Spend any time in a city like Washington, DC, and you’ll notice the word Smithsonian on any number of museums. That’s not an accident. 

The Smithsonian Institution is the name of the massive group of museums and research centers that are sprinkled around the United States. While most of the group is located in Washington, DC, there are museums and research centers in several other states including Massachusetts, Texas, New York, and Virginia. 

In this post, we’re going to tell you all about the Smithsonian Institution.

The History of the Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian feels like a very American institution. It’s run by the US Government, but it was the idea of a British scientist named James Smithsonian.

It was founded in 1846 with the stated purpose as “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” In 1849, construction started on the home of the Smithsonian Institution, nicknamed The Castle.

Today, that building is home to the administrative offices of the people who manage and run the institution. It has a small visitor’s center and a few interactive displays for you to check out too.

Museums and Research Centers

Currently, the Smithsonian Institute manages 19 museums, galleries, and gardens. Plus, there is one zoo.

Here are a few of the most popular sites:

American History Museum

American History Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C

This is probably the building you think of when you hear “The Smithsonian” today. It’s one of the premier museums for American history in the country. The American History Museum has over three million artifacts that trace history and heritage, from a fragment of Plymouth Rock to C-P30 from Star War’s Return of the Jedi. 

African American Museum

For many, the African American Museum is one of the very best museums in the entire country, period. It showcases, celebrates, and teaches about the history of African American art, history, and culture.  It also shows how their impact contributed to our nation. 

Air and Space Museum

Air and Space Smithsonian Museum

For many, a visit to the Air and Space Museum is a must-see on any list to Washington, DC. Step a foot inside of it and you’ll know why right away. It celebrates the history of flight, from the Wright brother’s first experiments to landing on the Moon, the shuttle program, and beyond.

National Zoo

The National Zoo is right in the heart of Washington, DC. Unsurprisingly, it’s one of the most popular zoos in the country and attracts millions of visitors each year. Make some time to visit and you’ll be able to see giant panda’s, elephants, tigers, and all sorts of other interesting animals.

American Indian Museum

This is one of the newer museums, but it’s also really popular too. The American Indian Museum has one of the biggest collections of Native artifacts in the entire world. Visitors touring the museum can learn about the history and culture of native people on the entire North and South American continents.

Getting There

The Smithsonian Institute museums and zoo are all right in Washington, DC. You can drive, or take public transportation to any of these sites. The Smithsonian is just one reason why so many people love spending time exploring our nation’s capital. If you’re visiting the area and need last-minute hotel reservations, take a look at our sister site HotelCoupons.com for help.