Smithsonian Institution Building

Smithsonian Institution Building

Smithsonian Institution Building
4.5
8:30 AM - 5:30 PM
Monday
8:30 AM - 5:30 PM
Tuesday
8:30 AM - 5:30 PM
Wednesday
8:30 AM - 5:30 PM
Thursday
8:30 AM - 5:30 PM
Friday
8:30 AM - 5:30 PM
Saturday
8:30 AM - 5:30 PM
Sunday
8:30 AM - 5:30 PM
About
The world's largest museum and research complex is actually comprised of 19 museums and the National Zoo, with subjects that vary from African Art to the postal service, sculpture to space exploration.
Duration: 1-2 hours
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The area
Address
Neighborhood: Upper Northwest
How to get there
  • Smithsonian • 4 min walk
  • L'Enfant Plaza • 6 min walk
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Most Recent: Reviews ordered by most recent publish date in descending order.

Detailed Reviews: Reviews ordered by recency and descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as wait time, length of visit, general tips, and location information.

Popular mentions

4.5
4.5 of 5 bubbles3,555 reviews
Excellent
2,416
Very good
805
Average
275
Poor
51
Terrible
8

Cory
Illinois96 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2019 • Friends
If you have limited time in DC, there is really no need to go in this. It’s convenient and attractive from the outside, but your time would be better spent in the actual free Smithsonian museums. There isn’t much to this. We really didn’t know what it was until we went in. It gets 3 stars because it’s free, so the only thing you are burning is time. If you are in DC a week, you can probably afford 20-30 mins inside or whatever. Sept 2013
Written May 18, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Traveller
New York City, NY3,246 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2021
I visited the Smithsonian Institution Building also known as the Smithsonian Castle in August 2021. I went at 8:30 am on a Tuesday and it was closed (should have checked the website carefully). I returned the next day at 8:30 am. Both times I took the Washington metro to the "Smithsonian" metro station. There is an Exhibit Room with articles and items from each of the Smithsonian museums. There is also an exhibit on Mr. Smithson and how the Smithsonian was founded and developed. There is a gift and book shop and also a cafe. I think it is worth stopping here for an hour to get your bearings and plan before visiting some of the museums.
Written August 20, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

montanapescado
Albuquerque, NM1,403 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2023 • Friends
This is easily the most striking building in the Smithsonian complex. To avoid disappointment, it's good to know going in that this is not specifically another museum, but rather more administrative in function, so there's not as much to see inside. If you're more interested in the curating side of museums than the displays themselves, this may be more your speed than mine.
Written November 17, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

AlexanderD
Jackson, NJ5,650 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2023 • Family
We did not go inside here on a recent DC visit but did enjoy its architecture from the outside. It is like nothing else in its vicinity and lovely to behold. It is a bit of gothic architecture to contrast with the neo-classicalism popular among Washington’s prominent public buildings.
Written July 10, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

zapprint
Corona, CA3,233 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2020 • Business
Visiting the National Mall never gets old. This trip I visited the gardens outside the rear of the castle.
Some of the trees were in full bloom, the weather cool, but enjoyable.
You always find something new.
Written March 12, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Les M
Cincinnati, OH467 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2021
The "Castle" is worth a quick stop. The building itself is very cool and they have some nice gardens around to tour. Inside, they have some odds and ends from the other Smithsonian museums.

There's alot of history about the institution and Smithson himself. In fact, his crypt is there. It doesn't take long to see. I was there for about 30 minutes.

They do have a small cafe. Its not great, but there are few places to eat on the Mall so you kinda got to take what you can get.
Written September 2, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

DonnaE
Vienna, VA169 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Of the 14 Smithsonian Museums in DC, here's a local's list of the Top 10...
1. Air & Space - on the mall - exhibits change often
2. American History - mall - kids studio downstairs
3. Natural History - mall - great IMAX and cafe
4. Hirshhorn - mall - Fun art!
5. Folger Shakespeare Library - E. Capitol St
6. Freer Gallery/Sackler Gallery - under mall
7. Renwick Gallery - Pennsylvania & 17th
8. American Indian - mall - beautiful outside, a tad boring inside.
9. African Art - mall
10.. Udvar-Hazy Center - Dulles Airport - No exhibits - just a hanger chocked full of planes and an IMAX.

Enjoy!!! They're all free except Udvar Hazy $12 parking fee or transport fee via Smithsonian shuttle bus $6 each way
Written March 15, 2006
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

miznina
San Simeon, CA303 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
We've just come back from a Spring Break trip with 2 kids, ages 8 and 10. As to be expected, a lot of time was spent in one or the other Smithsonian Museums...primarily Air/Space and Natural History.

My recommendation is to immediately by a Smithsonian membership at the first opportunity. You get $2 off (per person!) each Imax show, a considerable discount on the Flight Simulator at the Air/Space Museum, and about 10% at all the shops.

