Editors' pick

National Museum of Natural History - Smithsonian Institution

Smithsonian
National Museum of Natural History - Smithsonian Institution photo
(The Hope Diamond/Dane Penland, NMNH)
Dinosaurs, diamonds and dioramas are on display at this Smithsonian museum.
Daily 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Summer hours are extended to 7:30 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day
unless the museum has a special event scheduled. Check the museum's Web site for details.
(The Mall)
Smithsonian (Blue, Orange lines), Archives-Navy Memorial (Green, Yellow lines), Federal Triangle (Blue, Orange lines)
Free
202-633-1000
Through 10/20

The Rex Room

In a conservation room, visitors can observe, through one of two doorways, as scientists prepare the Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton that will go on display in 2019.
10/25

Emerson String Quartet 2014-2015 Concert Series

Violinist Eugene Drucker and special guest, pianist Diane Walsh, perform works by Brahms, Bach and Saint-Saens. At the Baird Auditorium.
10/26

Rob Kapilow's What Makes It Great?

Kapilow leads a discussion on Schubert's "Impromptus" followed by a performance of the work by pianist Yuliya Gorenman. Presented with Washington Performing Arts. At the Baird Auditorium.
12/7

Emerson String Quartet 2014-2015 Concert Series

The quartet performs Beethoven's String Quartet No. 13 and "Grosse Fugue" and selections from Bach's "The Art of Fugue.". At the Baird Auditorium.
9/8 - 12/8

Ongoing exhibits:

Explore various cultures and species, as well as different time periods through geology. Also on display is the Hope Diamond.
Through 12/12

Dom Pedro

The 14-inch obelisk is a 10,363-carat aquamarine.
Through 12/12

Living on an Ocean Planet

A new permanent exhibit that explores the ocean space and its relationship to human life.
Through 12/12

Mud Masons of Mali

Archival and contemporary photos and engravings representing the masons.
10/24 - 4/20/15

Nature's Best 2013 Photography Awards: Windland Smith Rice International Awards

An exhibition of approximately 60 large-format images and photographers' stories highlight the beauty, power and humor of nature.
Through 8/16/15

Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation

Through images, music, visual art and first-person narratives, this exhibition explores the influence and experience of Indian Americans in America.
Through 10/31/15

Once There Were Billions: Vanished Birds of North America

Examining the story of the last passenger pigeon, this exhibition features illustrations from the Biodiversity Heritage Library.
Through 12/12/15

Portraits of Planet Ocean: The Photography of Brian Skerry

An underwater journey through different marine environments by the award-winning photojournalist.
9/3 - 12/12/15

Wilderness Forever: Celebrating 50 Years of Protecting America's Wilderness

A photography exhibition in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act features large-format images by professional, amateur and student photographers.
11/5 - 12/12/18

The Last American Dinosaurs: Discovering a Lost World

A large-scale fossil exhibition focused on the late Cretaceous period in North America allows visitors to view the fossils of Tyrannosaurus rex and other dinosaurs from a working preparation lab.
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Editorial Review

The Buzz: Relive elementary school field trips with one step into this Smithsonian museum. Geology, anthropology and biology are the focus here, where stories are told with meticulous collections, interactive games and somewhat dated dioramas.

Background: One of the oldest Smithsonian museums, the National Museum of Natural History opened its doors in 1910. Since original research is a huge part of the museum's mission, the facility houses labs and collections in addition to 325,000 square feet of exhibition space.

The Collection: A massive, stuffed African elephant greets visitors as they enter the museum. From there, visitors can venture off into the Kenneth E. Behring Family Hall of Mammals, which features stuffed specimens from 274 species. Exhibitions of fossils and dinosaurs are also highlights of this floor.

The second floor is home to the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals, a dazzling display that includes the Hope Diamond.

Extras: The Discovery Room, a family- and student-friendly hands-on activity room, is also on the first floor. It is open from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. The museum is also home to an IMAX theater, shop and cafe.

Programs: Films, lectures and performances are occasionally on this museum's calendar, but its real strengths are the hands-on activities available in the Discovery Room.

Directions/Parking: Street parking is rare, but may be available on Madison Drive. The closest Metro Stop is Smithsonian (Orange, Blue lines). The Circulator bus stops nearby.

--Julia Beizer (Friday, March 9, 2012)