Tours of the Smithsonian Institution

The historic Castle, the Smithsonian's first building, now houses an information center.
The historic Castle, the Smithsonian's first building, now houses an information center. (Image: smithsonian institution castle image by Ritu Jethani from

No trip to Washington, D.C., is complete without a visit to one or more of the museums that make up the Smithsonian Institution. Individuals and families alike will find a treasure of knowledge and history in the Institution's 19 museums and zoo, and all offer free admission. Because there is so much to see and experience, visitors may prefer to participate in tours of the Smithsonian Institution. Smithsonian tours are available both in person and online.

Smithsonian-Sponsored Tours

All of the individual museums that comprise the Smithsonian, except the National Zoo, offer free daily tours of their buildings and exhibits. These tours focus only on the individual museum, not the entire campus. In the "Plan Your Visit" section of the Smithsonian's website click on "Tours" for a list of dates and times. The National Zoo offers brief interpretive programs about individual exhibits, such as "Orangutan Crossing" and "Great Ape Research Demonstration." Check the zoo's website for programs and times.

Gray Line Bus Tours

Gray Line of Washington, D.C., offers two bus tours of the city that give you time at the Smithsonian museums. The "D.C. In A Day Tour" is a nine-hour outing that includes a stop at the Smithsonian. The "Two-Day Washington, D.C. Grand Tour" includes a stop of several hours at the Smithsonian.

Smithsonian Virtual Tours

You can always enjoy a tour of some of the highlights of the Smithsonian right at your computer. The National Museum of Natural History offers an online panoramic tour where you have the museum to yourself. A map of the exhibits lets you choose where to go, and you will see the exhibits as if you were there in person. The websites of the other museums also offer "virtual tours" with exhibits and multimedia, but not the experience of being there in person.

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