Smithsonian Institution

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Are you trying to figure out the best way to organize your Smithsonian visit? Here is one tool to get you started. Families with kids of all ages love to explore the Smithsonian museums. We started with tours focused on kids ages 8-12 years old, as we know this is a time when kids are starting to more deeply explore science, history, nature, space, art, and culture - both in and out of school.

Browse our family tours below, organized by theme or museum – and customize them for your needs. Check out the related activity ideas and links. E-mail yourself the tour, and enjoy your visit! Please send us feedback if you have suggestions on how to improve our offering – and be sure to join our mailing list to be one of the first to know about new Smithsonian family products and activities!

map American History Natural History Museum American Indian Museum Air and Space Museum Freer Gallery Sackler Gallery African Art Museum Hirshhorn Museum Renwick Gallery (Tour Coming Soon!) National Portrait Gallery American Art Museum Postal Museum

Click on a museum above or pick a tour and start exploring!

Featured Tours

  • On August 28, 1963, hundreds of thousands of people descended on Washington, D.C., to march from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial on a quest for equality. In one of the most stirring moments in American oratory, Martin Luther King, Jr. declared, "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed—'We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.'" And now as thousands of visitors descend on the National Mall in celebration of the opening of the new National Museum of African American History, the Smithsonian Institution welcomes visitors to explore the vast wealth of African American artifacts and artworks across its other locations including the National Museum of American History, home of the Greensboro Lunch Counter and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, housing the nation's largest collection of artworks by African Americans.

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  • This tour takes visitors from the American History Museum on the National Mall north to the historic Old Patent Office building at 8th and F streets NW, home of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum. During the Civil War, the building itself was an infirmary for wounded soldiers and the site of Abraham Lincoln's inaugural ball for his second term in March 1865. The tour is adapted from the Smithsonian Books Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection. In a foreward, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham called the book a "dazzling and moving historical record of the war whose cause and course are our Aeneid."

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  • Are you looking to hone your presidential trivia skills? We’ve designed this tour of presidential highlights from the Smithsonian collections, taking you to six of the Smithsonian museums from the Natural History, American History and African American History museums on the National Mall and up 7th Street to the National Portrait Gallery and the American Art Museum, as well as to the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. You’ll find out which president got a cool gig working for the Smithsonian Institution after his presidency ended, which first lady brightened her inauguration festivities with a red-hot dress and learn which administration chose indigenous blooms from the American grasslands to decorate the White House china.

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  • Put the history books back on the shelf, power down the internet, and witness for yourself the treasures of the past. Walk the path of American history starting with a visit to see the Landsdowne Portrait of George Washington at the National Portrait Gallery. Next, drop by the Greensboro Lunch Counter in the American History Museum, where four young men sat down to stand up for their civil rights in 1960. Stroll back in time to see what once made people laugh; Archie Bunker's chair is here from the 1970s TV show “All in the Family,” or you can sing a tune with your old pal Kermit the Frog. Quiz yourself along the way and test your historical mettle. Who was the 16th president? Who traveled to space first? Who invented the light bulb? Don’t forget your camera to frame your place in history.

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  • Share a laugh and be entertained and enlightened together as you traverse the arts, history and culture of our times. This tour may initiate a lively debate over the significance of the crack on the photo of Abraham Lincoln at The National Portrait Gallery or have you crooning the words of Kermit the Frog’s signature song with your best friends. Strike a pose to imitate your favorite pieces in the Hirshhorn’s sculpture garden. Seek out new life and new civilizations when you stop by the Air and Space Museum to see the starship Enterprise, and unite under the Star Spangled Banner at the Museum of American History. Delight and discovery make a perfect background for bonding.

