Washington, D.C., is in Phase Two: Which Museums are Open Now?

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Renee Sklarew, the author of The Unofficial Guide to Washington, D.C., shares with us which museums are currently open to visitors in our nation’s capital. 

As Washington, D.C., introduces Phase Two of its reopening, some public facilities have begun to welcome visitors back. But all have imposed new limitations and restrictions to maintain safety for guests and employees. Because the situation changes daily, we recommend you check each attraction’s website before venturing off to visit. Most require a timed ticket. Also, be aware, everyone entering indoor spaces must wear a face covering at all times, except when eating at a table. Masks are required in all Washington, D.C., buildings, subways, buses, hotel public areas, and museums.

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Outdoor Spaces, Hotels, and Restaurants

Hotels have reopened with rigorous cleaning protocols in place and limited numbers of guests allowed in elevators, lobbies, and dining areas. Read which hotels are open here.

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U.S. National Arboretum

Restaurants are open for indoor seating at 50% capacity and some offer outdoor seating on the patio. Specific neighborhoods have closed streets (Adams Morgan and Bethesda, Maryland) have been closed to accommodate pedestrians.

Most of the farmers’ markets are operating at regular levels. Here is a list of restaurants that have opened, with more to come. 

You can visit the Black Lives Matter Plaza on 16th Street NW near the White House to see where the protests took place (some peaceful gatherings still occur there). For more information about the Washington Area’s involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement check blacklivesmatterdmv.org

Some public gardens are open, but you should check websites to be sure. Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens are open. Advance reservations are required. The Thompson Boat Center and Wharf Boathouse have reopened by appointment only. The U.S. National Arboretum is open daily from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. 

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U.S. National Arboretum
Museums and Monuments

The National Mall’s Memorials and Monuments remain open to the public with low visitation. It’s a good time to visit these treasures and they’re all outdoors. A few museums have opened, including the Bible Museum, Mount Vernon, and the International Spy Museum, with restrictions. 

The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden is open to the public from 1-4 p.m. with limited capacity. The West Building, Ground Floor galleries are now open to the public. Free timed passes are required. The museum also offers excellent virtual tours and learning opportunities; check this link. Also, the Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland, has reopened the sculpture garden, but scheduled visits are required. 

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National Gallery of Art Sculpture Museum

The International Spy Museum will allow 50% capacity, and you will need a timed ticket. The museum will provide a stylus to every guest, in order to minimize the touching of interactive exhibits. 

The Bible Museum has reopened with restrictions. As they say, “Thou Shalt Practice Social Distancing!” Everyone must wear a mask at all times. Download the museum map before you go, and use the stylus they provide to touch all surfaces. Medical personnel are invited to visit for free. 

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Museum of the Bible

Mount Vernon is open to visitors from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will require a timed ticket. Guests are expected to maintain 6 feet of social distance and must wear face coverings both indoors and outdoors. The museum has enhanced cleaning protocols and will clean high-touch areas throughout the day. If you’re carrying a bag, you will be required to put your belongings into a clear bag so the staff can conduct safety checks.

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Gardens of Mount Vernon

The Smithsonian museums are gradually reopening. Time-entry passes are required for most of the reopened museums, galleries, and the National Zoo. The passes are free of charge. The Hirshhorn Museum’s Sculpture Garden and plaza are open, not requiring passes.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Free, timed-entry passes are required. The museum is a must-see. 

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National Museum of African American History and Culture

The National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is open daily from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Admission is free, and timed-entry passes are required. The museum is located near the Washington Dulles International Airport and is a companion facility to the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. In a hangar-like setting the museum features historical aircraft and a an IMAX Theater. 

The Smithsonian American Art Museum, the nation’s first collection of American art, is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. Admission is free; get your timed-entry passes here

The National Museum of American History, home of the Star-Spangled Banner and Dorothy’s ruby slippers, is open Friday through Tuesday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Admission is free; timed-entry passes are required.

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The National Museum of the American Indian holds the world’s most expansive collection of Native objects. It is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. through 4 p.m. Admission is free. Timed-entry passes are available here.

The Archives of American Art Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery cares for 16 million items and is the world’s largest resource dedicated to collecting and preserving papers and primary records of the visual arts in America. The archives are open Wednesday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. Admission is free, timed-entry passes to SAAM/NPG required.

The museum is located on the first floor of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture in D.C.’s Penn Quarter neighborhood, which is also home to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery.

The National Zoo is open daily from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Admission is free; timed-entry passes are required.

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Newborn Giant Panda cub at National Zoo
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President Lincoln at the National Portrait Gallery

On August 21st the zoo welcomed a Giant Panda cub. The gender of the 6-week-old giant panda cub, a boy, was revealed with a painting made by the cub’s father, Tian Tian. Giant Panda fans can see the cub, mother Mei Xiang, and Tian Tian via the Giant Panda cam

The National Portrait Gallery is home to portraits of presidents, actors, activists, villains, and more. America’s Presidents features a complete collection of presidential portraits, including the Obama portraits.

The gallery is open from 11:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. from Wednesday through Sunday. Admission is free; timed-entry passes are required.

The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum is home to American contemporary craft and opens Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Admission is free. Built in 1858, it is the first building in the United States dedicated to be an art museum. Admission is free. The museum does NOT require timed-entry passes. 

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The Renwick Gallery

The Smithsonian Gardens are open daily from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Admission is free. No passes required. 

Transportation and Shopping

Many stores have reopened at limited capacity but require face coverings. The Metro bus and rail are operating at reduced levels, and the city asks riders to use caution and maintain social distance whenever possible.

For more information about the Washington, D.C.’s reopening, check Washington.org.

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