Adventure Lab at the Smithsonian

Touchless scavenger hunts

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woman and man using app in front 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 with Adventure Lab®!  

We’ve created these touchless scavenger hunts 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: 

  • This is an outdoor activity on the National Mall
  • Each adventure is arranged chronologically, but you can visit the adventure locations in any order  

  • If you have any questions or comments email castletours@si.edu 

Start your adventure now by downloading the app!

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James Smithson portrait

Mr. Smithson Goes to Washington

Meet the man, the myth, and the legend of Mr. Smithson, the founder of the Smithsonian! Find out about his passions, treasures, and beasts. What mysteries have been uncovered and what remains to be solved? Pull out your magnifying glass and take a closer look while exploring the expansion of the Smithsonian over the years. (2 hours)

Ripley Garden being enjoyed by multiple visitors

Exploring Smithsonian Gardens with Mr. Smithson

Ready to grab your shovel and gardening gloves? Begin by becoming enchanted with the gardens of the Smithsonian! Learn about the Moongate Garden and the necessity of Victory Gardens during World War II. Open a garden gate and discover our research centers that range from studying the sun to studying different insects and animals. Learn about past and present conservation efforts through these centers. (2 hours)

detail of the Smithsonian Castle roofline

Architecture at the Smithsonian

Did you know that someone won a contest and was able to design a castle? Seated along the National Mall are twelve giant and spectacular Smithsonian museums, each telling a story that is as unique as each building. Learn about a building that faces the rising sun, and one's exterior that changes based on how the light hits it. Which building's contemporary look was met with controversy? Who helped the "American Louvre" escape near demolition? Learn the answers to these questions in this adventure! (2 hours)

Megatherium Club

Castle of Curiosities

Ghosts, seances, and owls—oh my! Learn about strange stories surrounding the Smithsonian. Hear tales about an abandoned baby and a statue that didn't like its view. Discover the secret greeting of the Megatherium Club. What caused the Castle fire? Did Alexander Graham Bell dig up the dead? Is there a scientific explanation for these tales—find out! (45 minutes)

Illustration of Castle's South Tower room from 1901

Once Upon a Castle

"Knowledge Begins in Wonder" is scribed above the doors of the Castle's South Tower. But if you're wondering if the Castle's walls could talk, then this is the adventure for you! Learn about this historical building, where President Abe Lincoln himself once visited the Henry apartments. How did Renwick's gates finally come to fruition after a hundred years? What was the controversy over a George Washington statue? How did the Castle contribute to the birth of the National Weather Service and so much more. (45 minutes)

Staff photo of women employees in the 70s

Women of the Smithsonian

Grab a flashlight and uncover stories about the Smithsonian's women. Learn about the first woman employee and her job. Get a snapshot of the first woman photographer, Louisa Bernie Gallaher. Learn about the women known as "human computers." And Sophie Lutterlough, the Smithsonian's first woman elevator operator, who became known for her entomological work. From birds to stamps, these women's interests were diverse. Discover how they made their mark! (2 hours)

Visitors discovering an outdoor marker for Solomon Brown

African Americans at the Smithsonian

African Americans have been instrumental in their contributions to the Smithsonian. Many gave their blood and sweat to physically build the Smithsonian from the ground up as laborers, such as Solomon Brown. Discover Brown's story and how he was renowned for his mind. There are so many people for  you to meet. Ever have a rattlesnake inches from your face? That is what happened to a mail clerk, Barry Hampton. How about a child prodigy? Meet innovators who faced extra challenges because of the color of their skin. And how their impact isn't skin-deep. (2 hours)

Select Reviews

Mr. Smithson Goes to Washington: Great tour of the Smithsonian museums and lots of variety in questions. Definite 5 stars!

Exploring Smithsonian Gardens: Loved this adventure lab. It truly took me to some of the most beautiful gardens in DC!! Thank you

Smithsonian Architecture: This was so much fun to do at night with friends! Thank you!