The National Museum of the American Indian is another Smithsonian Museum along the National Mall. It is located between the Air and Space Museum and the Capitol. It is one of the most interesting buildings located on the Mall. The building itself is really interesting architecturally. There is a large fountain the runs along the length of the building facing the Mall. The clay, curvaceous look really stands out against the more classical architecture that so many of the buildings along that area have.
The inside is quite stunning as well. Eilam and I visited the museum on an event weekend to celebrate the opening of the The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire. Brian and I visited Peru and hiked to Machu Picchu a few years ago, so this was an exhibit that we were looking forward to. The weekend we visited, they had traditional Andean music and dancers, various educational exhibits, traditional vendors, and arts and crafts projects for children. Eilam was able to sculpt a llama out of clay and also made an Andean flute out of straws.
While the museum holds an extensive collection of artifacts, the real draw for us to go here is their imagiNATIONS Activity Center. The Activity Center is a great, interactive place for children. They get a passport to stamp at each station. Each station consists of learning about something related to daily life of the Native people. One of the first stations is a giant basket to learn about the various styles of basket weaving. Other highlights include large blocks to make an igloo, a tee-pee, and a skateboarding interactive challenge. The Center also holds a library of books written by or about Native cultures.
I would definitely recommend this museum to check out the imagiNATIONS Center. Supposedly the cafe is the best food you can get along the National Mall as well. While I haven’t eaten there, I did get one of their specialty coffees and it was delicious. If you are visiting here, you could do the Air and Space Museum when it opened, then head over to the National Museum of American Indian. With younger kids, this stop would mainly be the Activity Center. Across the street from this museum is the U.S. Botanic Garden.
National Museum of the American Indian
Where: Fourth St and Independence Ave SW
How to Get There: Nearest metro stop is L’Enfant Plaza (yellow/green/orange/blue/silver) exit towards Maryland Ave. Head towards the Capitol. This unique building will be hard to miss.
Hours: 10am-5:30pm, imagiNATIONS Activity Center is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10-5pm.