National Museum of Natural History
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10th St. and Constitution Ave. NW
HOURS: Labor Day-Mar. 24 daily 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.;
Mar. 25-Labor Day 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m.;
closed Christmas Day; tours 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Renovations and new exhibits create a dynamic experience at the National Museum of Natural History, a trove of science beloved by children for its dinosaurs and outsize mammals, like a huge, hairy woolly mammoth and gigantic African bull elephant.
This museum appeals to anyone interested in the earth and the universe’s bounty, from the stunning sapphire-blue Hope Diamond to giant squid, from humankind’s earliest tools to massive magnetic meteorites that arrived here from outer space.
The newest galleries include the Hall of Human Origins, a 15,000-foot corridor that examines the genesis and evolution of our species, and the colorful Sant Ocean Hall, featuring a live coral reef aquarium, the fearsome jaws of a prehistoric shark, and a 48-foot right whale replica.
The museum’s older exhibits still capture the imagination: The Discovery Room allows children to touch and explore fossils and animal bones; the Hall of Mammals boasts more than 275 taxidermy specimens; and in the Dinosaur Hall, paleontologists are part of the attraction, often seen working behind glass as they mark and piece together fossils.
Small children shouldn’t miss the Orkin Insect Zoo, hidden at the end of a bones exhibit straight out of the Pleistocene era of museum design. The zoo features a live beehive that opens out onto the Mall along with daily tarantula and bug feedings.
For a small fee, visitors also can tour the Butterfly Conservatory, spending time in an indoor garden with Blue Morpho butterflies, giant Atlas moths, and more. Outside, butterflies can be seen, for free during spring and summer, where they are drawn to the museum’s local habitat garden planted along 9th Street NW.
© Patricia Nevins Kime from Moon Washington DC, 1st Edition