If you ask someone who lives in the DC area, “How do you get to the Smithsonian?”, don’t be surprised if they answer, “Which one?”
Until you come to DC and visit one of the Smithsonian museums, most people don’t realize that ‘The Smithsonian’ represents 19 different museums and galleries, the National Zoo, and other facilities. Nine different sites line the National Mall itself.
Someone on the TI convention app asked, “Is it true it takes 8 hours to tour the Smithsonian?”. One answer is “Yes and More”. Other answers on the app were ‘8 days’ or ‘More like 8 months. So much to see.’.
One person recommended the following: one day at the Museum of American History, one day at the Museum of Natural History, one day at the National Gallery of Art and its East wing [Host Committee note: this is NOT part of the Smithsonian], one day at the Air and Space Museum, one half-day at the Native American museum [Host Committee note: formal name is National Museum of the American Indian], one half-day at the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, one half-day at the Freer Gallery [Host Committee Note: which is presently closed for renovation]. Or, pick your favorites. You can probably rush through each of those in a half day. Also nearby is the Holocaust Museum [Host Committee Note: Not part of the Smithsonian yet still very impressive], and the National Portrait Gallery [Host Committee Note: this part of the Smithsonian is closest to the convention hotel and well worth a visit!]. When I say one day, I’m talking about six hours with a break for lunch. Most of the museums have restaurants. And gift shops which will take at least an hour each. Remember this is probably the largest and most compactly located collection of museums on the planet. Oh, and the National Air and Space Museum has an annex out by Dulles airport that’s twice as big as the one in the mall. I hope this helps. [End of convention app message]
Whew! How do you decide what to see at the Smithsonian Museums. When out-of-towners say ‘The’ Smithsonian, they have in mind ‘The Castle’ which includes the Smithsonian Visitor Center. Luckily, the three most often visited Smithsonian museums (National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of American History, and National Museum of Natural History) have extended hours for the summer and are open from 10 am – 7:30 pm. Well worth a visit are the two sites closest to the convention hotel: American Art Museum and the Portrait Gallery, and these two are open 11:30 am – 7:00 pm.
Among the highlights to see are the Star-Spangled Banner in the American History museum, the Wright Brothers plane or the Spirit of St. Louis plane in the Air and Space museum, the Hope Diamond (or the entire Gems & Minerals exhibit) in the Natural History museum. There is much, much, more to see in each of the Smithsonian museums on the national Mall or in the DC area.
The Renwick Gallery recently underwent a renovation and had a lot of buzz about its recent exhibits. The Museum of the American Indian café has been rated as the best museum café with its native foods on the menu. The newest museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture opens after the convention date so you’ll need to come back to DC on another trip to see it.
If you are a philatelist, you will be in stamp heaven at the Postal Museum. If you aren’t into stamps, you can still learn about Owney, the first unofficial postal mascot from 1888.
If you have less than two hours, going to the Portrait Gallery to see the collection of American Presidents or to the American Art Museum to see the “Preamble” of the US Constitution out of license plates is well-worth your time. Both of these museums are only a 4-5 block walk down 9th Street from the Marriott Marquis.