Tag Archives: National Geographic Museum

Animal Close-Ups & Crocs at the National Geographic Museum


If you don’t get off the well trodden museum path of the National Mall every now and then, you could miss out on some amazing exhibitions in other areas around DC. One place where you can just about always count on a great, enriching experience is the National Geographic Museum. The exhibits often appeal to a wide age range, include interactive elements that engage visitors, and focus on aspects of the world that are both fascinating and significant.


In fact, there currently are two exhibits at Nat Geo that meet these standards — and then some. Photo Ark, which opened in the fall is a gorgeous collection of portraits of the world’s animal species.



The exhibit puts the focus on conservation through photographer Joel Sartore’s lens by showcasing images of species and highlighting their conservation status, which range from least concern to threatened to endangered to, sadly, extinct (with more levels in between).


Many of the portraits were shot at zoos and aquariums around the world, and you can get an idea of how some of them were done by peering into photo tents on display — inside are adorable videos of small animals posing for their close-ups. You can also catch scenes of the process on TV screens mounted on the walls.



A whole area is dedicated to various species of reptiles and snakes, their unique features and brilliant skin patterns projected on and streaming across large screens. There is also information about each creature and quotes printed on the walls. All of it together makes the exhibit as thought-provoking and engaging as it is beautiful.



The museum zooms in on one animal with a whole other exhibit: CROCS. And it’s one you can really sink your teeth into (from their tagline!) through a variety of interesting displays, interactive components, video, and live crocodiles!



We joined a guided tour of the exhibit to get some background on crocodilians, which are up to hundreds of millions years old. But you can learn a lot on your own from the many displays and installations. Some of the kids’ favorite features included a sound board where they could listen to different croc calls, a force gauge to compare their strength to that of a croc’s jaw, and a life-sized model of one of the world’s largest crocodiles, Gomek.



The highlight, though, were the real crocodiles in a few dioramas around the exhibit that were made to simulate their natural habitats. The crocs don’t actually do that much — just seeing an eye or mouth open or a foot move the tiniest bit was cause for excitement — but it was pretty neat to see them hanging out in the museum. You might catch baby alligators swimming in one of them, which is a pretty cute sight.


You can check out both of the National Geographic exhibits in one outing — they don’t take a long time to tour (though you could definitely spend a good amount of time if you wanted to), and admission to the museum gets you into everything. Even better, both can be appreciated by visitors of all ages.


Photo Ark will be on view through April 10, CROCS through May 8. Admission is $15/adult, $12/seniors & students, $10/ages 5-12, free for 4 and under — look for a discount here. The museum is open daily 10am – 6pm.

Leave a Comment

Filed under All ages, Animals, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Museums, Spring, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Go Monster Fish at the National Geographic Museum


The National Geographic Museum just debuted its newest exhibit, and true to what I consider their signature style when it comes to these showcases, it’s fascinating and educational and fun all at once.

Monster Fish: In Search of the Last River Giants takes visitors on a journey around the globe to discover some of the behemoth creatures that lurk beneath the world’s rivers. Based on the Nat Geo WILD series Monster Fish, the exhibit highlights nearly 20 fish that show host Dr. Zeb Hogan has found and featured in various episodes.



Owen and I got a sneak preview before it opened to the public, including a chance to tour part of it with Zeb himself, and we both found it interesting and fun to view and experience. The displays are presented by regions of the world with background on different kinds of fish, supplemented with video from the series, photography, and some other interesting visuals, like actual scales from some species. But the centerpieces of it all are magnificent sculptures of several fish, commissioned for the exhibit and intricately designed to convey just how massive and unique the river dwellers are. Even better, a couple of them are actually accessible to visitors — you can touch the scales of a giant barb and climb upon a sawfish.



