So you've decided to head downtown (along with umpteen of your closest friends) to partake in "America's Millennium on the Mall" and the "Main Street Millennium."
But what to do if you can't get in to see Ricky Skaggs, or if you just need to kill time between Pookie Hudson and Robert Pinsky? Fortunately, you're in museum country, where plenty of great alternatives to millennial madness beckon.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY--10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW (Metro: Federal Triangle). "Galapagos," the stunning 3-D IMAX film in the Samuel C. Johnson Theater, is its own sound-and-light show. While at the museum, you might also check out the new, permanent African Voices Hall or the special exhibition "Ainu: Spirit of a Northern People." The museum is open daily from 10 to 5:30. "Galapagos" screens daily at 10:15, 1, 2 and 4:40. Tickets are $6.50, $5.50 for children 2 through 17 and for seniors 55 and older. Admission to the museum is free. 202/357-2700 (TDD: 357-1729).
HIRSHHORN MUSEUM AND SCULPTURE GARDEN--Independence Avenue and Seventh Street SW (Metro: L'Enfant Plaza). There's a lot of new stuff, including the large--and largely lovely--"Regarding Beauty" survey of contemporary art and an exhibit of watercolor miniatures by Pakistan-born painter Shahzia Sikander. Outside are two newly installed sculptures by the majestic Mark di Suvero and the mercenary Jeff Koons. The Hirshhorn is open 10 to 5 daily. Free. 202/357-2700 (TDD: 357-1729).
ARTHUR M. SACKLER GALLERY--950 Independence Ave. SW (Metro: Smithsonian). This gallery has mounted three small but worthy shows around the theme of Orientalism: Antoin Sevruguin's photos of Iran from the late 1870s to the 1930s, Jananne al-Ani's contemporary photographic meditation on the subject of the veil, and a calligraphy sampler from antiquity to today. Without ever leaving the building, you can also scurry underground to the nearby National Museum of African Art (1050 Independence Ave. SW), where an exhibition on Ghanaian kente cloth will be up through Sunday. Both are open 10 to 5:30 daily. Free. 202/357-2700 (TDD: 357-1729).
NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART--The Gallery is at Fourth Street and Constitution Avenue NW, and the ice skating rink is at Seventh and Constitution (Metro: Archives/Navy Memorial). The gallery is closed New Year's Day and open Sunday from 11 to 6. Its new Sculpture Garden Ice Skating Rink, normally open 10 to 10 on Fridays and Saturdays, will close at 5 on Friday and won't reopen until Sunday from 11 to 10. Inside the museum are some great special exhibits on Johannes Vermeer's "The Art of Painting," Chinese archaeology, the Parisian photographs of Brassai and favorite works from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon. Free. 202/737-4215 (TDD: 202/842-6176).
CORCORAN GALLERY OF ART--500 17th St. NW (Metro: Farragut West). The Corcoran has eight special exhibitions, the best of which are Annie Leibovitz's photographs of famous, infamous and unfamous women; sculptor Tara Donovan's fuzzy installation made from four tons of nylon fiber; and a large survey of art from the collections of America's historically black colleges and universities. The Corcoran is closed New Year's Day and open 10 to 5 Sunday. Admission is by suggested donation of $3; $1 for seniors and students; $5 for family groups. 202/639-1700.
NATIONAL ARCHIVES--Constitution Avenue between Seventh and Ninth streets NW (Metro: Archives/Navy Memorial). The original, signed Emancipation Proclamation will be on view through Sunday. Open 10 to 5:30 daily. Free. 202/501-5000.
OLD PATENT OFFICE BUILDING--Eighth Street between G and F streets NW (Metro: Gallery Place/Chinatown). This building, home to two museums, is getting ready to shut down for three years of renovation. You can still catch National Portrait Gallery exhibits on Ernest Hemingway, the caricatures of Edward Sorel, the photographs of Henri Cartier-Bresson and the daguerreotypes of Augustus Washington. Under the same roof, the National Museum of American Art features the watercolors of Edward Hopper and a small taste of paintings and sculptures from the Sara Roby Foundation collection. Both museums open 10 to 5:30 daily. Free. 202/357-2700 (TDD:357-1729).