Adventure Lab at the Smithsonian

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View of north side of the Smithsonian Castle

It might not be buried but learning about Smithsonian history is a treasure. Explore your favorite museums in a fun new way—from the outside! 

Adventure Lab® is a free app you can download for touchless scavenger hunts. We’ve created a few, with the help of Smithsonian volunteers and staff, to enhance your exploration of the Institution while walking around the National Mall.

Things to keep in mind before you start:

  • You will need to be on location to do this (National Mall)
  • This is an outdoor adventure and does not require you to go into any of the museums 
  • None of these locations are inside of buildings
  • Have your device/phone fully charged
  • Expected time to visit all of the sites is 1–2 hours
  • You do not have to do the locations in order, but they are labeled in chronological order if you want to do them that way
  • You will need to download the Adventure Lab® app and register for a free account
  • Any questions or comments email
  • Download the Adventure Lab® app and go to the link below get to the adventure

Google Play Apple Store

James Smithson marker

Mr. Smithson Goes to Washington

Bet you didn’t know that James Smithson was a time traveler! He has used his knowledge of physics to travel from the 1800s to the present day. Imagine donating money to a foreign country to found an institution for “the increase and diffusion of knowledge” and finding out that 200 years later it has become 19 museums, 9 research centers, 13 gardens and a National Zoo! Join James Smithson as he explores the different museums and shares a little about his life and Smithsonian history.

Downing urn in the garden

Exploring Smithsonian Gardens with Mr. Smithson

Mr. Smithson continues his time traveling from the 1800s to the 21st century! Learn about some his scientific work while exploring the Smithsonian’s "museum without walls," the Smithsonian Gardens. Mr. Smithson takes visitors on an adventure around the National Mall looking at the gardens that surround different museums while using them to discuss the Smithsonian’s research facilities. He shares information with visitors on everything from a coral reef to a black hole!

builders on the roof of the Natural History Museum under construction

Architecture at the Smithsonian

The Smithsonian is home to million millions of artifacts, natural wonders and collections of art. But its largest collection is its buildings. Twelve of these buildings are located right on the National Mall. Did you ever take time to think about those buildings as artifacts themselves? From the oldest building (Smithsonian Castle) to the newest (National Museum of African American History and Culture) all of these buildings hold unique architectural significance. The Smithsonian has been around for 175 years, and in that time a lot has changed: in the country, in the city and the expectations of a museum. Go on this adventure to see the buildings in a new light and to gain an appreciation for how the Smithsonian has adapted its new structures to the needs and ideas of the times they were made in.

drawing of the Castle interior

Castle of Curiosities

Have you ever wondered what stories lurk inside that large red building on the National Mall? What tales took place in its towers? What history has its edifice witnessed? Surely in its over 150-year history it has born witness to momentous events in history, but events unfolded within its walls that perhaps have been hidden by the shadows of time. It houses the only person interred on the National Mall, has been home to many a curious creature and witnessed the deaths of four people in its rooms. This Adventure peels back the years and takes you on an intimate tour of the Smithsonian Castle—sharing with you some of its curious history and stories. It will take approximately 30-45 minutes.

Smithsonian Castle drawing

Once Upon a Castle

Once upon a time, in a land far away a man left behind a mysterious will. He gifted the entirety of his fortune to another country to found in Washington DC the Smithsonian Institution "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge." Upon accepting the gift this Castle was built and many marvelous things have happened within its walls these last 175 years. Enjoy an easy walk around the Smithsonian's original building and learn a little about it and Smithsonian history. It will take approximately 30-45 minutes.