Yellow Van Travels

A Yellow Van Travel Guide to the Smithsonian Museums

Most people come to Washington D.C. and see the monuments on the National Mall. In addition to those monuments, a lot of people also come to see the Smithsonian Museums. Over the last few weeks we have highlighted some of the Smithsonian Museums that we visited and enjoyed. This post will give you a brief run down of all of the Smithsonian Museums you can visit while in Washington D.C. We will start at the Capitol side of the Mall and head towards the Washington Monument.

American Indian Museum:

First up on our tour of the Smithsonian Museums, is the American Indian Museum. This museum is located on the South side of the Mall more towards the Capitol or East end. The American Indian Museum is home to collections of artifacts from different American Indian Tribes. We did not have time to go here, but if you are interested in American Indians and their history, this is a stop you should for sure make!

Air and Space Museum:

Title card says 5 things to see at the National Air and Space Museum. Shows a Wright brothers kite

Definitely one of the favorite Smithsonian Museums, the Air and Space Museum is a very popular museum in Washington D.C. This museum is located directly West of the American Indian Museum on the same South side of the Mall. We cut out some time to spend a few hours here and learned some pretty interesting things and saw some incredible artifacts. Check out our full blog post here.

Hirshhorn Museum:

The Hirshhorn Museum is easily recognizable on the South side of the Mall due to it’s unique circular shaped building. This museum is home to a large collection of modern art. As we discovered in Paris, during our visit to the Louvre and O’rsay Museums, we are not huge art people. So we skipped this museum, but from what I’ve heard lots of people really enjoy it.

Arts and Industries Building:

This building is currently closed for renovations with no future completion date. This is the building located directly West of the Hirshhorn Museum.

Smithsonian Castle: 

Smithsonian Castle

This is the building on the South side of the Mall that really does look like a castle. The Smithsonian Castle is a great place to go to plan, or finalize your plan, to see some of the Smithsonian Museums. We spent a little bit of time here as well. For our full review of what to do at the Smithsonian Castle, check out our post here. Behind the Smithsonian Castle, are a few more Smithsonian Museums: the African Art Museum, the Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery. We did not have the time to stop in any of these so we can’t vouch for them.

Natural History Museum:

Directly across from the Smithsonian Castle to the North is the Natural History Museum. Easily another one of the most popular Smithsonian Museums in Washington D.C. This is a museum that families, especially families with younger children, will be able to really enjoy together. We spent a few hours here one of our afternoons and really enjoyed it. Check out our full review here.

American History Museum:

As we continue on the North side of the Mall on our trek westward, the American History Museum is our next stop. We spent an entire day here. Mostly because I am such an American history nut! We were very museum-ed out by the end though and next time would just pick a few exhibits that sounded the most interesting. Our full experience can be found here.

African American History and Culture Museum:

And last but not least is the African American History and Culture Museum. This is one of the newest Smithsonian Museums to be built and opened. We wanted to see it but just ran out of time. It will definitely be on our itinerary for our next trip there though.

Some Tips for Visiting the Smithsonian Museums:

  • Start at the Smithsonian Castle to plan your trip. There are interactive displays as well as workers who can help you plan what you want to see.
  • Check the museum opening and closing times. Generally the Smithsonian Museums are opened form 10:00 am through 5:30 pm. But double check the times anyways! We were lucky enough to be there during the Cherry Blossom Festival and because it was going on, the Smithsonian Museums were open later for a few days while we were there. It made it possible for us to visit more of the museums in the short amount of time we had while we were there.
  • As a general rule, the back entrances to the museums (meaning the non-Mall sides) have shorter security lines and get you into the Smithsonian Museums faster.
  • Don’t try to see everything! Pick and choose what you must see. Even though we were fairly selective (whole day at the American History Museum, and a few hours at the Air and Space Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Smithsonian Castle) we still felt museum-ed out by the end of our trip. Also don’t try to see all of the Smithsonian Museums because you will definitely want to leave museum time for the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Newseum.
  • All Smithsonian Museums are free!