Whether there is persistent rain or a typical humid day in D.C., going for a relaxed visit to explore museums is a must. This summer, the Smithsonian is gradually reopening their museums and other spaces, requiring free, timed-entry passes. Outdoor gardens and exhibitions are open as well. Visitors can reserve passes up to 30 days in advance. Time slots are filling up fast, so now is the time to start booking for a future enjoyable afternoon. Here is a list of our top Smithsonian picks based on availability and engagement.
National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery narrates the changing story of America through striking portraits of the individuals who shaped its culture. When there, visit “Visionary: The Cumming Family Collection (Part 2,” which features a collection of over two dozen national and global leaders’ portraits dating back to 1995. Open until October 31, portraits include Warren Buffett, Al Gore, Denyce Graves, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Toni Morrison and E.O. Wilson. Tickets are booked one month out. Open Wednesday – Sunday, 11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. National Portrait Gallery: 8th and G Streets in NW, DC; npg.si.edu // @smithsoniannpg
Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM)
Art enthusiasts can once more enjoy SAAM’s expansive collection of U.S. art. From the colonial era to now, the museum’s collection comprises over 7,000 different artists. Tickets book one month out. Don’t miss the current exhibit “¡Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now.” Open until August 8, this exhibit explores the evolution of Chicano artists’ social activism through bold and vibrant printmaking. Tickets available early July. Open Wednesday – Sunday, 11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. Smithsonian American Art Museum: F and 8th Streets in NW, DC; americanart.si.edu // @americanart
National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI)
NMAI supports one of the world’s largest collections of Native American artifacts in the Western Hemisphere. The exhibit to see is “Our Universes: Traditional Knowledge Shapes Our World.” Open until spring 2022, this exhibit explores the daily life of indigenous peoples who express homage to their ancestors through art, celebration and language. Also, don’t miss out on the food selection at the Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe, featuring indigenous cuisine from different regions of the Americas. Tickets available early July. Open Wednesday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. National Museum of the American Indian: 4th Street and Independence Avenue in NW, DC; americanindian.si.edu // @smithsoniannmai
Before the summer heat gets too unbearable, visit the Smithsonian Gardens, which includes over 180 acres. Walk the 13 public exhibits throughout the National Mall, which comprise the “Habitat” exhibition. Open until December 2021, this educational showcase focuses on different aspects of protecting wildlife and their environment. No pass required. Various locations. gardens.si.edu // @smithsoniangardens
When it comes to the National Zoo, one animal comes to mind: pandas. More specifically, Xiao Qi Ji, the adorable giant panda cub born last August. Since Xiao Qi Ji is a celebrity and in high demand, time slots are limited, and visitors must sign up when at the zoo. If you’re unable to see the pandas, you can view them on the Panda Cam. While there, also check out the 2,700 other animals representing more than 390 species. Tickets available. Open 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. National Zoo: 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; nationalzoo.si.edu // @smithsonianzoo
National Museum of Natural History
One of the most well-known Smithsonian museums returns this Friday. Upon entry, be welcomed by a life-size elephant and proceed to explore paleontology finds dating back to the prehistoric era before making a stop to see the exquisite Hope Diamond. Visit the current exhibit “Beauty Rich and Rare,” which transports you back to Captain James Cook’s 1768 voyage to Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia. The exhibit includes artifacts and documents from English naturalist Sir Joseph Banks. Opens June 18, runs 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. National Museum of Natural History: 10th Street and Constitution Avenue in NW, DC; naturalhistory.si.edu // @smithsoniannmnh
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