Smithsonian Institution

The Visiting Info shown below, if any, is always subject to change. Please check the facility's website for the latest information before making a trip.

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Facility:Smithsonian Institution
Description:The world's largest museum complex and research organization composed of 19 museums and 9 research centers. Visit the Smithsonian in person or online and you will see why it represents for so many the treasured icons of our past, the vibrant art of the present, and the scientific promise of the future.
Address 1:PO Box 37012
Address 2:SI Building, Room 153, MRC 010
City:Washington, D.C.
Zip Code:20013
V I S I T I N G   I N F O
Hours:Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. are open every day of the year except December 25. Most museums are open from 10am to 5:30pm (see website).
Admission:Admission is free for all Smithsonian museums and the zoo in Washington, D.C., and the American Indian Museum's George Gustav Heye Center in New York. Tickets are not used for general admission.
Telephone:(202) 633-1000
Website:Visit Website
Patricia, Co-op Member
The Smithsonian Natural History Museum is a fascinating place to see. I thought the boys may be a bit bored but I was the one weary at the end and begging them to let me relieve my aching feet. They loved it!! You could go through a few times and still not spend as much time on the exhibits as you might like. We would certainly go back again when we are in the area.
Stefania Vaughan, Co-op Member
Activities Guide for Newcomers: Field trips in DC

When we have arrived to Washington DC me, my husband, and our 2 homeschooled children, 6 and 9 years old we had no idea about the city, it's life style, it's possibilities, nor we had slight idea of home schooling itself at that time. Both areas were new for us. We didn't even have a car. We didn't know the scope of what is available, and at the same time we didn't want to miss anything that could be educationally advantageous as well. We were overwhelmed! Now, after spending 4 months in DC, we not only feel somewhat proud of becoming 'Washingtonians' when we give directions to confused tourists, but also we got quite acquainted with the numerous educational outlets that are available here, in DC. If you are new to the capital, you are welcome to take advantage of this effort to gather a sense of a big picture, peace of mind, and organization for planning your own field trips in this wonderful city!

This guide will help you plan your field trip according to your interest. It will take several times to visit some of the listed places in order not to overwhelm the youngsters. Since most places are free, I would recommend to take 'two halls at a time' approach. Sometimes I would take the assessment papers with us and have the kids fill out their quizzes right at the museum in front of the exhibit instead of at the boring table at home. Also, hands-on classes can be found at some Smithsonians, both guided and self-guided (reservations required):

Besides school curriculum, you can follow the lesson plans put together by Smithsonian Museums, that follow the exhibits. For instance, here is a link to Natural History Museum planner:

You can carpool or rent a car for a day to go and see places that are otherwise unreachable by the metro. Whether you homeschool or not, I hope this guide will help you to organize your activities according to the unit being studied. I will be updating this article time after time with newer ideas, also feel free to contact me with your questions. Couple of tips I got from other Moms: check daily on events at, make sure to sign up with a couple of homeschooling Yahoo groups and with for internet discounts for DC museums and other attractions.


Classifications Zoo (there is a wonderful exhibit of amphibians and reptiles), Museum of Natural History, homeschooling class is available at Natural History Museum

Mammals Zoo, Museum of Natural History mammals hall

Insects Zoo, Museum of Natural History Insects and Butterflies exhibit, homeschooling class is available at Natural History Museum

Matter Baltimore Museum (if you have a car, schedule homeschooling science class at the museum)

Ocean and Marine Life Museum of Natural History Ocean hall accompanied with 'Deep Sea' 3D IMAX movie, carpool to Baltimore Aquarium.

Mineralogy - Museum of Natural History Minerals exhibit of crystals, copper, silver, gold, diamonds, semiprecious stones, Hope Diamond (biggest blue diamond in the world), homeschooling class is available at Natural History Museum

Planets, Moon and Solar System - Museum of Natural History planets exhibit, Air and Space Museum has the exhibits for this unit spread out. It is great to see as many IMAX and Planetarium shows as you can, but they can get expensive. The most valuable I thought were 'The Skies Tonight' and 'Sesame Street', which are both free, just check hours, as well as 'The Sun' 3D, 'Journey To The Stars'

Aerodynamics great exhibit at Air and Space Museum called How Things Fly

Space, Space exploration, NASA both Dulles Air and Space Museum and National Air and Space Museum have good collection on display.

