here (USD16/pound for hot items), with less healthy options (hot dogs, burgers, fries) cheaper than pre-packaged sandwiches and salads made offsite. Come in about 11.30am or earlier to beat the crowds.
    Traveled with family
    Written April 25, 2022
  • adventix
    Boston, Massachusetts1,544 contributions
    one of the best museums
    I don't think that one day is enough to see the entire place. The richness of the collections and the attention to details is superior. Entrance is free but they check everyone so expect a 10-15min wait in line outside. I highly recommend the hall of biodiversity
    Written November 27, 2021
These reviews are the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor checks reviews for fraud.
Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.
Popular mentions

4.5
12,389 reviews
Excellent
8,327
Very good
2,899
Average
930
Poor
173
Terrible
62

Holly
Midhurst, UK35 contributions
Oct 2022 • Couples
The museum itself is great but the opening times are too limited to see everything properly. We had to rush through some areas due to this. There was still a lot of people at closing time and I feel that in a city places should be open later than 5pm. The cafe was absolutely extortionate, I know the museum is free but over $50.00 for some warm cafeteria food is horrific
Written October 4, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Kelly
Georgia164 contributions
Jul 2021 • Friends
This museum has limited the number of daily tickets and it was great- the museum was not overcrowded and we were able to take our time between exhibits.
There are a lot of interactive items throughout the museum that were fun for people of all ages.
The only downside was almost all the exhibits on the 2nd floor were closed. The cafés were also closed.
Written July 5, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

MAConvert
Berkshires, MA412 contributions
Aug 2022
This museum's fossil collection alone is spectacular, but the entire museum is curated perfectly. I wish we had been able to focus and really spend time in the exhibits, but the museum was overrun with screaming and running children, and it was deafening. I'd like to go back when it's a bit quieter so that we can better explore all of the exhibits.
Written August 21, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

tsharee86
Caryville, TN17 contributions
Jun 2022
This was our first Smithsonian visit ever and it did not disappoint. We were able to take our bottles of water inside even though no food or drinks are allowed. Security was super nice and quick! Loved that it wasn't a set path. We could wander about and not feel pressured to move quickly by anyone behind us. I would allow for around 3-4 hours if you want to see and read everything. It was free and fun! They do have a cafe.
Written June 6, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Joan C
Reserve, NM814 contributions
May 2022
I was super excited to go to this museum. Once we landed in DC, it was our first destination. It was oddly disappointing and neither of us are sure why. It is definitely geared toward children, which there were tons of while we were there. It was quite crowded and noisy. Perhaps we have been to so many other natural history museums around the country that this one had a lot of stuff, but it was more of an overview sort of thing without a great deal of depth. The butterfly exhibit was closed and the insect collection was small and also very crowded. The mammal exhibits looked tired and faded and, I hate to say this, but we have seen more varied displays in various Cabela's around the nation, particularly the Cabela's in Buda, TX. Hey, it's free and if you have kids and want to wear them out, take them here. There is a lot for kids to take in.
Written May 15, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Lauren T
Washington DC, DC30 contributions
Nov 2019
The Museum of Natural History is for sure my favorite out of all of the museums on the National Mall. Its exhibits provide a wide variety of topics, so you're sure to find something of interest for everyone! Plus, it's free. Highly recommend going on a weekday (Monday through Thursday) as it gets extremely busy towards the weekend. Also, be sure to speak to volunteers that you see hanging out in the exhibits like the Ocean Hall, because they are always extremely knowledgable and happy to answer any questions you may have. Great place to spend hours on your own or with the family! A couple things to keep in mind when visiting: all people and bags go through security on the way in, you're not supposed to bring outside food in, and there is a cool new cafe (I think it was megalodon themed, can't recall?) where they offer a variety of foods, ice cream, and coffee.
Written February 2, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Andy Y
Sunderland, UK17 contributions
Jul 2022
Firstly I love the fact that the Smithsonian museums in DC are free. Its a great feature of DC and would allow families to spend so much time exploring the city.
We visited as a couple here just to kill some time on the morning of our flight, it opens at 10am so we queued outside for a short while but when the doors open there is no fuss, just straight in and start exploring. There are lots of different rooms off the main entrance to visit the natural world, some historic fossils and dinosaurs etc. and then some additional rooms on the second floor too, albeit much smaller than those downstairs.
If we'd have come here with our kids we could have spent all day exploring, there was so much to see and some interactive areas which we didn't have the time to do. We still spent just over an hour wandering round and getting some pictures to take back to the kids, and still learned some new and interesting things on the way, especially around human evolution.
I'd definitely recommend visiting here with kids, at zero cost there is no reason not to.
Written July 15, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

ccarlson2022
Niles, MI44 contributions
Oct 2022
Visited with my 10 year old daughter on her first time to DC. She likes Egyptian exhibits so we decided to stop by here. The Museum was quite busy however there was room to move and take pictures.

We only went through a small portion in the hour we spent inside. The mummy evhibits are impressive but there are not many items. The Field Museum in Chicago is the best I've seen for this type of display. The Hope Diamond was spectacular. The animal bone exhibit was interesting to both of us as well.

I wouldn't spend all day here if you are on a short trip but if you have an hour or two it's probably worth the time. Entry into the museum was rather quick compared to others in DC.
Written October 20, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Corbin G
Holyoke, MA403 contributions
Aug 2022
I always enjoy this museum. I've been here 3 or 4 times but this is my first time in about 20 years since I was a kid. It has a ton of interesting exhibits. You could realistically spend most of a day here before you'd see everything. At times there are a lot of young kids running around that can be annoying but it's to be expected.
Written August 20, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Elizabeth K
Gainesville, GA108 contributions
Apr 2022
I was overwhelmed by the amount of people crammed in this museum, none of whom seemed to be paying attention to anyone around them. Many of the exhibits were not labeled, leaving us to guess what was what. My family definitely wanted to see the dinosaurs and the mummies, but personally I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. It would have definitely been better if there had been any kind of controlled traffic flow, and if signage on exhibits was better.
Written April 11, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (Washington DC) - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go

Frequently Asked Questions about Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is open:
  • Sun - Sat 10:00 AM - 5:30 PM
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