Skip to main content.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Website Search Box

At a Glance

Planning a field trip to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History involves a lot of planning, no matter where you come from and when you visit. This section is your one-stop information source for getting here and ensuring a smooth visit.

Getting to the Museum:

Location. The National Museum of Natural History is located at 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC. The accessible entrance is on the Constitution Avenue side at 10th Street.  The Mall entrance is on the opposite side of the building on Madison Drive, which is one-way going west.

Admission and Reservations. There is no admission fee to enter the Museum. Programs are free of charge unless otherwise noted.  Self-guided tours do NOT require reservations.

Museum hours. Daily, 10:00 am to 5:30 pm. Closed December 25. Extended spring and summer hours are determined yearly and announced on the Museum’s home page.

Bus drop-off and parking locations. Buses should drop off and pick up on the Mall side of the Museum, unless handicapped accessible entry is required. The Smithsonian has no parking for buses. The District of Columbia Department of Transportation (202.727.1000) may have bus parking suggestions. Free on-street parking for cars and vans on the National Mall along Jefferson and Madison Drives is limited and regulations are enforced, including the 3-hour maximum. There are commercial lots and garages nearby.

Accessibility. The Museum’s accessible entrance is on the Constitution Avenue side at 10th Street. Accessibility information is available at and 202.633.2921 (voice) or 202.633.4353 (TTY). The Mall side of the Museum is not accessible and is 1,600 feet away from the Constitution Avenue entrance. Subway riders with mobility concerns should use Federal Triangle Metro. Please consult a Museum plan for the locations of accessible bathrooms and elevators. For more information, request a copy of “Smithsonian Access” at any museum information desk or call Smithsonian Information at 202.633.1000 (voice) or 202.633.5285 (TTY).

Nearby Metrorail stations. The closest stops on the Blue and Orange Lines are Smithsonian and Federal Triangle. The nearest Yellow and Green Line stop is Archives/Navy Memorial. For Metrorail schedules and fares, call 202.637.7000 (voice) or 202.638.3780 (TTY).


Security and Chaperones:

Entering the Museum

Students may enter the Museum via the accessible entrance on the Constitution Avenue side of the Museum at 10th Street or the Mall entrance.

To speed entry into the building, please ask students to carry as little as possible (backpacks, bags, etc.). Security checks are now required of Museum visitors, and all bags are thoroughly searched. To better protect our visitors, Smithsonian Museums have installed airport-style screening machines at all entrances. 

The Smithsonian follows the Homeland Security Advisory System. Under the Orange Advisory level, all Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are expected to remain open. Under the Red Advisory Level, all Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo will be closed. 


To ensure student safety, students must be supervised at all times. It is vital that chaperones and teachers accompany students while in the building, both to monitor behavior and to ensure students’ safety.

Failure to maintain order makes other visitors uncomfortable and can endanger your students. The required student-chaperone ratios are:    

  • 1 adult for every 5 students, grades pre-K through 2
  • 1 adult for every 10 students, grades 3 through 7
  • 1 adult for every 15 students, grades 8 through 12 

Some Simple Rules

To ensure the enjoyment and safety of all Museum visitors, please share these rules with your students and chaperones:

  • Be considerate of all visitors
  • Walking and talking are appropriate, while running and shouting are not
  • Food, drinks, gum, and smoking are not allowed anywhere in the museum except the designated eating areas
  • Our exhibits are delicate: Please do not touch exhibits or lean on exhibit cases
  • If students or chaperones use MP3 players, cell phones, or other electronics, please be sure that their use does not disturb other visitors


Navigating the Museum:

Museum maps

The Museum has over 150,000 square feet of public space, and it is easy to get disoriented or lost. We recommend printing museum maps (Download Acrobat Reader for students and chaperones.

To avoid crowds...

The best time to plan a school visit is during the winter months (January and February). If you plan a visit for the spring months (March through June), which are very crowded, please keep in mind that your group may require extra supervision and you might require additional time for your visit. If you are planning to participate in a reserved program, please make your reservations well in advance.

Museum stores

The main gift and book stores are located on the ground floor. The Mammals Museum Store is on the 1st floor. The Gems and Minerals Store is located on the 2nd floor. Temporary stores frequently accompany temporary exhibits.


Picture taking, including the use of flashbulbs, is permitted unless posted to the contrary. Tripods and videotaping are permitted only with prior approval. Make advance requests in writing or by calling the Office of Education, 202.633.1077.


Lunch Options:

Lunch facilities and bag lunches

There are no provisions for groups to eat bag lunches in the Museum. Lunches may be stored in large plastic bags or coolers in the check rooms off the Rotunda and the Constitution Avenue Lobby (no refrigerated storage available). Groups may picnic on the Mall.

Very limited food service

The Museum’s cafeteria is being renovated to better serve our visitors. A temporary cafeteria featuring sandwiches, salads, hot and cold drinks, and desserts is now open on our second floor. A light menu is also available at Café Natural on the ground floor. Outside food is prohibited in the Museum. There is no designated seating area for school or tour groups. The cafeteria recycles or composts the majority of its waste so please help us by asking your group to separate their trash into the proper containers.


[ TOP ]

Sign up for the latest news!