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  • Are we there yet? Take a break from travel woes on this tour designed to captivate the entire family. With Dorothy's red slippers or the most studied meteorite in history, the artifacts and specimens on this tour will have the oldest to the youngest family members wide-eyed. Say "thank you very much" to Elvis at the National Portrait Gallery, pay homage to Lincoln's Top Hat at the National Museum of American History, and find out how Americans got better at getting places at the Air and Space Museum. Some family members like monkey business, while others like wisdom, so end the day at The Zoo, where the orangutans and the elephants are sure to indulge both interests. There's something for everyone at the Smithsonian, so bring the whole family and enjoy the ride.

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  • From roses to diamonds, this tour may appeal to mothers of all interests. Together you can coo over Katharine Hepburn's Oscar and the First Lady's ball gown, marvel at the Freer Gallery's Peacock Room, and wince at the sheer ugliness of the Zoo's naked mole rats. This is the mother of all tours, bringing together a host of artifacts representing the beauty, compassion, charm, courageousness and confidence and all those things that mother knows best.

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  • Slow down. Stop and stare. Step into the worlds created by the Smithsonian’s paintings and artworks. Start your visit at the Renwick Gallery, enjoying the work of the nation's crafts artists, and admire the mystery of Wendell Castle's Ghost Clock, and the decorative ironwork in Albert Paley's Portal Gates. On the National Mall, rest between destinations in the Enid A. Haupt Garden behind the Smithsonian Castle, before continuing inside the Castle to find a 12th-century Buddha and mid-century modern china. Next door are the world class collections of the Freer Gallery, which reopens in October after extensive renovations. At the Sackler, home to exquisite Buddha collections, gaze deeply into the reflections and subtle shades found on a celadon glaze bottle. Up 7th Street is the National Portrait Gallery and the American Art Museum. See one of the most haunting images of Abraham Lincoln at the Portrait Gallery, and then pretend to hike into the California foothills when you visit Bierstadt’s epic 1868 painting, Among the Sierra Nevada, California, at the American Art Museum. Other stops along the way, include the National Postal Museum, the National Museum of the American Indian, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the African Art Museum. The Smithsonian's art collections are vast and diverse, this tour takes you far and wide across centuries and cultural landscapes.

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  • Remember that first time Dad took you sledding? We've crafted a tour for just you and Dad. Take him on a Smithsonian museums journey to see Muhammad Ali’s gloves, Archie Bunker’s chair, Chuck Yeager's Bell X-1, a moon rock and other Smithsonian artifacts. At your first stop in downtown Washington, D.C., at the National Museum of American History, check out the Star Spangled Banner and Duke Ellington's Wurlitzer piano. Visit the National Air and Space Museum and show him a Douglas DC-3. Next, visit the National Portrait Gallery at 8th and F Streets to see sports greats like Reggie Jackson and check out a sculpture of the father of our country, George Washington. At the National Postal Museum on Capitol Hill, fall in love with the postal pup Owney and learn his incredible story. When you’ve completed your excursion in downtown D.C, take Dad to the National Zoo in Rock Creek Park to end the day with orangutans and the elephants. An elephant never forgets, and neither will he.

    Our award-winning, responsive-design tour fits your phone, tablet and computer and can be used to make an itinerary for easy planning and printout.

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  • Discover the wild, wild natural world at the Smithsonian. Feel the flutter of live butterflies at the Natural History Museum and see Whistler’s gold-flecked peacocks at the Freer. From giant squid to ancient dinosaurs, from black ravens to fish once thought extinct to flashes of stardust, the magic of all outdoors can be found just inside the doors of these museums and the National Zoo. Pack up your compass (Lewis and Clark had one, see it on this tour), strap on your backpack and travel this path through the art, history and science of nature. Start your meditation on the natural world with a visit to the Sackler Gallery’s Seated Buddha, and bridge the gap among the solar system’s orbiting bodies by touching a piece of the moon at the Air and Space Museum.

