This weekend I finally visited what I knew would be my favorite museum in DC. Yup, I’m like that. I have favorite museums.
Back when I studied abroad in Paris, my roommates and I made a habit of finding free, interesting and obscure museums. I also became such an expert at the Louvre that people started thinking I was giving real tours.
My one caveat is the museum has to actually be interesting. I’ll leave it to you to riddle out the technical quilifications that make a museum interesting. But for me personally, here are a few requirements: a beautiful building, interactive environments and lots of visual stimulation. The Museum of Natural History has it all. So much in fact, that we already plan on going back because it’s nearly impossible to visit all the exhibits in one go. This won’t be hard to do since entrance is free!
Start out by heading straight for the rotunda where you are greated by a giant African elephant. From here you can head in any direction.
We took a few moments to explore life under the sea before walking upstairs to the insect zoo (ironically sponsored by Orkin pest control, heh). For a few bucks you can enter a room full of butterflies, but we walked straight to the back. A dozen little kids sat criss-cross applesauce on the carpet as their parents, with colorful, little coats draped over their arms, watched over. Everyone waited in silent anticipation, as the giant tarantula sitting in the middle in a plexiglass container received lunch.
At the end of the insect zoo we found a long hall lined with skeletons of every mammal you could imagine from today and long ago.
We decided we had time for one more exhibit before lunch, and I wanted to see the Hope diamond. A throng of people crowded around the necklace’s spinning platform, snapping photos. The little case received attention much like the Mona Lisa’s at the Louvre – and just like I feel about the Mona Lisa, the interesting things are to be found around the corner and down the hall, away from the crowds. So we ventured on.
Gems and minerals sparkled in a rainbow of colors in every direction we turned. We definitely spent the most time exploring this hall.
When we finally made it back out, we were ready for lunch.
It’s easy to lose track of time in this huge museum, so if you miss the lunch hour and find yourself dangerously on the verge of hanger, just walk down the street and grab a sandwich from White Apron. You’ll know you’re close when the scent of baking bread hits you.
The museums are busier on the weekends but we had good luck and didn’t run into crowds until 1 PM. Grab an early breakfast, get off at the Smithsonian metro station (the Metro Center station is also close if you’re not on the orange or blue line), and make a Sunday morning of it!