National Museum of Natural History is at 1000 Constitution Ave. N.W. (at 10th St.). Devoted to the natural world, this Smithsonian museum features such notable exhibits as the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals, a collection that includes the legendary Hope Diamond. The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins presents scientific evidence for 6 million years of human evolution, including a fossil Neanderthal skeleton display, head reconstructions of eight early human species and interactive explorations of three prehistoric sites.
The Kenneth E. Behring Family Hall of Mammals features more than 270 mammals in lifelike poses that tell the 225 million-year story of evolution and adaptation from polar regions to the Sahara Desert. Exhibitions in Sant Ocean Hall demonstrate how the ocean is intrinsically connected to other global systems and our daily lives; highlights include preserved male and female giant squid specimens and a replica of a North Atlantic right whale. Changing exhibitions are also presented.
Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution explores the ways butterflies and other animals have evolved, adapted and diversified together with their plant partners. The Live Butterfly Pavilion is a tubular walk-through space, with high-strength artificial lighting and flowering plants creating an environment where visitors can view free-flying butterflies from around the world. A “butterflies of the week” list shows which species are on display, and volunteers are on hand to answer questions. At the O. Orkin Insect Zoo you can get eye-to-eye with live insects and arthropods and learn about the adaptations that make them so successful at survival.
Q?rius offers ways for tweens, teens and their families to connect science with everyday experiences. Hands-on learning activities for younger visitors are offered in Q?rius Jr.: A Discovery Room.
Note: Dinosaur Hall is closed for a complete redesign and renovation and is scheduled to reopen sometime in 2019. The centerpiece of the new hall will be a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton on long-term loan from the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Mont., one of the most complete T. rex specimens ever discovered. During the hall's extended closure, the museum offers The Last American Dinosaurs: Discovering a Lost World, where visitors can learn about the ecosystems dinosaurs inhabited.
Food is available. Time: Allow 2 hours minimum.
Museum free. Live Butterfly Pavilion $6; $5.50 (ages 60+); $5 (ages 2-12); free to all Tues. (timed-entry ticket required).
Hours: Daily 10-5:30. Extended spring, summer and federal holiday hours are determined annually. Live Butterfly Pavilion daily 10-5:15; timed entries are at 15-minute intervals and the wait can be up to an hour. Closed Christmas.