Museums Travel

Smithsonian American History Museum

(Last Updated On: February 25, 2019)

You could spend hours roaming through any of the Smithsonian Museums, and the American History Museum is no different. We recommend looking online before you go so you know exactly what you want to visit. This way, you can wander toward your destination, looking as you go, but not get lost walking your feet off for hours and hours. We planned two hours in this museum, and that seemed to be the right amount of time.

Old Glory

We wanted to see several items in the Smithsonian American History Museum. The first was Old Glory, which waved above Fort McHenry in 1814 when Francis Scott Key was penning the National Anthem. The flag is surprisingly large and kept under dim light. From its ragged condition, you can tell it has been through a war. Despite multiple warning signs, we still saw a security guard slap a camera phone out of someone’s hand as they tried to take a picture. Please heed all rules and don’t take pictures when you’re not supposed to. In DC, this was one of the few places we weren’t allowed to photograph.

The American Presidents

We also visited a section dedicated to the US Presidents. This was our favorite exhibit area in the museum. Abraham Lincoln’s top hat that he wore to the theater on his last fateful night was prominently displayed. There are items from each presidency including President Obama’s basketball. We also enjoyed watching short videos of our recent Presidents. There was even a podium where our boys stood and read a famous speech from history in front of a green screen, just like a US President. This is definitely an area to spend some time wandering.

We loved seeing all the artifacts from the different Presidents.
One of our favorite things was reading a famous Presidential speech.
The street sign display was cool.

Choose Your Exhibits

The other things we wanted to see were primarily pop culture items. We saw Willy Mays’ cleats, glove, and jersey. We stopped by the Nauvoo Temple Sunstone. And we saw a baseball signed by the 1935 Nationals team. We even saw the Ruby Slippers from the Wizard of Oz. Along the way we saw a lot of other cool items, too, but these were the ones that we’d come for.

We expected these shoes to be a brighter red, but it was neat to see something so iconic.
An old Yankees stadium ticket booth. Our oldest knows everything about baseball and knew exactly what it was.
Since we are from Utah, we were excited to see the Golden Spike.

There is so much to see in all of the Smithsonian museums, so as we mentioned above, make a plan before you go. Check out what is on exhibit, and then pick a few things you want to see. This helped our kids enjoy the museum more since we focused on items they would be interested in.

One of the original sunstones from the LDS Nauvoo Temple.

Tips for Families

Don’t miss the Smithsonian American History Museum. There is something for everyone!

  • Plan your route through the museum before going. Here is a link to find info about the Smithsonian American History Museum.
  • There are two play/interactive areas. We were there on the one day that they are closed: Tuesday. But they look like a lot of fun for younger kids to explore and learn. They are open from 10-4.
  • You can bring food and drink in the museum, but you cannot eat it around the exhibits. There is a restaurant area, or you can eat outside if it’s nice.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. You will be doing a lot of walking.
We really liked this old boat that they pulled out of one of the Great Lakes. It still has the cannon ball stuck in it’s side.