The interactive elements don’t stop there — there are games for all to enjoy — and they all relay some kind of lesson in sustainability and conservation. You can maneuver a ball through an ecosystem (a game table that you tilt) to areas designated to protect habitats and avoid ones that are threatening. There’s a giant scale that multiple people can stand on to compare your collective weight to different monster fish. Little ones will love “going fishing” for rubber balls then release them through a plastic chute. Another game has players determine if you keep a fish or throw it back depending on the species and size. You can view footage form the Monster Fish show in a mini-theatre made to look like an air boat. An interesting — and eye-opening — installation shows the “water cost” of our everyday habits.





If you want to see fish, you don’t just have to view the models. There are a few aquariums filled with fish, though aside from one alligator gar, they are all little fishies. But that just illuminates the magnitude of the monsters.


Monster Fish: In Search of the Last River Giants will be at the National Geographic Museum through October 11, 2015. Hours are 9am – 6pm. Admission is $11/adult, $7/ages 5-12, free for 4 and under. FYI: Goldstar has a deal on tickets for select dates.


Filed under All ages, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Fall, Museums, Spring, Summer, Weekdays, Weekend

“Spinosaurus” is the New Big Thing at Nat Geo


The timing of the National Geographic Museum’s newest exhibit, Spinosaurus: Lost Giant of the Cretaceous, is rather auspicious — for them and for us. Just months after the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum began their five-year hiatus for major renovations, Nat Geo debuted this exhibition, and it’s sure to satisfy dino enthusiasts, young and old, jones-ing for a prehistoric beast fix.


The centerpiece of the exhibit is a life-sized skeletal model of Spinosaurus, the first truly semiaquatic dinosaur and the largest predatory dinosaur known to have roamed the Earth. At more than 50 feet long and 20 feet high, Spinosaurus measured more than nine feet longer than the world’s largest T-Rex. Little museum-goers will undoubtedly be enthralled by the colossal installation along with other reproductions of Cretaceous creatures on display.




For those with larger attention spans, the fascinating backstory of Spinosaurus is told through a series of interactive displays. Literally windows into history, they feature panels with “vistas” of various locations in places that were significant in the Spino’s discovery — the office of the paleontologist with the the first findings, a Moroccan fossil market, Milan’s Musuem of Natural History. Multimedia elements such as video from World War II when key artifacts were destroyed and the discovery of Spinosaurus bones in Morocco offer further insight. And real dinosaur fossils, a replica of the cave where most of Spino’s remains were found, and sketches of its first unearthed bones (that were later lost in the war) help complete the narrative.




There’s more beyond the exhibit hall. Don’t miss the life-size “in the flesh” replica of Spinosaurus in the courtyard next to M Street. And if you really want to score big with your dino obsessed child, the museum is offering Young Explorer birthday parties with a Discover Dinosaurs! theme.


Spinosaurus: Lost Giant of the Cretaceous will be on display at the National Geographic Museum through April 12, 2015. Admission is $11/adult, $9/senior, $7/ages 5-12, free for 4 and under. Museum hours are 10am – 6pm.

Leave a Comment

Filed under All ages, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Fall, Museums, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Giveaway: Enter to Win Tickets to “Flying Monters 3D” at the National Geographic Museum!


If you’re looking for activities to do with the kids on weekends this winter, an outing to the National Geographic Museum is a good one to keep in mind. Along with a few great exhibits on view right now, you can also catch a screening of Flying Monsters 3D on their giant screen!

For thousands of years, humans believed that flying monsters existed. They became mythologized, with stories about them shared around the world. Could they have really existed? Millions of years ago dinosaurs were on their rise to dominate Earth. But another group of reptiles was set to make an extraordinary leap: Pterosaurs were about to take control of the skies. The story of how and why these mysterious creatures took to the air is more fantastic than any fiction.

Flying Monsters 3D plays on Saturdays and Sundays at 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm. Running time is approximately 40 minutes. Tickets are $7. The National Geographic Museum is located at 1145 17th Street NW. Hours are 10am – 6pm daily.