We not only saw a few IMAX shows, we bought the usual amount of rocks, trilobite fossils and stuffed panda bears (the Zoo is also part of the Smithsonian) and found that our membership MORE than paid for itself by the end of our trip. Plus, now we get the magazine for a year.
Written April 19, 2007
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

LolaGo1
Washington DC, DC6,630 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2014 • Solo
For first time visitors of SMITHSONIAN museums in Washington, DC, visiting the Smithsonian Institution Building is highly recommended. As you enter the building, you see the big map of the National Mall showing various museums and landmarks of Washington, DC.

1. TWO (2) FREE MAPS

The Information Desk employees are very friendly and helpful. They give out 2 FREE MAPS: one is called, " Guide and Map" which briefly discusses the 19 museums, galleries and Zoo that it owns/manages. The other handout depicts detailed maps of Washington, DC and areas of interest to tourists such as the National Mall, Downtown DC, Georgetown, Dupont Circle, etc. The latter is an excellent tool to use whether you 're driving, walking or taking the public transportation

2. OVERVIEW OF THE SMITHSONIAN MUSEUMS EXHIBITS

There are very few items on display at the Smithsonian Institution Building that are located near the Gift Shop at the Ground Floor.

The most notable ones are the napkin of Napoleon Boneparte and small artifact related to Joan of Arc. Other exhibits are in another room that shows samples of small rockets and birds. For more exhibits of these kinds, visit the National Air and Space Museum and National Museum of Natural History.

3. TIME CONSTRAINTS

If you only have 3 days or less, I recommend reading the "Guide and Map" mentioned above. Depending on your interest, choose the museums you would like to visit.

MY 4 TOP FAVORITE (FREE) SMITHSONIAN MUSEUMS are:

1. National Air and Space Museum
2. National Museum of the American Indian
3. National Museum of Natural History
4. National Portrait Gallery/Smithsonian American Art Museum ( located at the same building)

Happy visits! Be sure to come back and see the other attractions that Washington, DC has to offer!
Written July 6, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

mindlesstraveler
New York City, NY3 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2011
If you have never been to the Smithsonian Institution, you are missing out big time.

I have been to the Air and Space Museum multiple times. The exhibits are great, just really well though out. Great for kids, because tons of the displays are interactive. Make sure you keep an eye on them, because there is so much to read, you may get caught up! The history the provide is great. Real planes, spaceships, and satellites right before your very eyes. Make sure you get to see a show in the planetarium. They continue to fascinate me.

The American Art Museum was good, though its huge, and I find it hard to cover in a few hours. The portrait hall was great for history buffs, though children may quickly lose interest because they will not know many of the people. The modern art exhibit is great; don't miss it. They are truly works of art in their own way. Though you cannot touch many of the displays, still good for children because it is very pleasing to the eye. My dad and I spent a long time seeing what an artist used in a collage of TVs to represent each state in the US.

The Zoo is really god, always a great time. It isn't all completely outdoors, which is great, especially if its really hot or raining. Elephants are forever adorable. There is always millions of baby animals, which is fun to look at. Food is good too - you can eat lunch there, but nothing special, just like chicken fingers, burgers, and fries.

The Natural History Museum is a must. The Hope Diamond is beautiful, you have to see it. There are tons of animals in the animal hall. You can get lunch there, and it's not that bad. There are tons of choices, and I don't remember it be terribly expensive. The traveling exhibits are always good when I'm there. If you've go young boys, they will absolutely love the dinosaur exhibit.

The American History Museum is forever my favorite museum I have ever been to. I love pop culture, so that is part of the reason. But, I also enjoyed American history in school, and thsi museum lives up to expectations. As of March 2011, there is a really great Julia Child Exhibit. There is also an Abraham Lincoln exhibit which was almost better than the exhibit at Ford's Theater. The same information, but presented really well with unique artifacts. This closes May 30, 2011, so after then, your too late. The exhibit on 1939 sounds random, but if you love the Wizard of Oz, check it out, They have the original script, which was changed dramatically. The also have the ruby red slippers Judy Garland wore. The American Presidency exhibit was interesting. Not as interesting for little children I think, but there are cool facts to explain to them. Don't miss the First Ladies of the Smithsonian Exhibit either. The dresses are beautiful, and some of them are REALLY old. The dresses change form time to time, so no guarantee on what your going to get. There are a few really current ones that are always there, such as Michelle Obama's, Barbara Bush's, Hilary Clinton's and Jacqueline Kennedy's. The pop culture exhibit is a great one for kids - don't miss the opportunity to see Kermit in the flesh (or in the glass case, but close enough)!

There are many others, but I'm speaking for the few I have been to and experienced that I can recollect.

Great part about all of these? Their all FREE. The only exception is the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, but children under the age of 12 and members of the Smithsonian Institution are free, and general admission is only $15.

The African American History and Culture Museum hasn't opened yet, but will begin construction, according to their website, in 2012.
Written April 24, 2011
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION BUILDING (2024) All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (with Photos)

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