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Smithsonian museums in DC to reopen starting in May

By Laura Brown
April 27, 2021
Smithsonian DC
Laura Brown
DC's iconic (and free) museums have been closed since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Smithsonian will reopen eight of its facilities to the public in May, starting with the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, Wednesday, May 5. Additional museums and the National Zoo will open Friday, May 14, and Friday, May 21.

All locations will reopen with added health and safety measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Visitors will need to reserve free timed-entry passes for all locations. All other Smithsonian museums will remain temporarily closed to the public.

Reopening Schedule

Wednesday, May 5    Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Friday, May 14          National Museum of African American History and Culture
                                National Portrait Gallery
                                Smithsonian American Art Museum and its Renwick Gallery 

Friday, May 21          National Museum of American History
                                National Museum of the American Indian (Washington, D.C., location)
                                National Zoo

Safety Measures

To protect the health of visitors and staff, safety measures based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other sources will include: 

  • Requesting that all visitors who are sick or do not feel well stay home.
  • Requiring visitors ages 2 and older to wear face coverings during their visit.
  • Closely monitoring and limiting the number of people in each location. Visitors will need to obtain a free timed-entry pass in advance of their visit.
  • Implementing safe social distancing, including one-way paths and directional guidance where appropriate.
  • Providing hand-sanitizing stations for visitors and conducting enhanced cleaning throughout all facilities.
  • Museum cafes will not be open at this time. Restaurants and food trucks at the National Zoo will be open.

All on-site public tours and events are temporarily suspended. Some exhibits, galleries, interactives, theaters, retail shops or indoor spaces may be closed or operating at limited capacity. Detailed information for visitors is available on the museum websites.

Museum Hours and Information

Some locations will open with reduced hours of operation.

Timed-Entry Passes

Visitors will need to obtain a free timed-entry pass for each location. Beginning today, April 23, visitors can reserve passes for the Udvar-Hazy Center. Passes for other locations will become available starting a week before their scheduled openings. Visitors driving to the Zoo who wish to park must purchase parking in advance as well. Visitors can reserve passes online at si.edu/visit or by phone at 1-800-514-3849, ext. 1.

An individual will be able to reserve up to six passes per day for a specific location. Each visitor must have a pass, regardless of age. Visitors can choose to print timed-entry passes at home or show a digital timed-entry pass on their mobile device. For the safety of visitors and staff, groups larger than six are strictly prohibited, and at least one adult chaperone is required to accompany up to five children under the age of 18.

The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

May 5 also marks the 60th anniversary of the first U.S. human spaceflight by Alan Shepard. His Mercury capsule, Freedom 7, will be on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center, its first time there, for the anniversary and through most of this spring and summer. Visitors can pay for parking as they depart.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Viewing of the Zoo’s newest panda cub, Xiao Qi Ji, will be limited for social distancing purposes and will require a separate free timed-entry pass. Visitors can obtain a free pass for Asia Trail / Giant Pandas when they arrive at the Zoo. Passes will be released throughout the day. As a reminder for the public, Xiao Qi Ji is still young and sleeps a lot during the day. Xiao Qi Ji along with his parents can be viewed on the Zoo’s live panda cams.

Reopening the Smithsonian

The Smithsonian closed its museums in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Between July and October 2020, the Smithsonian opened eight of its facilities before closing to the public again Nov. 23. The reopening of these eight locations is the beginning of a phased reopening process for the Institution. All other Smithsonian museums remain temporarily closed to the public, and the Institution is not announcing additional reopening dates at this time. Updates and information about the museums open to the public are available at si.edu/visit. 

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