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  • Ever wonder why the Hope Diamond is so blue? An abundance of boron tints the famous gemstone. What does a Neolithic jade disk from China have in common with the Apollo 11 Command Module? Well, the disk is a perfect circle, and every engineer knows the formula for the area of a circle. Any scientific mind is sure to be entertained on this tour across a range of museums, studying not only a mirror for the Hubble Space telescope but also the power of a carved 13th-century throne leg at the Freer Gallery. This tour takes you from the the American Indian Museum, where you’ll see the cleverly designed Bombardier vehicle used by the Saint Laurent Metis people for fishing, to the National Air and Space Museum, home to the Apollo 11 Command Module and the Spirit of St. Louis, and finally to the Renwick, home to the ingenious, and yes, scientific, works of America's crafts artists. Across this scientific landscape, you’ll find all kinds of challenging formulas and equations for exploration.

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  • The spring season is never a surprise. We wait in anticipation from the moment that early prognosticator Punxsutawney Phil pops his furry head out of the ground in February. And yet the charms of the season are always fresh and new. It is the time "when the world is mud-luscious," as e.e. cummings wrote, and when, as Langston Hughes said, "the rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night." In Washington, D.C. spring arrives with the ephemeral first burst of the cherry blossoms. But at the Smithsonian museums, the beauty of spring is transcendent, marking anniversaries of the historic spring flights of Lindbergh and Earhart at the Air and Space Museum to the munching of the hungry caterpillars in the Natural History Museum's enchanting butterfly pavilion. We’ve selected more than a dozen “Spring Fling” artifacts from seven museums, including some fabulous images of baseball's greats at the National Portrait Gallery and the delicate arts of Edo Japan at the Freer Gallery of Art. So throw on a pair of your brightest rain boots and grab a box of Cracker Jacks because it's springtime at the Smithsonian!

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  • Tucked away along the walkways to and from the Smithsonian museums is a collection of gardens that create an extraordinary botanical wonderland. From the Heirloom and the Victory Gardens at the American History Museum, the art-filled outdoor spaces at the Hirshhorn’s Sculpture Garden, the Butterfly Garden at the Natural History Museum, and the Native Landscape Garden at the American Indian Museum, these soothing surrounds are the perfect place to relax and take in the sites. Whether of the vegetable, perennial or highly manicured sort, every garden has a story and lesson to share. So dig in and enjoy.

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  • The Smithsonian is home to a vast array of artifacts that bridge the regions and cultures of Asia, the Pacific and America, yesterday and today. The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center is part of a community that is global, fluid and ever-evolving, and on this tour the center's curator Adriel Luis leads a transnational journey throughout the collections of the Smithsonian’s museums to uncover stories of Asian Pacific history and culture. The objects on this tour encapsulate a range of topics—from migration to global affairs to cross-cultural influence—showing that the Asian Pacific American experience transcends time and space.

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  • Too often swept under the rug by the chroniclers of history, the contributions of dedicated women to artistic innovation, social reform, and scientific advancement are worthy of our recognition and admiration. This tour, whose stops will bring you into contact with such pioneering heroines as aviatrix Amelia Earhart, suffragette Carrie Chapman Catt, civil rights crusader Mary Church Terrell, impressionist painter Mary Cassatt, author Harriet Beecher Stowe, Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor, and computer science revolutionary Grace Hopper, is a celebration of the dauntless hidden figures who managed to alter humanity's trajectory in spite of a social system designed to check their progress.

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  • Featured Museum

  • National Museum of American History Take Tour
  • Renwick Gallery Take Tour
  • Smithsonian Castle Take Tour
  • National Postal Museum Take Tour
  • National Portrait Gallery Take Tour
  • National Museum of Natural History Take Tour
  • National Zoological Park Take Tour
  • Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Take Tour
  • Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Take Tour
  • Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Take Tour
  • Anacostia Community Museum Take Tour
  • National Museum of the American Indian Take Tour
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum Take Tour
  • National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Take Tour
  • National Air and Space Museum Take Tour
  • National Museum of African Art Take Tour
  • National Museum of African American History and Culture Take Tour
  • National Museum of the American Indian George Gustav Heye Center Take Tour
  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum Take Tour