Others are moving more cautiously: The Phillips Collection, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Glenstone and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum are among the entities that still require timed tickets and masks indoors.
No matter where you’re heading, it’s a good idea to check websites and social media first, as not all exhibits may be open, and days and hours might have changed. The Smithsonian is extending its hours back to normal, for example, but most museums are only open five days per week. The National Museum of American History is open Friday through Tuesday; next door, the National Museum of Natural History is open Wednesday through Sunday.
This list will be updated as more institutions announce their plans.
Artechouse: Melding interactive art with cutting-edge technology, Artechouse is a much different experience than the museums a few blocks away on the Mall. The cherry blossom-inspired installation “Renewal 2121,″ open through September, places visitors a century into the future, “in an industrial city where nature fights to survive amid an overdeveloped metropolis.” Capacity is limited, and timed-admission tickets are required. Open daily. $17-$24.
Ford’s Theatre: No audiences will watch actors perform on Ford’s Theatre’s stage until the fall, but the historic site, where John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865, welcomes visitors for self-guided tours. Advance tickets and masks are required. The museum displays the clothes Lincoln was wearing on the night of his death as well as Booth’s Derringer pistol, and examines Lincoln’s presidency. Visitors can also go into the historic theater to see the Presidential Box, where Lincoln was shot, though the Petersen House (also known as the House Where Lincoln Died) and the exhibit on the Aftermath of the assassination remain closed. Open Wednesday through Sunday. $3.
Glenstone: The much-buzzed-about Potomac art museum reopened the indoor pavilions housing its permanent collection on May 6, two months after the 300 acres of grounds, dotted with sculptures by Richard Serra, Michael Heizer and Jeff Koons, among other contemporary artists, reopened to visitors as “an outdoor experience.” Glenstone’s Gallery reopened April 8 with a major exhibit on artist Faith Ringgold. Masks are required. Open Thursday through Sunday. Free, reservations required. Tickets can be reserved up to one month in advance, with a new batch of tickets released at 10 a.m. on the first of the month.
Hillwood Estate and Gardens: Marjorie Merriweather Post’s Northwest D.C. estate lifted requirements for timed-entry tickets and advance reservations on June 12. No in-person tours are offered at this time, so download the Hillwood app for guided tours of the mansion and gardens before a visit. Masks are not required in the sprawling gardens, but must be worn indoors. Open Tuesday through Sunday. $5-$18. Ages 5 and younger free.
International Spy Museum: The museum, which moved to an expansive new building in L’Enfant Plaza in 2019, reopened Jan. 23 with a limited capacity and extra distancing. (The museum now recommends a minimum of two hours to explore.) Many of the interactive elements have been modified to reduce contact, but some elements are temporarily closed — including the sections in which visitors crawl through an air duct, and attempt to escape East Berlin by hiding in a Trabant. Open daily. $16.95-$24.95. Ages 6 and younger free.
The Kreeger Museum: The Kreeger is one of the most beautiful museums in Washington. Its collection includes important Impressionists and members of the Washington Color School, and displays of African, Asian and pre-Columbian art. The Kreeger, which reopened April 1, welcomes visitors to its galleries for four 50-minute timed-entry slots per day, beginning at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Masks are required indoors. When the 50 minutes are up, visitors are directed outside to the sculpture garden, which includes works of art along a wooded trail. Visitors who don’t wish to spend time indoors are allowed to proceed directly to the sculpture garden. Open Tuesday to Saturday. Suggested donation $10 adults, $8 students, military and seniors.
Library of Congress: The Library of Congress fully reopened its iconic Jefferson Building on July 15. The Library is open Thursday through Saturday for self-guided tours, and free timed admission passes are required. Passes can be claimed up to 30 days in advance from loc.gov/visit. Masks are required indoors, regardless of vaccination status. Open Thursday through Saturday. Free.
Mount Vernon: Social-distancing rules at George Washington’s historic estate mean visitors must reserve tickets for timed guided tours of the first floor of the mansion, and the upper floors remain closed. Still, the family-friendly museum is open, minus hands-on history area, and all 160 acres of the grounds are accessible, including the gardens, slave cabins, distillery, farming demonstrations and the first president’s tomb. Open daily. $13-$26. Ages 5 and younger free.
Museum of the Bible: The Museum of the Bible reopened on Jan. 29. Most of the interactive exhibits are open, along with the Milk and Honey Cafe, while the Virtual Reality Tour of the Lands of the Bible and the hands-on children’s area are closed. The museum is encouraging guests to wear masks, but is not requiring it for vaccinated visitors or staff members. Advance tickets are recommended. Open Thursday through Monday. $9.99-$19.99. Ages 6 and younger free.
National Aquarium: Sharks, puffins and golden lion tamarins continue to delight generations of visitors at the National Aquarium in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Capacity is limited, admission is by timed-entry tickets, and some exhibits are temporarily closed. Open daily. $29.95-$39.95. Ages 2 and younger free.
