Family Field Trip: The Smithsonian Museums

The Smithsonian is a sprawling collection of 19 museums, nine research centers and the National Zoo, most of which are located along the National Mall in Washington, D.C. All together, the Smithsonian forms the largest museum and research complex in the world. The Smithsonian offers no shortage of educational and engaging sites to visit. The biggest problem you may have is deciding what to do first.

Find available tutors

Before You Go

Simply planning a trip to the Smithsonian provides a chance to learn about the United States and its culture and history. Discuss with your child which museums comprise the Smithsonian and which ones are of the most interest to visit. It would take a long, exhausting trip to complete a comprehensive tour of all the museums, so it's best to focus on one or a few that seem most appealing.

Smithsonian National Gallery Washington D.C. National Mall

National Gallery

The Smithsonian website offers guides to all of its museums. This can help you and your child see what's available. There are also tips for visiting with children, since the breadth of even a single Smithsonian museum may seem intimidating, especially for young children. Many museums have sections that are specifically tailored for young audiences, while others are more geared for adults.

Establishing a plan for your visit before you go will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed. However, build flexibility into your plan in order to account for the unexpected. With the Smithsonian's proximity to the National Mall, you may find that your child welcomes mental downtime on the grassy expanses outside the museums. This is a great spot to relax and take in the view of the Washington Monument, Capitol Building and Lincoln Memorial.

Teaching Moments at the Site

Learning opportunities at the Smithsonian will vary significantly based upon which museum you visit. Your child may learn about art at one of the many galleries, including the National Gallery of Art, Freer Gallery of Art and National Museum of African Art. Many children enjoy visiting the Air and Space Museum, which teaches about the history of human flight. There is also the American Indian Museum, where your child can learn about the history, art and culture of this continent's native people.

Washington Monument National Mall Washington D.C.

Washington Monument

There are more whimsical moments to be had at the Smithsonian as well. For example, the Arts and Industries Building features a working carousel. For a different type of learning experience than you'll find at a museum, travel north of the Mall to the National Zoo. The zoo features giant pandas, western lowland gorillas, Sumatran tigers and many other species among its 2,000 animals.

The Ride Home

After leaving the Smithsonian, ask your child to reflect upon what he or she saw. What was the most memorable experience? You may have encountered an astounding array of sights, from the Wright Brothers' plane to the Hope Diamond. Your child may benefit from creating a journal about the experience to help remember everything.

If a return trip is possible, then the ride home also provides a great chance to discuss what you didn't see. Were there museums on your schedule that you didn't get to? There may also have been museums you heard about while visiting the Smithsonian that you can note for the next visit. Your child may even want to visit the same sites again to relive the magical experience the Smithsonian offers.

Did you find this useful? If so, please let others know!

Other Articles You May Be Interested In

We Found 7 Tutors You Might Be Interested In

Huntington Learning

  • What Huntington Learning offers:
  • Online and in-center tutoring
  • One on one tutoring
  • Every Huntington tutor is certified and trained extensively on the most effective teaching methods
In-Center and Online


  • What K12 offers:
  • Online tutoring
  • Has a strong and effective partnership with public and private schools
  • AdvancED-accredited corporation meeting the highest standards of educational management
Online Only

Kaplan Kids

  • What Kaplan Kids offers:
  • Online tutoring
  • Customized learning plans
  • Real-Time Progress Reports track your child's progress
Online Only


  • What Kumon offers:
  • In-center tutoring
  • Individualized programs for your child
  • Helps your child develop the skills and study habits needed to improve their academic performance
In-Center and Online

Sylvan Learning

  • What Sylvan Learning offers:
  • Online and in-center tutoring
  • Sylvan tutors are certified teachers who provide personalized instruction
  • Regular assessment and progress reports
In-Home, In-Center and Online

Tutor Doctor

  • What Tutor Doctor offers:
  • In-Home tutoring
  • One on one attention by the tutor
  • Develops personlized programs by working with your child's existing homework
In-Home Only


  • What TutorVista offers:
  • Online tutoring
  • Student works one-on-one with a professional tutor
  • Using the virtual whiteboard workspace to share problems, solutions and explanations
Online Only

Our Commitment to You

  • Free Help from Teachers

  • Free Learning Materials

  • Helping Disadvantaged Youth