Indeed, the Smithsonian Institution is one of the most famous collections of museums in the world. For under the Smithsonian banner are nineteen world-class museums, nine research centers, and the National Zoological Park. Its collection of some 140 million spans the entire world including artworks, scientific specimens, artifacts, and other objects. So large is the collection that only one percent is on display at any given point.
The Smithsonian Institution includes such popular attractions as the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of African Art, the Freer Gallery of Art, the National Museum of American Indian, the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of Natural History, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery.
The Institution also includes low-key but fascinating collections in the Anacostia Community Museum, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, and the National Postal Museum. All the museums have stunning permanent collections, but always be on the lookout for temporary exhibitions. And if you need a respite from being indoors, step outside and wander through the sunken Sculpture Garden at the Hirshhorn Museum or watch the rare giant pandas at play at the National Zoological Park.
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To get a grip on the museums, make your first stop Smithsonian Castle, which houses the Smithsonian Visitors Center. This informative first stop on the Mall is a source for an orientation film, multilingual touch-screen displays and free guides and maps. It also has a café, where you can grab a cup of coffee and plan your day.
Ten of its nineteen museums are located on the National Mall, in downtown D.C., with the rest found throughout the city. All are easy to get to via public transportation.