If you're sick of just about everything on Netflix, you're in luck. DC’s museums, gardens, art galleries and cultural institutions are starting to re-open! Be aware--many places are requiring visitors to reserve timed-entry passes to aid social distancing measures, and masks are always a must. But that's to be expected in this "new normal."
So, ready for some summertime fun in the city? Take a look at our handy guide to see what’s currently open!
Things are changing so quickly, so we recommend checking each spot’s safety protocols and hours before visiting to ensure you’re prepared to follow the rules.
African American Civil War Museum
Lost in much of the history of the Civil War is the important role of active African American soldiers. This museum (and its on-site memorial) focus on the memory and sacrifice of these soldiers, and their struggle for freedom. Free to the public, the museum features photographs, documents and it also has Civil War uniforms that both kids and adults can try on. The museum will temporarily be operating under new hours: Tuesday - Friday, 11-5pm; Saturday, 10am - 4pm and Sunday, 12-4pm.
If you missed the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin this year, you’re in luck.. But digital flowers are forever, which is a boon for Artechouse. “Hanami: Beyond the Blooms” will run at DC’s only digital-arts venue until leaves begin to turn in September. Interactivity is an Artechouse hallmark; the proximity of humans (standing six feet apart from one another, of course) triggers visual and audio responses in most of the pieces in the four attractions. Admission is limited and a timed ticket is required.
Dumbarton House Museum
Set in the heart of Georgetown, Dumbarton House is a prime example of Federal Period architecture, which draws from Ancient Roman architecture with its use of pillars and arches. The home serves as the headquarters of the National Society of The Colonial Dames of America and features a collection of 19th-century paintings, decorative arts and furniture. Forced to escape the White House from approaching British troops in 1814, then-First Lady Dolley Madison took shelter there before heading to Virginia. The museum is open Thursday - Sunday for self-guided tours. Timed tickets and masks are required.
The much-buzzed-about Potomac art museum has reopened to allow visitors to explore the Pavilions, its largest indoor exhibition space and stroll the 300 acres of grounds and admire sculptures by Richard Serra, Michael Heizer and Jeff Koons. Open Thursday through Sunday. Free, reservations required. Tickets are released at 10 a.m. every Monday.
Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens
The former home of cereal heiress, Marjorie Merriweather Post, Hillwood Estate showcases luxurious decor, one the premier Russian and French art collections in the United States and 25 acres of enchanting formal gardens and surrounding woodlands. Timed entry reservations, masks and social distancing are required.
International Spy Museum
DC is the capital of secrets so no wonder it’s home to the International Spy Museum. It tackles everything from the stories of legendary spies, clever gadgets like the Enigma code breaker and intelligence analysis around the Osama bin Laden raid. It engages visitors of all ages and espionage interests. For those just looking for crazy spy stories, there are plenty. For those with a collector’s eye, the museum is host to everything from original German plans for a supergun to the one-man submarine known as Sleeping Beauty. It also has dozens of interactives for children and for adults looking to test their skills. New safety measures are in place including capacity limitations, social distancing guidelines, mask requirements, and enhanced cleaning protocols. Advance ticket purchase is recommended.
The Kennedy Center is closed, but its JFK Memorial is open for visits with limited capacity, face coverings and social distancing. Outdoor areas of its on-site REACH campus are open, including Victura Park, a pop-up, outdoor wine garden with limited guests and social distancing required.
Mansion on O Street
Voted the “Coolest Place in DC,” the Mansion on O Street offers one of the most unique experiences in the District. Formerly a private residence, this fun house has 100 rooms and 70 secret doors, leading to themed areas filled with fine art, antiques and furnishings that you can explore on scavenger hunts, tours and other events. Masks, social distancing and advance reservations are required.
George Washington’s historic estate became one of the first major attractions to reopen in the Washington area on June 21, though, for now at least, social-distancing rules mean visitors can’t enter the mansion — it’s just too tight a squeeze for groups on the mandatory guided tours — or the distillery. Still, the family-friendly museum is open, minus the theaters and hands-on history area, and all 160 acres of the grounds are open, including the gardens, slave cabins, farming demonstrations and the first president’s tomb. Capacity will be limited, so advance ticket purchase is recommended, and guests and staff are required to wear face coverings and must social distance.
