Tips for Visiting

Use this website to find what's on, download the Smithsonian Mobile app or the official Guide and Map (PDF). You may also map your visit using Trip Planner which covers the 14 museums and galleries on or near the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The Guide and Map is also available in the following languages and alternative formats:

Braille copies of the Guide and Map are available onsite at museum information desks.

Our museums are generally more crowded on weekends and holidays—and during the National Cherry Blossom Festival in the spring and winter break in mid-late December. The best way to avoid crowds is to arrive early on weekends or late on weekdays. Additionally, move against the current. Start your visit on upper floors and work your way down.

Bags and Baggage

Help us keep our collections safe. Bring only a small purse or "fanny-pack"-style bag. Avoid bringing large daypacks, backpacks, or luggage into the museums, as they will be subject to a lengthy search in each building entered. Leave such items on the tour or school bus or in a hotel room.

Photographic Equipment

The Smithsonian permits still and video photography for noncommercial use in its museums and exhibitions, unless otherwise posted.

For the safety of our visitors and collections, the Smithsonian prohibits the use of tripods, monopods, and selfie sticks in our museums and gardens. This is a preventative measure to protect visitors and objects, especially during crowded conditions.

Working members of the media who need to use a tripod or monopod must obtain permission from the museum's Public Affairs Office and must be escorted by a museum staff member while in the building or garden.

Strollers

Strollers are permitted in all museums*; a limited number of strollers are available for rent at the Zoo.

*Note: Strollers currently are not permitted in the Renwick galleries on Friday, Saturday and Sunday; holidays; and at other times when the galleries are especially crowded. Stroller parking is available at the 17th Street accessible entrance. 

Animals

Service animals are welcome at the museums and the National Zoo. Pets are not permitted.

Food/Bag Lunches

No accommodations are available for eating bag lunches within the museums, except in the Kogod Courtyard at the American Art Museum and Portrait Gallery building. Bag lunches that are properly closed and secured may be carried through the museums or stored in lockers during your visit.

The best ways to get to the Smithsonian are by foot, rail, bus, and bicycle. Most of our museums in Washington, D.C., are located within walking or biking distance of each other on or near the National Mall, and the others are accessible by public transit.

By Metrorail and Metrobus

Washington's Metrorail and Metrobus system is convenient, efficient, and economical; for routes and fees, visit www.wmata.com or call 202.637.7000.

By National Mall Circulator Bus

The National Mall Circulator bus is a convenient public transportation option for visitors to the museums along the National Mall, as well as to the Postal Museum.

By Bicycle

Another fun way to cover ground is by bicycle. Pick up a rental from Capital Bikeshare docking stations near most Smithsonian museums. 

If you are riding your own bicycle, you may secure it at one of the racks located outside the following facilities:

  • Air and Space Museum
  • American Indian Museum
  • American History Museum
  • Castle, east and west ends of the building
  • African Art and Sacker Gallery, outside Haupt Garden gates on Independence Avenue
  • Hirshhorn Museum
  • Natural History Museum, Constitution Avenue entrance
  • Postal Museum
  • Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center
  • National Zoo, near Connecticut Avenue entrance and Zoo police station on Lion/Tiger hill

Parking

Public parking is available at the Anacostia Community Museum (free), Udvar-Hazy Center ($15 or free after 4 p.m.), and National Zoo ($22). Parking at other locations is limited to street parking and commercial lots and garages. For more information, view our parking map (PDF).

The Smithsonian Castle at 1000 Jefferson Drive, SW, is the original Smithsonian building completed in 1855 and home to the Smithsonian Visitor Center. It makes a great gateway for your Smithsonian visit. Here you can consult with our in-house volunteer experts about what to see and do; find interactives to help plan your route through the museums; get a grasp of the scope and scale of the Smithsonian; see collections highlights from each Smithsonian museum; marvel at 19th-century architecture; grab a bite to eat; and purchase a souvenir.

The Visitor Center opens at 8:30 a.m. daily (except December 25) to assist visit planning before the other museums open. It closes at 5:30 p.m.  

The safety of the Smithsonian's visitors, volunteers, staff, and collections is of the highest importance. As the nation's most beloved collection of museums and galleries, we work hard every day to ensure the preservation of our country's treasures for the enjoyment of generations to come.

When you visit any of the Smithsonian's buildings you will discover that we have security measures to ensure your safety and the safety of the objects contained within. At many of our museums, you'll be greeted upon entry by one of our security personnel who will conduct a thorough but speedy hand-check of all bags, briefcases, purses, and containers.

Visitors are required to walk through a metal detector at the following museums: 

  • Air and Space Museum
  • African American History and Culture Museum
  • American History Museum
  • Natural History Museum
  • National Postal Museum
  • American Indian Museums

Those who are unable to go through the metal detector will be hand-screened with an electronic wand by security personnel.

Bag checks will be conducted by hand or via an X-ray machine.

