Want to see a gigantic rock that is priceless? Go to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Located in Washington, D.C., right in the heart of the tourist district, you can see the Hope Diamond up close and personal. While it is behind a well protected display, being able to look at it up close is truly breathtaking. To be honest, I’m a bit afraid of it, as a docent on our recent trip told me that “it has a rather cursed history.” Yet I do have to admire its beauty, and of course run the numbers through my head, to what it would receive if ever put through a bidding process. Yet there’s more rocks to see, and while not quite as inspiring, they are fun for those who love such objects.
Forgive my sarcasm, but I’m not thrilled by rocks. Yes they take up mass, are part of the Earth, but how can they be exciting? Geologists will love the displays, of which there are many, that involves rocks. There’s even displays of dirt, and how you can trace the history of when it was formed. Absolutely wonderful. Thankfully, this museum’s not only influenced by rocks, as they have fossils of dinosaurs and other animals. Now that’s something that I can spend time with, and their exhibits on these are impressive. There’s a full sized fossil of a T-Rex that will capture the attention of children and parents alike, while providing me “I’m not so tough after all.” The displays of animals who’ve been to the taxidermist are classy, and you can see them up close as well. Here you can judge for yourself “how big a bear is,” or look at a wolves teeth in sheer awe.
The Discovery Center is fantastic for children. This is where they can actually touch artifacts, such as fossils, rocks, and other natural materials. There are a few rooms that show movies, that explain how the Earth’s crust is formed, and it reminds me of an apple pie recipe that I’m fond of. Here chilren can look at aquariums of actual fish swimming, and on the last visit, ash encased animals from millions of years ago. Being able to see an insect in its complete form from millions of years ago was incredible, and getting to hold it in my hand even more so. Kids will love the Discovery Center, and adults who act like them will also.
This isn’t the biggest museum, but admission is free, and the air conditioning is appreciated during the summer months. Its not as popular as the other Smithsonian facilities, so if you want to get away from the crowds, I recommend this as that type of place. It still gets busy during tourist season and on the weekends, but never does it become unbearable. This facility is open from 10 a.m.-5:30 pm, but during the summer the hours are often extended until 7:00 pm. Don’t bother trying to find parking, but rather take the metro, and utilize the Smithsonian/Mall Station. Its only a few minutes walk from the location of this museum, which is on the corner of 10th and Constitution Ave NW. If you are into Earth Sciences this is a must visit type of place, but I personally have to place it down the list a bit, due to being more fascinated by American History and aviation based exhibits. However, this is a beautiful facility, that offers a unique look at the planet we live upon.