National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: While the National Air and Space Museum on the Mall remains closed, the much larger Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly was the first Smithsonian museum to reopen to the public on May 5. Some amenities, such as the Imax theater and the observation tower, are closed for social distancing requirements, and portions of the museum are closed for repairs to the roof. Still, the museum has put Alan Shepard’s Mercury capsule, Freedom 7, on display for the first time, and many highlights, such as the space shuttle Discovery, are on view as usual. Open daily. Admission is free; parking costs $15.
National Archives: The National Archives has reopened the Rotunda, home to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. All other exhibition spaces are closed. Capacity is limited and entry tickets are required from recreation.gov. No walk-up tickets are available. Open daily. Free entry; $1 convenience fee per ticket.
National Building Museum: The National Building Museum closed “temporarily” in December 2019 for renovations to the iconic Great Hall. Then came the coronavirus, and finally, 16 months later, it reopened to the public on April 9. In addition to the permanent exhibitions, there are three new exhibits, including the Gun Violence Memorial Project — four glass houses filled with objects remembering victims of gun violence. The popular Play Work Build hands-on area has reopened, but only 20 people are allowed inside at once, and timed passes are included in admission. Advance tickets are suggested, but not required. Open Friday through Sunday. $10 adults, $7 youth, students and seniors.
The National Gallery of Art: The National Gallery of Art dropped its requirement for timed-entry tickets on July 12, becoming the first museum on the Mall to do so. Hours have been expanded to 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., instead of the previous 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The gallery rescinded its mask requirement for fully vaccinated visitors on June 18. Open daily. Free.
National Museum of African American History and Culture: It was tough to get passes to the National Museum of African American History and Culture before the pandemic. Free tickets can be reserved on the museum’s website up to 30 days in advance, and same-day tickets are released every day at 8:15 a.m. For social distancing reasons, visitors will follow one-way paths through the museum, and some exhibits, including the segregated Southern Railway Car and Edisto Island Slave Cabin, will remain closed. The Sweet Home Cafe is also closed. Open Wednesday through Sunday. Free.
National Museum of African Art: The National Museum of African Art reopened on July 16, becoming one of the first Smithsonians to reopen without timed entry passes. The museum is finally able to welcome visitors to “Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange Across Medieval Saharan Africa,” which was scheduled to open in April 2020. The exhibition, which includes 300 works from the eighth to 15th centuries, and features artifacts loaned from museums in Nigeria, Mali and Morocco, will run through Feb. 27. Open Wednesday through Sunday. Free.
National Museum of American History: The Star Spangled Banner, the First Ladies’ gowns and the ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz” are back on display after the National Museum of American History reopened on May 21. Most of the museum is open as usual, with only a few exhibitions, such as the hands-on Spark!Lab and Places of Invention, closed. (The full list of what’s open is on the museum website.) The museum operates on a different schedule than some other Smithsonian museums, open Friday to Tuesday instead of Wednesday to Sunday. That’s worth remembering if you’re trying to visit several museums in the same day. Visitors will enter the museum on the Constitution Avenue side and exit onto the Mall. Open Friday to Tuesday. Free.
National Museum of the American Indian: Most exhibitions are open, with some one-way traffic to help with social distancing, though the hand-on activity center, theaters and the vaunted Mitsitam Cafe are closed. Open Wednesday through Sunday. Free.
National Museum of Asian Art: The Freer Gallery of Art reopened on July 16, and does not require timed admission passes. The Freer’s breathtaking “Hokusai: Mad About Painting,” showing the paintings and drawings of Katsushika Hokusai, has added new works, including the rarely seen “Breaking Waves,” created 15 years after the artist’s more famous woodblock print, “Great Wave off Kanagawa.” The Sackler Gallery will remain closed until November for exhibition construction. Open Friday through Tuesday. Free.
National Museum of Natural History: The Smithsonian’s most popular museum, which drew 4.8 million visitors in 2019, finally reopened to the public on June 18. Major exhibits, including the fossil hall with its 66-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex; the Hope Diamond; and the timely — and recently updated — “Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World” are open, though some attractions, such as the Insect Zoo and the Butterfly Pavilion, are still closed. Open Wednesday through Sunday. Free.
National Museum of Women in the Arts: The museum reopened March 3 for in-person visits. However, the museum is keeping a mix of virtual and in-person programming for the time being. Admission is by timed-entry ticket and masks are required. The museum is scheduled to close on Aug. 9 for a two-year renovation. Open daily. $8-$10; ages 18 and younger admitted free.
National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum: The two museums share the historic Patent Office Building and the Kogod Courtyard. Visitors to the Portrait Gallery should note that the popular portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama are on a nationwide tour through May 2022. Open Wednesday to Sunday. Free.
National Zoo: The National Zoo reopened on May 21, and, more importantly, panda cub Xiao Qi Ji met his fans for the first time. Free timed-entry passes are required to enter the Zoo, but getting to see the nine-month-old cub requires a different limited timed-entry pass, the Asian Trail/Panda Pass. Zoo members will be able to reserve the Panda Pass in advance, but nonmembers will have to try their luck reserving one after they arrive at the Zoo. (In other words: Parents, don’t promise the kids they’ll get to see a panda.) Open daily. Admission is free. Parking at the Zoo costs $30 per vehicle, which includes six entry passes.
