This post is sponsored by the National Museum of Natural History, however, I only promote places, programs, and events that I genuinely believe in and think will appeal to KFDC readers.
Back in 2014, when it was announced that the Hall of Fossils at the National Museum of Natural History would be closing for five years to undergo a major renovation, one of my first thoughts was of Owen. He was eight years old then, in second grade, and still digging dinosaurs. At that time, he wanted to be paleontologist when he grew up (with a side gig as a hip hop dancer, of course) and loved visits to the “Dino Museum.” I remember thinking that when it finally opened again, he would be 13 years old, in seventh grade, and probably not so into the prehistoric beasts anymore. But it seemed like such a long time away that I couldn’t really even fathom what he would be like at that age — my little boy, a teenager!?
Well, that time has come. The new David H. Koch Hall of Fossils-—Deep Time is complete, which means the dinosaurs are back — along with a whole new presentation of 3.7 billion years of life on Earth and how the past informs the present and shapes the future.
The 31,0000-square-foot exhibition is nothing short of impressive. Featuring everything from an authentic Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton (read the story of its discovery) to replicas of other large prehistoric species to displays of smaller fossils to all kinds of installations and displays about the history of our planet and the climatic, geological, and human impact on it. Carts with related hands-on activities for all ages are also set up throughout the exhibit. You can experience it all as a journey through time, starting billions of years back and following it into the future.
The exhibition was produced with some messages in mind: That all life — past, present, and future is connected and is continually changing over time. Geological processes and global cycles cause ecosystem and evolutionary changes, and mass extinctions have at times devastated life on Earth. There is also a call to us humans to recognize the impact we have and consider our role in shaping the future and the fate of life on Earth.
This all opens to the public on Saturday, June 8, with an Opening Ceremony at 10:15am — the first 300 visitors to the National Mall-side entrance can participate in it. After that, all are welcome to explore, though crowds are expected, and there will be lines. But the museum will be open late, until 7:30pm, both Saturday and Sunday. Costumes are encouraged, so come as your favorite dino or as a paleontologist (but be sure to note safety instructions on this page)! There will be even more events to celebrate the opening of Deep Time on several other weekends. Admission to most of them is free.
As for Owen… my teen is now a rising eighth grader. And while he no longer seeks out books about dinosaurs or requests Dinosaur Planet on Discovery Channel, he is still into science (and basketball and soccer and history and indie rock music, and if you ask him what he wants to be when he grows up, he’ll wisely answer something along the lines of, “How can I know now? There are so many possibilities.”).
When I told him about the new Hall of Fossils after attending a preview, I remarked that it was kind of bummer it had closed when he was at peak dino.
His response, “Yeah, but the new one sounds really cool…when can we go?”
Don’t just dream about adventure on a summer night, have one! Imagine rolling out your sleeping bag beneath a 50-foot whale, at the home of the Star-Spangled Banner, in the shadow of the space shuttle Discovery, or near the portraits of presidents and visionaries. That’s exactly what kids and their chaperones can do when they attend a Smithsonian Sleepover.
The American History Museum, Natural History Museum, the Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center, and the National Portrait Gallery are all yours during a night of fun that features tours, games, crafts, and more. Which adventure will you choose?
National Museum of Natural History Sleepovers
Tonight, one of the world’s most popular museum is yours to explore. Join a small group of fellow adventurers and wander into the newly opened Fossil Hall, where dinosaurs cast giant shadows; explore the ocean’s aquatic wonders; walk softly pass mysterious mammals—did that one blink? Swap stories while enjoying hands-on crafts projects and games. And then, as the lights dim, roll out your sleeping bag and dream away, knowing that Phoenix the whale is keeping watch throughout your night in the museum. Sleepovers at Natural History will be held June 21, June 28, July 19, July 26, Aug. 2 and Aug. 9.
National Museum of American History Sleepovers
Solve a Smithsonian mystery of historic proportions! The devious diva Miss Rose has stolen six valuable objects from the National Museum of American History—and you need to discover what’s missing before evening’s end. Become a detective and roam through the museum’s galleries. Use your cunning and skills to collect clues that guide you to the crime scene. Along the way, take part in some great games, experiments, and craft projects—and even become a presidential candidate. After you have solved the crime, roll out your bag and sleep soundly knowing that you’ve protected some of America’s treasures—and had plenty of fun. Sleepovers at American History will be held May 24, June 15 and July 5.
