Tourists Heading to D.C. Can ‘Go Smithsonian’

Posted February 23, 2007 at 6:05pm

The Smithsonian Institution has launched a “one-stop shop” Web site that will assist visitors in maneuvering through Washington, D.C.’s famous spots and attractions.

The site, GoSmithsonian.com, incorporates details from the institution’s 19 museums and includes information about the National Mall, the National Zoo and surrounding areas.

GoSmithsonian.com puts information from all of the institution’s museums — including current lectures, exhibits and special events — in one calendar. Visitors are then able to add events and exhibits that they wish to see onto a printable itinerary.

Emily Allen, director of the online publishing group for the Smithsonian, said the site is meant to assist visitors in making decisions about their trip before they even get to the nation’s capital.

“The customized itinerary is really what makes [the site] unique,” Allen said. “All the information is right there.”

According to Allen, the 23 million people who visit the Smithsonian museums annually, as well as other visitors to the Washington area, come without understanding the variety of attractions they can take in.

“People think of the zoo or the National Air and Space Museum, [but] they don’t understand the sheer volume of what the Smithsonian institutions can offer,” Allen said. “We really want to illustrate that fact — that there’s more to see.”

The site has detailed floor plans of the institution’s museums, as well as interactive maps of the National Mall. The maps are printable and can be marked up with a click of the mouse to designate planned destinations.

“All these maps are printable and people can mark any of the maps if you want to meet people at a certain spot,” Allen said.

The site’s calendar section includes weather forecasts and has information on events taking place on the National Mall. Through the Smithsonian’s partnership with the Washington Convention and Tourism Corporation, the site promotes more than 300 hotels within Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland.

Another 300 restaurants are listed on the site and can be searched through cuisine types, prices and location. GoSmithsonian.com also features a search engine for reserving transportation and lodging.

The site has detailed instructions on how the Metrorail system functions and how visitors can get to and around the National Mall.

“A lot of people that visit D.C. might not be from large cities,” Allen said. “We wanted to clearly explain the Metro in D.C.”

A visitor’s guide that the Smithsonian publishes twice a year can be downloaded through the site. But for specific information about the various museums, Allen said there is more to find on the individual museums’ Web sites. For example, Allen said some of the sites may include full online exhibits that might interest visitors.

Gosmithsonian.com “acts as a bridge to the individual Smithsonian Web sites,” Allen said.

A community area will be added to the site where visitors can share stories and photographs about their trips and post travel tips for future visitors. The community forum will have quizzes, games and other activities for children to test what they have learned from their trip to the museums.