The Phillips Collection: America’s first modern art museum reopened March 6, along with “Seeing Differently,” a centennial exhibition drawing from the permanent collection. Timed tickets are available up to four weeks in advance. Tickets for additional weeks are released for on Tuesdays, opening for members at 10 a.m. and for the public at noon. Masks are required. Open Tuesday through Sunday. $10-$16.
Planet Word: Planet Word, an interactive museum dedicated to exploring and having fun with language, opened in the historic Franklin School building on Franklin Square in October. It closed the following month, and reopened its doors April 1. Admission is limited, with advance reservations required, and styluses are provided for use with the many touch screens throughout the building. Masks are required. Open Thursday through Saturday. Free.
Renwick Gallery: The Renwick is home to the Smithsonian’s collection of decorative arts. Open Wednesday to Sunday. Free.
Tudor Place: This grand house, on a five-acre Georgetown hilltop, was designed by William Thornton, the architect of the U.S. Capitol, for Martha Washington’s granddaughter, and completed in 1816. It has been a museum since the 1980s, but the gardens — a place of respite with circular boxwood hedges, a profusion of roses and old tulip poplar trees dotting a landscaped “natural” lawn — have become the real destination for those who live or work in the neighborhood. Free, timed tickets are required to visit the house and gardens for self-guided tours. Picnics are welcome. Open Saturday and Sunday. Free; donations accepted.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: The U.S. memorial to the victims of the Nazi regime reopened May 17. Timed tickets are required, and can be reserved 30 days in advance. Health screening questions will be required before visitors enter the building, and masks are required. Open Thursday to Tuesday. Free, with $1 transaction fee per ticket reservation.
The Washington Monument: The Washington Monument reopened to the public on July 14, after being closed for six months. It is the only memorial on the National Mall that requires advance tickets. Unfortunately, it’s not helpful for planners: Timed tickets are made available at 10 a.m. each day on recreation.gov, and are good for visits the following day. One ticket covers up to four people; if you have a group of six, you need two tickets. However, no more than eight people can ride together in the elevator to the top. Everyone older than 2 must wear masks inside the monument, regardless of vaccination status. Open daily. Free, with $1 reservation fee per ticket.
Please note that access to facilities, such as restrooms and cafes, is limited. Check before going.
Anacostia Community Museum: When Smithsonian museums closed due to the coronavirus, the Anacostia Community Museum was forced to reimagine its planned “Men of Change” exhibition. Instead of an indoor gallery with original art depicting Romare Bearden, Muhammed Ali and other Black trailblazers, “Men of Change” moved to the great outdoors, with large, thematic mounted displays on streets and walkways around the Deanwood Recreation Center and Ron Brown High School. With in-person tours off the table, the museum has planned a series of virtual programs, as well as a self-guided audio tour of the exhibit, which includes voices of Ron Brown students. Extended through August 31. Free.
Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center: It’s not often that a walk in the woods leads to a modern sculpture by Jules Olitski, Minoru Niizuma or Gerhard Marcks, but that’s what makes the Annmarie Sculpture Garden in Solomons, Md., one of the area’s most engaging art experiences. Visitors to the 30-acre sculpture garden follow trails winding past clearings and under the trees. Sometimes the art is next to the path, and sometimes it’s first seen from a distance. With areas for children, including a riverside playhouse; plant displays; and a separate “Women’s Walk” looking at bronze female forms, this is a garden that appeals to many different audiences. Open daily. Suggested donation $5.
Dumbarton Oaks: Dumbarton Oaks, which had reopened its gardens to annual pass holders in April, began allowing the public back with timed-entry tickets and limited capacity on May 15. Hours are limited — just 3 to 6 p.m. — but it’s a chance to enjoy being outdoors in one of the area’s most beautiful and dynamic landscaped gardens. The museum remains closed. Open Tuesday through Sunday. $7.
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden: Two new works have joined more than 30 pieces already on display in the Hirshhorn’s sunken Sculpture Garden: “We Come in Peace,” a female figure with five faces that stands more than 12-feet-tall by Huma Bhabha — whose title references the 1951 sci-fi film “The Day the Earth Stood Still” — and Sterling Ruby’s “Double Candle,” a pair of monumental bronze candles. Open daily. Free.
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens: Known for the summer display of lotuses and waterlilies, this large collection of water gardens and marshland is one of Washington’s outdoor treasures throughout the year. The river walk and other trails are open, and photo opportunities abound. Open daily. Free.
National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden: The National Gallery’s beloved sculpture garden has gone back to its extended hours (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.), allowing more time to enjoy fresh air and art by Alexander Calder, Barry Flanagan and Louise Bourgeois. The Pavilion Cafe serves snacks, coffee, beer and wine. Open daily. Free.
U.S. National Arboretum: After two reopening periods with limited hours, the Arboretum’s 446 acres of gardens, trees and trails are now open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The National Bonsai and Penjing Museum reopened June 1, and the Administration Building remains closed. Open daily. Free.
Reopening later this summer
On May 26, the Smithsonian announced a phased opening for the rest of its museums in D.C., spread between mid-June and the end of August.
This story was originally published June 26, 2020. It has been updated.