More than 126 million (yes, million!) specimens of plants, animals, rocks, fossils, meteorites, human remains, and cultural artifacts can be found at The National Museum of Natural History. The museum, opened in 1910 is administered by the Smithsonian Institution, and was one of the first Smithsonian buildings built to exclusively house collections and research facilities. The buildings are also buzzing with almost two hundred natural history scientists. Open 364 days a year, with free admission, this is the most-visited natural history museum in the world—and the most-visited museum of any type in North America.
Insider’s Tip: It might go without saying that this museum is always packed, but it’s worth setting aside a day and fighting the crowds to see the incredible collections on display at this family friendly attraction. Highlights include the 45.5-carat Hope Diamond, a mummified cat, the Dom Pedro aquamarine, live butterflies and plants, a Neanderthal reconstruction, an African elephant, a polar bear, a lion, a live coral reef, and the 'Mud Masons of Mali,' which recreates the UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its earthen architecture.
There is no public parking at the museum, and street parking is limited (and posted times are enforced), though there are commercial parking lots and garages located within several blocks of the museum. It’s also convenient to get to the museum by public transportation. The closest Metrorail station is the Smithsonian Station (Mall exit) on the Blue and Orange line. Museum admission includes all programs except the Butterfly Pavilion, which is free Tuesdays only, and the IMAX Theatre.