Natural History Museum Smithsonian
With over 8 million visitors each year, the National Museum of Natural History is the second most visited museum in the world. The museum has 350,000 square feet of exhibits and public space and houses 126 million specimens for study and display. The popular National Fossil Hall, located on the east wing of the first floor, is undergoing a massive renovation that will feature a T. Rex when it reopens in 2019. Many of the dinosaur fossils have been relocated to the second floor exhibit The Last Remaining Dinosaurs. As with all of the Smithsonian Institute museums, the Museum of Natural History is free to the public and open 364 days of the year from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Along with the American History Museum and Air and Space Museum, the Natural History Museum offers extended hours until 7:30 p.m. on select days. Check the Smithsonian Institute’s calendar for specific dates with extended hours.
First Floor: The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s first floor features the Mammals Hall and Ocean Hall as the two primary exhibits. The Mammals Hall contains the largest collection of vertebrates in the world with everything from a hippopotamus to a pride of lions taking down a water buffalo. Look above the entrance for a tiger mid-pounce. The Ocean Hall centers around a replica of Phoenix, a North Atlantic right whale, but also contains a giant great white shark jaw fossil, live coral reef aquarium, and a deep ocean exhibit.
On the second floor, visitors will find the Live Butterfly Pavilion, Live Insect Zoo, Last American Dinosaurs, and Geology, Gems and Minerals exhibits. The Hope Diamond and Don Pedro Aquamarine are displayed within the Geology, Gems and Minerals exhibit and should not be missed. The Live Butterfly Pavilion is a ticketed exhibit. It is recommended that these are purchased for a time slot in advance, as a limited number of visitors are allowed through each hour. Finally, stop by the Last American Dinosaurs exhibit featuring the relocated dinosaur fossils during the first floor renovation.