Parking at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum
Parking at the Smithsonian is never easy, but is also not impossible. Your best chance to score a free parking spot at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum is to arrive by 10:00 AM. Parking on Madison Drive is free. Be careful to read the signs. There are a multitude of special parking spots on Madison Drive. Most importantly, do not park in handicapped parking. If you do not have tags, you can count on a $250 ticket when you come out of the museum. Parking in a taxi stand, a loading zone or other special zones will usually set you back $30 for a ticket.
Two one-way streets go along the National Mall past many of the Smithsonian museums. Jefferson Drive runs east, and Madison Drive runs west. There are many free 3-hour parking spots along these two streets, but obviously these spots get filled fairly quickly.
There is also some parking along the cross streets — 3rd, 4th, 7th and 14th Streets all have free parking as well. On 7th and 14th Streets, there are rush hour restrictions. If you do not move your car by 4:00 PM on weekdays, expect to have your car towed and a hefty ticket.
On weekends and holidays, it is hard to find a spot in this area unless you arrive early (before 11:00 AM).
Nobody is monitoring the 3 hour limit. However, after 1:00 AM, they will tow your car. So, you cannot leave your car here overnight.
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Parking at the Smithsonian — Commercial Parking Lots Nearby
There are commercial parking garages on all the cross streets north of Pennsylvania Avenue. The nearest to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum is on 10th Street between Pennyslvania and E Streets. A popular garage that never runs out of space (except possibly on major holidays) is the parking garage under the Ronald Reagan Building. Very centrally located. A weekend day rate is only $13. Weekdays are $22 for 3-10 hours.
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Handicapped Parking at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum
There is handicapped parking on Madison Drive near the entrance to the museum. Unfortunately, there is a tall staircase to climb in order to get up to the entrance here. The more handicapped accessible entrance is on Constitution Avenue, but there is no parking there.
Additional Information about Parking at the Smithsonian and around the National Mall.
Touring the National Mall
Your best bet is to take a private tour of Washington DC with Nonpartisan Pedicab. Many people say that a pedicab tour is the highlight of their visit to Washington DC.
Taking the Metro to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum
This is a much better option. There are several nearby stations. On the Blue/Orange/Silver lines, both Smithsonian Metro and Federal Triangle are equidistant from the Natural History Museum. If you come in on the Yellow/Green lines, the Archives/Navy Memorial stop is not far away either. If you come in on the Red line, perhaps you should change trains to get on one of the other lines that are somewhat closer to the museum.
Opening Hours at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum
Summer hours are usually 10:00 AM until 7:30 PM. Occasionally, there are special events and the museum will close at 5:30 PM. During the rest of the year, the hours are from 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM. At busy times of the year and on some weekends, the museum will stay open extended hours until 7:30 PM.
Tickets to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum
Always free. Open every day of the year except Christmas.