Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum and research complex, consisting of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park and nine research facilities.
The Smithsonian was established when it received its first endowment from the estate of a British Scientist James Smithson who left his estate to the United States to found “at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.”
All of the Smithsonian museums are apart of the US Government, with most of the museums being located in Washington, DC. There are over 137 million items in the Smithsonian Institute’s collection ranging from insects, meteorites, rare jewels, locomotives and spacecrafts.
Of the 19 Smithsonian museums, the most popular are the Smithsonian Institution Building (also known as The Castle), the National Museum of Natural History and the National Air and Space Museum. The Castle houses the administrative offices and information center for the Smithsonian museums. Located on 1000 Jefferson Drive SW, Washington D.C. The Castle is the best place to start your tour of the Smithsonian Museums. It’s one of the most recognizable structures in the city of Washington, and the 1st building to house the Smithsonian collection.
Both the National Museum of Natural History and National Air and Space Museum have IMAX Films. In addition to the IMAX Films, the National Air and Space Museum also has the Albert Einstein Planetarium, which has been considered the one of the best interactive exhibits. All three of these Smithsonian Museums are considered the most popular museums in Washington, DC for families.