Last weekend we made a trip to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. It was a nice little adventure and we got to see lost of animals– my son’s favorite thing in the world!
This is our second time visiting D.C. since we moved to Maryland. Both times we drove to the New Carrollton Park & Ride and took the Metro in to the city. Parking is free there on weekends and many holidays and it’s nice not to deal with driving and parking in the city. We have SmarTrip cards so we can add money to them as needed and there’s a bit of a discount too.
We took the Metro to the Smithsonian stop and make a quick walk across the Mall to the museum. If you have a large stroller, the Constitution Ave entrance is the one with the ramp so getting off at the Federal Triangle Metro might be a shorter walk, though neither are very far.
There are several Smithsonian museums, but we chose this one because of the animals! Before we went, I downloaded their App. It was a good way to preview what we would see there and it’s a handy reference to have while we were visiting. The building itself is slightly labyrinthian, and a map is nice to have. We took our time on the first floor and made a quick pass through the second floor. Because admission is free, it doesn’t feel like you have to see everything.
The two main exhibits on the first floor are the Mammal and Ocean Halls. (The Fossil Hall is under renovation until 2019.) We spent most of our time in the Mammal Hall where we saw stuffed animals from Africa, North and South America, and Australia. The hall itself is large and a bit overwhelming. I tried to focus my son on spotting the different animals (he recognized most) and then making observations about them. I asked him about their size, fur, paws, teeth, and color. We also talked about where in the world they live. More information about the exhibit can be found on their website.
One of the most interesting sections was the Australian animals. I didn’t know (or remember) that there were three different types of mammals! We haven’t learned much about Australian animals yet, but I have a feeling we will be picking up a book about them next time we are in the library.
We also passed through the Ocean Hall. We looked closely at the shells and a few of the other displays. We’ve been to aquariums in North Carolina and New Orleans so my son has had the opportunity to see a few ocean animals in person. He has started showing a lot of interest in the ocean recently so I’m glad he got to see this exhibit.
I’ve been to many museums over the years and they often feel so packed with wonderful information that it’s hard to know where to look first. I think the challenge is focusing children in on specific pieces of information while maintaining their ability to gain new experiences and explore on their own.
It was also fun to see my daughter able to enjoy some of the museum. Though she did fall asleep for about half our visit, she did get out and see some of the animals. She’s enthusiastically learning a few animal names like “bear.”
My favorite sections were the photography exhibits. The photos are absolutely brilliant and such an inspiration to a novice like myself. You can see more of the ocean photography here. On the second floor there’s another breathtaking photo collection from Wilderness Forever.
We will definitely be back to see this museum again! Have you been to this or another museum of natural history? This one reminded me of the one we visited in Ottawa.