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Hot Spots: Smithsonian Offers Free Art, Science Exhibits

Here's another day trip idea for your family.

The Smithsonian features some fun, family-friendly exhibits this summer. Here's a taste of what you'll find in their museums over the next few months. All Smithsonian museums are free to enter.

Snowboarding: Learn about the history of the sport, check out early boards and take a look at the tools of today's stars at the American History Museum.

The Patents and Trademarks of Steve Jobs: At the Ripley Center, take a look back at some of the late Apple co-founder's inventions, old and new. This exhibit is also available online.

X-Ray Vision: Fish Inside Out: If Aquaman and Superman hung out together, this might be the result. The Natural History Museum explores the anatomy of the sea's most unique inhabitants.    

The Art of Video Games: Now at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Art of Video Games shows off games of all generations, from "Space Invaders" to "Halo." Eighty games are on display with video demos, and five more, including "Pac-Man" and the original "Super Mario Bros." are playable at the exhibit, which also features video interviews with developers and historians.

1812: A Nation Emerges: At the National Portrait Gallery, explore the people and events that shaped the War of 1812 in this exhibit, which opened earlier this month.

What else? Check out the planes and spacecraft models on display at the Air and Space Museum on the Mall. Also, on a related topic, yes, the Smithsonian has the Space Shuttle Discovery, but if you want to see it, it's on display at the museum's Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

Also, since you're on the Mall, you're a stone's throw away from the Tidal Basin, the Holocaust Museum, the Capitol building and the Washington Monument.

How do I get there? From the Baltimore area, take Interstate 95 south to the Capital Beltway, then east to exit 24 to the Greenbelt Metro. The Smithsonian station is on the Blue and Orange lines. The American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery are accessible via the Red, Green and Yellow lines at the Gallery Place station.

Parking is available, but pricey, at Washington garages.

More info? Visit the Smithsonian Institution's web site.

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