Top 10 Things to Do at the Smithsonian in 2010

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The year 2010 marks the end of the aughts, a term that was thankfully rarely applied. But now as we stand at the cusp of a new decade, we have the same problem. What will we call this one?

Are we in our teens?

We'll leave that decision to greater minds.

Meanwhile, the team at the Around the Mall blog, have a assembled our official list of the Top Ten Things that you simply must do at the Smithsonian this year.

1. Famous directors George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are both fans of the artist Norman Rockwell. Starting in July 2010, 50 paintings from the Lucas and Spielberg collections will be on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

2. A Smithsonian Magazine favorite, the Annual Smithsonian Kite Festival promises to be an engineering challenge. Learn from the Around the Mall team's mistakes and design the winning kite.

3. Get in touch with your inner sleuth and try to follow Dan Brown's latest character, Peter Solomon, the fictional Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, as he ventures through Washington, D.C. While you're at it, try to debunk Brown's myths about the Smithsonian Institution. We found some, but see if you can uncover any more.

4. Every year since 1967, more than one million people gather on the National Mall for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival for more than two weeks of cultural immersion and exploration. This year's event, June 24–28 and July 1–5, will feature México, Asian Pacific American communities, and an inside look at what it would be like to work at the Smithsonian.

5. Follow in Capt. Rob Plagmann's footsteps and design an elaborate proposal based on a Smithsonian exhibition. Read all the juicy details of Plagmann's proposal here.

6. Try to make a scientific discovery and get it in the Smithsonian collection. A young girl found a vertebra at the recently opened Dinosaur Park in Laurel, Maryland. Per an agreement, all significant finds will make their way to the Smithsonian. The park is open to the public the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of each month from 12-4pm.

7. Should discovery in the ground fail, try the sky. The public observatory at the National Air and Space Museum, come summer, will be packed as the skies clear and objects are visible. The Around the Mall team visited the observatory in September to get a sneak peak, but unfortunately, it was cloudy.

8. Be one of the first to walk through the newest hall in the Natural History Museum. The Hall of Human Origins opens March 17 and will answer the question, What does it mean to be human? The hall's festive opening coincides with the museum's 100th anniversary on the Mall. Check back for upcoming events and programs planned for the celebration.

9. In 2009, the Hope Diamond was removed from its setting and displayed by itself for the first time ever. In early 2010, the stone will be set into a custom Harry Winston design to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the gem's donation to the museum. Fight the crowds and get a look at the diamond in its new, limited-time setting. Read about its removal on the Around the Mall blog. Explore the three designs that were put to a popular vote and see the winner.

10. The heartbreaking news that Tai Shan will be heading back to China in early 2010 was confirmed in December. Since the announcement, fans of Butterstick have flocked to the National Zoo to bid a fond farewell to the Zoo's most beloved bear. Zoo officials have said Tai Shan will make the journey in the first quarter of 2010, so there is still have time to say goodbye. See our announcement and a photo gallery of Butterstick's four and a half years in Washington, D.C.

(Plan to make a visit this year to the Smithsonian? Please see our companion site, for help with making reservations, finding exhibits, and making your own personal itinerary.)

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