The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

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When we planned our trip to Washington, D.C., visiting the Smithsonian was on our list. With 15 museums in Washington, D.C. alone, we knew we would have to limit ourselves but the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History was a must. After watching 20th Century Fox’s film, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, the kids were eager to see some of the artifacts referenced within the movie.

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History so far is our favourite museum within the Smithsonian collection, even more so than the National Air and Space Museum. Although some of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History exhibits are smaller than other museums (I’m thinking of the Dinosaur exhibit compared to that in the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Ontario), the museum’s layout and hands-on aspect make it far superior for family fun.

With two floors of exhibits, visitors are taken along a winding path through the museum, making even the walk through fun versus a straight gallery-like setting. The hands-on aspect is what impressed us (both kids and adults) giving us a more interactive experience: buttons to push, levers to pull, windows to peak through, videos to watch and recordings to hear.

Along with standard displays, there are videos and quizzes, life-size displays the kids can interactive with, National_Museum_Natural_History_cavebuttons to push and levers to pull. Even the displays themselves are entertaining: an ice field talking about animals in the cold regions, a rock cave demonstrating mining for gems.Although we didn’t have a chance to visit the Butterfly Pavilion, set-up like a large cocoon, it looks like it would be worth a visit another time. Visitors are able to walk right in to a room with butterflies of varying species, flying all around them. No caged enclosure, these butterflies can fly right past you, maybe even land on your finger. What child wouldn’t love that? (Note: Reservations are recommended and there is an additional cost, except on Tuesdays when it’s free).

We also visited the special exhibit, Written in Bone, which deals with forensic sciences. This subject has always fascinated me but even my kids loved it, especially my son. The 3D life-size displays are great, giving my kids insight into how we can discover a lot from a person’s skeletal remains. National_Museum_Natural_History_forensic_labThey especially loved trying out their new found knowledge in the Forensic Anthropology Lab (open until January 2013). Located at the end of the exhibit this lab is a great hands-on experience, set-up with learning stations where kids can determine if a skull belongs to a male or female, figure out a person’s height by measuring a bone and they also can try their hand at rebuilding a skeleton. The Forensic Anthropology Lab can be found at the end of the exhibit so make sure to walk all the way through.

Hopefully I’ve convinced you that the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is worth a visit when you’re in Washington, D.C. To make your visit more enjoyable, we’ve compiled a few tips to keep in mind when visiting the museum.

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