Giveaway: For a chance to win a family four-pack of tickets to see Flying Monsters 3D, leave a comment below telling me your favorite holiday film. To be eligible to enter, you must also like KidFriendly DC on Facebook. The giveaway will run through this weekend, and a winner will be drawn at random. Good luck!


Filed under DC, Educational, Exhibit, Giveaway, Gradeschoolers, Movies, Museums, Preteens, Teens, Weekend

Encounter “Real Pirates” at the National Geographic Museum

"Real Pirates" will be at the National Geographic Museum through September 2

“Real Pirates” will be at the National Geographic Museum through September 2

I got my first look at the National Geographic Museum’s Real Pirates exhibit several weeks ago, at a sneak preview the day before it opened to the public. And while I’ve listed it among weekend and weekday picks, I waited to do a full write-up until my kids (well, at least one of them) had a chance to see it, too.

There were a couple of reasons for this: 1) Generally, I just like to get their reactions, so I can relay the kid perspective along with mine when I post about activities 2) This exhibit isn’t super heavy on the interactives like most at Nat Geo; rather, it’s mostly reading and viewing without touching. I found it incredibly interesting and took my time to peruse the displays, but I wasn’t sure if my kids would have the patience, especially without a bunch of hands-on installations to enjoy along with the rest of it.

Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship illustrates the history of a notorious slave-turned-pirate ship and the world of the diverse people whose lives converged on the vessel. Owen was excited to check it out — I’d brought him a book about it after my first tour, and now he’d get to see its pages “come to life” at the museum.


And from the moment we entered the exhibit, he was not disappointed. It begins with a five-minute film that gives visitors background about the Whydah and the pirates who commandeered it. After that, large wooden doors open and lead into the rest of the galleries, from the Whydah’s origins as a slave ship to the infamous boat that was eventually lost to the sea.


Its wreckage was discovered in 1984, so much of what is seen throughout the exhibit are either real artifacts recovered from the ship or replicas of prominent features. Cannons, the anchor, coins, tools used to repair the ship, pistols, and small items like buttons are some of the real relics on display. The bell and sections of the ship — the captian’s quarters and below deck — have been reproduced to give a sense of what it was like to be on board, complete with audio of waves crashing and boards creaking, along with projections of the ocean through windows (Owen actually asked why the room seemed like it was moving).



The exhibit also includes background on the West African slave trade and piracy during the 18th century. Owen loved seeing some names he recognized like Blackbeard and Calico Jack, and he was particularly interested in the “Pirate Family Tree,” which depicted the connection between many famous pirates. As for interactives, there is a knot-tying station, a display where you can hoist a digital Jolly Roger, and opportunities to touch real booty (silver coins) recovered from the ship. Towards the end of the exhibit, we find out the fate of those aboard the ship — who survived and who was lost at sea. And beyond that, we learn what happened to those who made it out alive.



The final area focuses on the ship’s discovery and recovery. There is a video about underwater explorer Barry Clifford and his search for and discovery of the ship and the continued process of excavating the wreckage.


There is a lot to take in, and Owen was engrossed in a good portion of it. I’d venture to say many kids would be, even those who are too young to read all of the displays. The hands-on features may be minimal, but there are enough cool parts to view to keep any pirate fiend interested.

Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship will be on display at the National Geographic Museum through September 2. Admission is $11/adults, $9/ages 5-12, free for under 5. Hours are 10am – 6pm.

The National Geographic Museum is located at 1145 17th Street NW. Street parking can be tough in that area. If you drive, your best bet is one of the nearby garages. Metro’s Farragut North (red line) and Farragut West (blue/orange lines) stops are fairly convenient. *Photography is not permitted on the exhibit. My photos were taken during the media preview.

Also of note: There will be a free Pirates Family Festival featuring re-enactors, a treasure hunt, and more on June 22. Plus, the Museum is offering Pirate Birthday Parties for kids ages 5-12.

Leave a Comment

Filed under DC, Educational, Exhibit, Gradeschoolers, Museums, Preschoolers, Preteens, Spring, Summer, Teens, Weekdays, Weekend