With five million visitors annually, this museum is one of the Smithsonian’s most popular. As a repository for the country’s cultural, scientific and technological heritage, it holds a collection of more than three million fascinating artifacts, including Thomas Jefferson’s desk, Kermit the Frog, Julia Child's kitchen, a piece of Plymouth Rock, jazz treasures and Dorothy's ruby red slippers. Gift shops, ice cream parlor, cafeteria. Daily 10 am-5:30 pm. Free.
Highlights and Tips:
- On the first floor, find Julia Child’s kitchen from her Massachusetts home, where three of her cooking shows were filmed. It’s of course chock full of tools, all in the exact spots where Child kept them, including the pots meticulously arranged on her famous pegboard wall.
- Head upstairs to see the Star-Spangled Banner, the massive War of 1812 flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen lyrics that became the national anthem.
- Also on the second floor, find the Greensboro Woolworth lunch counter, where four African American college students staged a sit-in on Feb. 1, 1960, to protest segregation. (Six months later, the counter opened to all patrons.)
- Not far away, movie buffs seek out Dorothy’s ruby slippers. One of several pairs worn by Judy Garland in the “Wizard of Oz,” this felt-soled set was used for dance scenes.
- On the third floor, don’t miss poignant presidential items, like the top hat Lincoln wore the night of his assassination at Ford’s Theatre, and the ever-popular display of first ladies’ gowns, grand elegance in silk, satin and lace.