• 2016.03.01
  • Think Washington, Think Smithsonian!
It doesn’t matter whether they come from elsewhere in America or overseas; every tourist in Washington, D.C. is sure to have the Smithsonian on their “ must-see list.” As I’ve briefly mentioned in previous blogs, the Smithsonian Institution which oversees the numerous Smithsonian buildings was originally established with funds donated by the British chemist James Smithson, with the aim of “increasing and diffusing knowledge.”


Today, its network of 19 museums, galleries and the National Zoological Park makes it the world’s largest museum and research complex, home to a reported 136.5 million cultural artefacts and specimens. It also appeared in the 2009 movie: Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian! (If you consult the Smithsonian Institution pamphlet, you will surely recognize the building from the movie.)


Although I mentioned “tourists” above, it is not only tourists who visit the Smithsonian. As its purpose is to promote “the increase and diffusion of knowledge,” everything is free to enter (unless explicitly stated otherwise), which means that it’s a relaxing place for Washingtonians to simply hang out. Each Smithsonian building offers comfortable wheelchair and baby stroller access, and the larger museums even contain coffee shops, meaning that you can easily enjoy a whole day there. The only drawback is that everyone’s bag must be security-checked, and this most likely gives rise to long queues at the most popular buildings during weekends.

Most Smithsonian museums in D.C. surround the National Mall, but there are three buildings on the map which are located somewhat further away: the Anacostia Community Museum, the National Zoological Park and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. The zoo recently hit the headlines for the birth of twin panda cubs (one of which unfortunately died shortly after birth).
It has been open to the public since mid-January, and my family are very keen to check it out with their own eyes.

Even if you are poorly versed in American history and art, or have no interest in aviation and such like, you are bound to stumble across a Smithsonian exhibit or artwork which matches your interests. Better still, most of the complex is indoors, meaning it helps keep me warm in winter and cool in summer! And even after just casually dropping in there, I have no doubt that the Smithsonian can arouse the intellectual curiosity of any visitor.


  • Ritsuko Derickson
  • JobStay-at-home mom

Moved to Washington, D.C., in 2012 after getting married. Due to her husband’s work, shortly thereafter they moved to Oahu, Hawaii, then returned to Washington, D.C., in 2015. She lives together with her husband, their son born near the end of 2014 and one Shiba dog.

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