We’ve already written about what a pleasant surprise Washington D.C. was for us. We spent a couple of days there as a layover. We didn’t have high expectations. Looking back… not sure why. Maybe because the hype around Washington D.C. is not so big as it is around New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles (and looking back… sorry, but God knows why you, LA).
2 in 1: the castle and the visitor center
But it didn’t take long for Washington D.C. to take our breath away. With its atmosphere, with its architecture and with Smithsonian. Honestly, we’ve never heard about Smithsonian before we started to plan our Washington D.C. sightseeing and even then we put in on the list only because of Smithsonian Castle. Because we love castles and hey, they are not so common in the US, so we should check it out!
We read something about Smithsonian museums, too, but we didn’t even check their exhibitions or anything. We’ve just been to the American Museum of Natural History in New York a month before and what could beat that? (Wrong logic, anyway.)
But the thing is that the beautiful building of Smithsonian Castle operates as the main visitor center of the Smithsonian Institution. And it should be quite a cool visitor center as it definitely convinced us that we should visit at least some of Smithsonian’s museums. That’s how we ended up spending 1,5 day in Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
So what is Smithsonian?
Okay, if you haven’t been scared away already after such a long prologue, it’s time to tell you a bit more about Smithsonian. THE Smithsonian.
Smithsonian Institution is a group of museums and research centers administered by the US government. Actually, it’s the world’s largest museum and research complex with its 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoo and 9 research facilities. Sharing the knowledge is an important mission of Smithsonian and therefore its museums are free and open (almost) every day!
‘Would you finally tell where to find the world’s largest blue diamond?’
You probably already know the answer: in Smithsonian. In the National Museum of Natural History in particular. This was the place where we started our Smithsonian museum tour and it’s yet to be continued once we visit D.C. again, because we didn’t have time for other museums (except for a very quick visit to the National Museum of American History).
One of the most famous objects in the Natural History Museum is the Hope Diamond, the world’s largest deep blue diamond. It’s not only a truly special gem, it also has a mysterious story. But this diamond is not the only exciting thing to see in the gems and minerals exhibit, the gem collection is quite stunning with more than 7,500 gemstones.
And the minerals of the exhibit were also very cool. A 590 kg quartz giant? Yepp, there was one in the corner. And crystals in every shape and color. No, we didn’t see them all, we switched to another exhibit when our eyes got tired of all the diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, opals, moonstones…
The best dinosaur exhibit
Our other favorite exhibit in this museum was the dinosaurs. Which kid is not eager to know everything about dinosaurs? We are definitely kids in that regard. We enjoyed the dinosaur exhibits in each natural history museum we’ve ever been to, but we found Smithsonian’s exhibit the best of all.
The skeletons come with fun facts and open questions in Smithsonian’s National Fossil Hall. We had a peek on researchers working on fossils. We watched a 3D movie in the museum’s IMAX theater about dinosaur excavations and and an animated reconstruction about how dinosaurs move and fight.
We enjoyed the temporary exhibits, too. Like National Geographic’s photography exhibit about African wildlife. Or the award-winning photographs about America’s Wild Lands. Or a stunning 3D movie about ocean life. And we haven’t even seen all of the exhibits. No doubt that it was worth a visit. It would worth a next visit, too! Or maybe we should check out another Smithsonian museum next time. Like the Air and Space Museum. Or the National Zoo.
Have you ever been to any of the Smithsonian museums? Would you visit them?