Because of the security measures, the lines for entry to the museums may be long during peak seasons and holidays. We ask for your patience, cooperation, and assistance in keeping America's treasures safe.

Please consider leaving any items that need to be checked by security at home or at the hotel to speed entry.

  1. Do not bring large daypacks, backpacks, or luggage into the museums, as they will be subject to a lengthy search in each building entered.
  2. Do not bring any sharp items into the museums such as knives (including pocket or "Swiss Army"-style knives), screwdrivers, scissors, etc.
  3. Other items not permitted include firearms, pepper spray, and Mace.

Photography

The Smithsonian permits still and video photography for noncommercial use only in its museums and exhibitions, unless otherwise posted.

For the safety of our visitors and collections, the Smithsonian prohibits the use of tripods, monopods, or selfie sticks in our museums and gardens. This is a preventive measure to protect visitors and objects, especially during crowded conditions. We encourage museum visitors to take selfies and share their experiences—and leave the selfie sticks in their bags.

Working members of the media who need to use a tripod or monopod must obtain permission from the museum's Public Affairs Office and must be escorted by a museum staff member while in the building or garden.

Smoking

Smoking is prohibited in all Smithsonian facilities.

Strollers

Strollers are permitted in all museums*; a limited number of strollers are available for rent at the Zoo.

*Note: Strollers currently are not permitted in the Renwick galleries on Saturday and Sunday; holidays; and at other times when the galleries are especially crowded. Stroller parking is available at the 17th Street accessible entrance. This temporary measure is to protect the artworks.

Animals

Service animals are welcome in the museums and the National Zoo. Pets are not permitted.

Prohibited Conduct

Visitation policies at the Smithsonian Institution are designed to protect visitors and staff as well as secure and preserve the collections, facilities, and historic buildings entrusted to the Smithsonian's care.

While on Smithsonian premises NO VISITOR SHALL:

  • Carry firearms, other dangerous or deadly weapons, or explosives, either openly or concealed on the premises. The prohibition on firearms applies to all visitors, including those with firearm permits, but not to active law enforcement personnel authorized to carry firearms. Note: Kirpans (ceremonial knives) are religious articles of faith often worn by Sikhs. These knives are permitted in the museums as long as the blades are 2.5 inches or less in length, consistent with federal law (18 USC 930)
  • Display or carry placards, signs, or banners
  • Destroy, damage, or remove property
  • Climb upon any part of a building
  • Use loud, abusive, or otherwise improper language
  • Loiter, sleep, or participate in unwarranted assemblies
  • Create any hazard to persons or things
  • Perform obscene or indecent acts
  • Engage in disorderly conduct
  • Use, possess, or sell illegal drugs
  • Bring dogs or other animals, other than service animals
  • Take photographs for advertising or any other commercial purpose
  • Solicit for commercial or charitable purposes or distribute advertisements, pamphlets, handbills, and flyers

In addition to the above, while on Zoo premises, NO VISITOR SHALL:

  • Kill, injure, or disturb any exhibit or research animal by any means except to secure personal safety
  • Pet, attempt to pet, handle, move, or remove exhibit or research animals
  • Feed exhibit or research animals, except in strict accordance with authorized signs
  • Catch, attempt to catch, trap, remove, or kill any free roaming animals inhabiting the premises
  • Go over, under, between, or otherwise cross any guardrail, fence, moat, wall, or any other safety barrier
  • Seat, stand, or hold children over any safety barrier
  • Throw or toss rocks, or any other missiles into, from, or while on premises
  • Bring strollers, baby carriages, or other conveyances, except wheel chairs, into exhibit buildings and public restrooms
  • Engage in ball games, or any athletic activity, except in places as may be officially designated for such purposes
  • Smoke or carry lighted cigarettes, cigars, or pipes into exhibit buildings, or to have a fire of any kind on the premises
  • Damage, deface, pick, or remove any herb, shrub, bush, tree, or turf, or portion thereof

Visitors who violate these rules may be subject to fine or imprisonment. The complete Smithsonian buildings and grounds regulations can be found in Title 36 of Code of Federal Regulations, parts 504 and 520 (National Zoo).

Security requires all bags be inspected before they can be placed in self-service checkrooms or lockers. Lockers are for the use of museum patrons only while they visit the Smithsonian. Most lockers are large enough for coats, backpacks, retail shopping bags, and small carry-on luggage. Lockers are subject to close without notice.

Lockers are available at the following locations:

  • African Art Museum
  • American History Museum
  • Freer Gallery and Sackler Gallery
  • Hirshhorn Museum
  • Natural History Museum
  • Postal Museum
  • American Art Museum/Portrait Gallery
  • Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center

An alternative, non-Smithsonian location for checking oversized bags and luggage is the Union Station luggage storage room.

Found items are held for up to 24 hours in a museum's security office before moving to our central Lost and Found Office at 202.633.5630.