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September 21st, 2010

The Smithsonian Institute is an educational and research institute headquartered in the heart of Washington, DC but most people know it for the 19 museums located in Washington, DC and New York that together make the largest museum complex in the world.  When you make your trip to Washington, DC, it’s difficult not to visit at least one of these world class museums, but how do you pick the best ones?  The following is a list of the top Washington, DC attractions the Smithsonian Institute has to offer:

1. Smithsonian Institute Building: This building (often referred to as “The Castle”) is the Smithsonian Institute’s Information Center and Visitor Center.  There is not much of a museum inside this building other than information on the Smithsonian Institute and a large detailed 3-D map of Washington, DC with all the important sights set up in the main room.  If anything, this building is worth the trip for the Norman style architecture.

Smithsonian Institute Building - "The Castle"

2. The National Museum of American History: This American History Museum collects and preserves more than 3 million artifacts of the American heritage in areas of political, social, scientific, cultural, and military history.  This museum includes a plethora of notable artifacts from the birth of the country in 1776 to present day.  Among the items on display include the original Star-Spangled Banner, Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz (1939), Jim Henson’s original Muppet, Kermit the Frog, and even Disney’s Dumbo the Flying Elephant.

Dorothy's Ruby Slippers

3. Smithsonian Natural History Museum: This Smithsonian of Natural History dominates with 500 million specimens of animals, plants, minerals, fossils, rocks, meteorites, and human cultural artifacts.  Some artifacts include an 80-foot dinosaur skeleton, a life size model of a blue whale, an enormous prehistoric white shark, and one of the most popular exhibits, the 45-and-a-half carat jewel a known as the Hope Diamond.  If you’re there with the family, the Discovery Room is a great hands-on exhibit kids will love.

The Hope Diamond

4. The National Air & Space Museum: This impressive museum of aviation and space flight contains the largest collection of spacecraft and aircraft in the world.  This tends to be the most popular of the Smithsonian Museums visited as its spectacles fascinate visitors of all ages.  Visitors will learn everything from the first idea of air travel to present day space flight.  The popular exhibits include the original Wright 1903 Flyer, the “Spirit of St. Louis,” and the Apollo 11 command module.

Apollo 11 Command Module

These top Smithsonian Museum attractions in Washington, DC are all must-sees and they also all have free admission.  To help you get around DC better and visit these museums as well as see all the other popular museums and attractions, we suggest Open Top Sightseeing as the primary mode of transportation and sightseeing.  Open Top Sightseeing is an open double decker bus that encompasses 30 stops all over the Washington, DC area.  Open Top Sightseeing tickets are available through the NOW PASS which will provide you with a discount on this exciting bus tour that has a ticket valid for 2 days of sightseeing.