Chemicals and chemical reactions Museum of American History small Spark Lab

Botany, Ecosystems great National Botanic Gardens by The Capital, free outdoors and indoors exhibits, roses and exotic garden in front of Smithsonian Castle, garden of native american crops in front of American Indian Museum, homeschooling class is available at Natural History Museum

Astronomy and Telescopes, Copernicus, Galileo Galilei - Air and Space Museum

I am not very good at this one, but I will at least provide the list:

National Art Gallery
Portraiture Gallery
Hirshhorn Museum of Modern Art
Sculpture Garden by the Museum of Natural History kid friendly


Dinosaurs, early life - Museum of Natural History accompanied with 'Dinosaur' 3D movie, homeschooling class is available at Natural History Museum

Ice Age small exhibit at the Museum of Natural History behind Dinosaurs

History of flight - Air and Space Museum Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart exhibits accompanied with IMAX movies 'To Fly' and 'Fighter Pilot'. Finish up with Flight Today exhibit on modern technological progress in air and space department.

Egypt - Museum of Natural History Western Cultures exhibit has early Egypt, Tut and mummies collection, in addition to good short documentaries, homeschooling class is available at Natural History Museum

Early civilizations of Iraq, Asia, Africa, Greece and Rome, 'Iceman' - Museum of Natural History Western Cultures exhibit

American Indian Museum worth visiting for craft and story times, though I felt that it was not organized in a kid friendly manner.

Holocaust Museum everyone can learn something new there if you want to. It has great documentaries and multitudes of facts.
The exhibit is fenomenal, but contains a lot of grafical segments, so use your discretion. There is however a child friendly laberinth, called "The story of David", that takes you through a kid size maze showing everyday living of a Jewish family through a child's eyes. At the end of it the children can write David a letter or draw a picture if they want to.

Berlin Wall Memorial is located on Rosslyn Metro in walking distance from station.

G. Washington Washington Monument, Mount Vernon Estate (whole day car trip, wonderful place to visit, spend a day learning, dining, enjoying a good weather in G. Washington's back yard on Potomac river). It has a good selection of books and souvenirs in the gift shop.

A. Lincoln Besides Lincoln Memorial at the National Mall, Ford's Theater has a good museum about his presidency and a presentation of what happened the night Lincoln was killed. The free tour takes you across the street to Peterson's House, officially known now as 'The House Where Lincoln Died'. Newseum has a great exhibit on this too, with a tour.

T. Roosevelt Island protector of natural resources and national parks, his small island is a wonderful place to pick nick, go on a run, bike ride or hike. After pointing out multiple times all the monuments and historic places on the maps, metro plans and from the car, I came to the conclusion: the kids might not remember all the great things these presidents have done, but they will for sure will remember their names! Kids love safe forestry area, however a car is the only way to get there.

Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights go and see rough drafts at The Library of Congress first, then venture off to the National Archives where you will see the real thing.

Jamestown, John Smith, Pocahontas, First Settlement Jamestown historical site was a wonderful journey into the past. It has a live size settlement and Powhatan villages, actor who reenact the battle and everyday activities, plus live size replicas of the three ships of John Smith.

Yorktown, American Revolution - very close to Jamestown and Williamsburg, it is a good 2.5 hour trip from DC, so try to hit them all together.

American History, The Star Spangled Banner exhibit at the Museum of American History

Ancient China National Geographic Museum Terracotta Warriors exhibit (I believe it is open till March 2010)

History of media, press, journalism Newseum (your ticket is valid for two days in a row, so don't kill yourself on first day!)


Quiz yourself on how many names of great philosophers, thinkers, poets, and writers do you know that are engraved on the ceiling of The Library of Congress!

Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights, Thomas Jefferson's library go and see rough drafts in The Library of Congress first, then venture off to the National Archives where you can see the real thing.

Shakespeare Theater

Kennedy Center for Performing Arts - it has wonderful Family Theater with children's plays and musicals. Around Christmas time we watched a show about Teddy Roosevelt refusing to cut a tree to decorate for White House Christmas! Educational and fun!
Jackie Penn, Co-op Member
NO matter how long you look, you will not see everything so do a bit of research before arriving in order to make sure you go to and see the exhibits of the things you are most interested in seeing. I enjoyed seeing the gowns of the first ladies, the Hope diamond and so much more.
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