Museum of the Bible
The huge museum contains one of the largest collections of Bible artifacts in the world. In the technologically-advanced museum, guests can “fly” above Washington, D.C. to view Bible verses on many of the famous buildings, see Bibles owned by Thomas Jefferson and other Presidents of the United States, and walk through educational exhibits while learning about the history of the Bible.Museum of the Bible is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets, face masks and social distancing required. Use complimentary styluses on touchscreens. The Bible Museum published a list of ten “COVID Commandments” ahead of its reopening. “Thou shalt wear a face mask,” “Thou shalt consider washing your hands frequently or using the provided hand sanitizer,” and “Thou shalt enjoy thyself!” are all on the list.Read more "Thou Shalts".
Museum of the Palestinian People
DC’s first museum dedicated to Palestinian history, art, and culture is currently showing the premier exhibit of “Art of Palestinian Women” that features sculpture, visual artwork and performance, in addition to a permanent collection. Opened on a limited basis - Saturdays only -- for guided tours; ticket required.
National Bonsai and Penjing Museum
The National Bonsai and Penjing Museum is tucked away in the middle of the 412-acre U.S. National Arboretum. It showcases more than 100 specimens—some of the trees in the collection are more than 400 years old and have survived war and bombings. The museum is a riveting collection of legendary miniature Japanese and Chinese trees. The Japanese art of bonsai goes back more than one thousand years, a practice of growing beautiful trees in artful containers. The art of penjing is an even earlier version of the same practice, with both providing a calming effect on the observer. The open-air museum, which began to take shape in the 1970s, was the first of its kind in the world. The museum literally changes with the seasons, so it’s worth repeated visits.
National Gallery of Art
Masterworks by the most renowned European and American artists, including the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the in the Americas and the largest mobile ever created by Alexander Calder, await visitors to the National Gallery of Art, one of the world's preeminent art museums. The Gallery's collection of paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture, medals, and decorative arts trace the development of Western art from the Middle Ages to the present. The ground floor galleries of the West Building only are now open to visitors with a timed entry pass. Free passes are released each Monday at 10 AM for the next week. The Sculpture Garden is also open and no tickets are required to go in.
National Museum of Women in the Arts
The only major museum in the world solely dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women in the visual, performing and literary arts is reopening on Saturday, August 1. Advance tickets, masks and social distancing are required. The museum’s collection features 5,000 works from the 16th century to the present created by more than 1,000 artists, including Mary Cassatt, Frida Kahlo, Alma Thomas, Lee Krasner, Louise Bourgeois, Chakaia Booker, and Nan Goldin, along with special collections of 18th-century silver tableware, botanical prints, and artists’ books.
President Lincoln’s Cottage
President Lincoln’s summer retreat is open for three, new guided outdoor experiences that explore the historic landscape surrounding the cottage. The historic landmark was the home where President Abraham Lincoln spent the summer months with his family and first developed the Emancipation Proclamation.
Smithsonian National Zoo
The Zoo reopened on July 24 with two bison, an Andean bear and a baby wallaby are among the new animals ready to welcome visitors back. There are some new rules for those wanting to visit the zoo and the center: Free, timed passes will be required for entry; you can get them online here or you can call 800-514-3849, ext. 1. The free, timed passes will help to keep numbers manageable so guests can effectively social distance. 5000 passes will be released each day. And to further help ensure the safety of guests, visitors over the age of six will be required to wear a face covering (even when outside at the Zoo), and will have directional guidance where appropriate to help ensure social distancing.
Head to Georgetown to visit the historic home of Martha Custis Peter, Martha Washington’s granddaughter. It was built in 1816 by Dr. William Thornton, the architect who also built the U.S. Capitol. In addition to its gardens and home walking tours, Tudor Place has a vast array of artifacts from Martha and George Washington’s personal items, including one of only three surviving letters between George and Martha. Starting August 6, the garden & grounds will be open Thursdays to Sundays from 12- 4 p.m.
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Look up, down, and all around. Adventures can be found everywhere -- if you're curious enough to look. k for it