National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar Hazy Center Sleepovers
There’s no more perfect setting for dreams of flight than the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Its two huge hangars display thousands of aviation and space artifacts, including a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a Concorde, and the space shuttle Discovery. Sleepover guests are on a mission to explore the whole world of flight, from its pioneering days through the era of commercial aviation to the excitement of today’s space program. Grab your flight checklist and take off for a night that includes plenty of games, art activities, and close-up looks at some of the most historic and fascinating craft ever to take to the skies. Udvar-Hazy Center staff are on hand to offer lots of great information and insights about the aviation treasures on view. Start the countdown to a one-of-a-kind adventure! Sleepovers at the Udvar-Hazy Center will be held May 18, July 13 and Aug. 17.
National Portrait Gallery Sleepovers
Spend the night in the Smithsonian museum that tells the stories of America through the people who have shaped our nation, from pre-colonial times to today. Discover the poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose portraits fill the galleries’ walls. Experience the roles of the artist, art critic, and storyteller in this unique sleepover for kids aged 10 to 14. Inspired by a variety of visual art mediums, games, and an immersive guided journey through the museum, sleepover guests create their own portfolios and display their work in a one-night-only gallery exhibition. A sleepover at the National Portrait Gallery will be held Aug. 23.
Ages: Children ages 8 to 14 may participate in sleepovers at American History, Natural History and the Udvar-Hazy Center. Children ages 10 to 14 may participate in sleepovers at the National Portrait Gallery. There must be at least one adult (21 and over) for every three children in any group that registers for the Natural History, American History and Udvar-Hazy Center Sleepovers, and one adult to every four children for the Portrait Gallery Sleepover. Chaperones must be 21 years or older. No adults without children.
Tickets: Ticket prices are $135 for general admission and $125 for Smithsonian Associate members. The price includes exclusive access and activities in the museum, an evening snack, interactive exploration, arts and crafts activities and a light breakfast. T-shirts are available for purchase while at the sleepover.
Groups: Reduced rates may be available for groups of 20 or more. Call 202-633-3030 for more information.
For Military Families: A reduced rate is available for active-duty U.S. military personnel and their families. Please call 202-633-3030 and mention Promo Code 240808 to receive Military Promotion pricing.
FAQ: Information on what to bring, activities, rules, and the required release form for each sleepover location are available online. Additional questions? Email us at info@SmithsonianSleepovers.org.
Call 202-633-3030 to reserve your adventure. For more information and a schedule of events, visit www.SmithsonianSleepovers.org.
Amazon Adventure 3D tells the epic, true story of explorer Henry Bates’ fascinating 11-year journey through the visually stunning and biodiverse Amazon rainforest as a young man who risks his life for science in the 1850’s.
As in any great detective story, audiences will experience, in immersive IMAX®, the compelling clues Bates unearths in his major discovery of the phenomenon of mimicry, whereby certain animals adopt the look of others that helps them deceive predators and gain an advantage to survive.
Little known to the public, Bates made other crucial contributions to biology: identifying 8,000 species new to science and, most importantly, putting the first ever case for the creation of a new species, which Charles Darwin called the “beautiful proof” for Natural Selection.
Audiences will be wowed by the mind-boggling examples of camouflage and mimicry and inspired by Bates’ endless curiosity and determination to explore the wilds of nature from the time he was a young boy.
Amazon Adventures 3D is playing at the Johnson IMAX Theater in the National Museum of Natural History. Running time is 45 minutes. Tickets are available online or at the Box Office located on the main floor of the museum.
Giveaway: For a chance to win a Family 4-Pack of tickets to see Amazon Adventures 3D at the Johnson IMAX Theatre (tickets must be used by June 1, 2017), simply leave a comment below or on the KidFriendly DC Facebook (enter on both for two shots at winning) page naming your child’s favorite Amazonian creature. This giveaway will run through April 28, then a winner will be drawn at random and notified shortly thereafter. Good luck!