It’s Dino Mania! Check out Dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History and the National Zoo

Dinosaur mania is sweeping DC this summer and you do not want to miss out!

After five long years, the dinosaurs have finally returned to the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History.  The new Fossil Hall is nothing like the dimly-lit exhibit of the past.   While the old Fossil Hall centered solely on dinosaurs, the new exhibit instead explores the concept of the dinosaurs as they existed in deep time and the role dinosaurs played in evolution as well as what they can teach us about modern-day animals.  The exhibit also explores the extinction of the dinosaurs and ties their demise into the climate change we are experiencing today and the threat of extinction faced by other animals.

Dinosaurs, of course, are the centerpiece of the large, brightly-lit Fossil Hall.  Enormous fossils are posed in action much as they probably existed when the roamed the earth.  The museum’s T. Rex is posed feasting upon a fallen Triceratops, with damage to the Triceratops’ skull evident.  Rather than looking at dinosaurs as curiosities from the past, visitors are given an in-depth look at how they lived — and died.  There are several dioramas throughout Fossil Hall as well as interactive exhibits, including one my son loved on how humans evolved from dinosaurs, an exhibit that allows visitors to electronically feed dinos, opportunities to touch casts of fossils, an exhibit centering on dating fossils, volunteer-run carts where kids can engage in activities like measuring and identifying fossils, and more.  There is also a large area where visitors can watch Smithsonian researchers in the process of working with real fossils, which was an endless source of fascination for my son.

 

 

If you go:

  • Expect crowds.  The National Museum of Natural History is reported to be the most visited museum in the country and the Hall of Fossils is the most visited exhibit within the museum.  If you can try to visit on a weekday, especially during opening weeks.  Note the extended summer hours.
  • Like all Smithsonian museums, admission is free.
  • There is limited street parking that is metered.  There are many options to visit by public transportation.  Plan your route here.
  • Plan your visit!  Go for the dinosaurs but stay for the gems, mammals, butterflies and more!
  • Visitors are allowed to bring food into museum and there are also a couple of cafeterias with lots of kid-friendly options.  However, no food or drink is allowed in the exhibit areas.

The National Zoo did not want to be left out of dino mania!  This summer is Dino Summer at the National Zoo.  Throughout the zoo you will find animatronic dinos that look like real dinosaurs – including one that squirts water at unsuspecting visitors.  The zoo is always fun in the summer and this added attraction makes it even more fun.  Seeing the animatronic dinosaurs is free and there is a live, intactive show and photo opps available at an extra cost.

  • Admission to the zoo is free.
  • Parking at the zoo is free for members, $25.00 for everyone else.  However, there is street parking available around the zoo.  The zoo is also running shuttles from the metro.  Find all of the details here.
  • Food may be brought into the zoo.  The zoo also has a cafe and several food trucks for the summer.