The newest star in a constellation of world-class Smithsonian museums, this showplace of Native American cultures, from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego, is a must-see in Washington, D.C.
As visitors first step inside the museum, they are greeted by the sight of the word welcome, translated into multiple Indian languages and projected onto a 23-foot-wide screen. Many visitors head right to Lelawi Theater, which continually screens a short film that is projected on four Native American blankets and an adjacent dome. The film shows the lives of residents in Native American communities today.
Kids enjoy the journey through the museum's exhibits, which include steamy rainforests and lush green woodlands. They can participate in a Native American celebration of song and dance and listen to storytelling.
Exhibits at the museum include painted hides from the Plains Indians, woodcarvings from North America's northwest coast, basketry from the southwestern United States, carved jade from the Maya, and gold from the Andean cultures. Performances feature storytellers, Bolivian dancers, Andean musicians, and informative talks by Native Americans. At the museum café, you can sample native specialties such as buffalo chili on fry bread, Peruvian mashed potato cakes, and smoked Northwest salmon.
National Museum of the American Indian
Address: Fourth St. and Independence Ave., SW, Washington, D.C.
Hours of Operation: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Laura Sutherland is a widely acknowledged authority on family travel and has published several books on the topic, including Best Family Ski Vacations In North America and Tropical Family Vacations.