Tips for Visiting

Download the Smithsonian Mobile app or the official Guide and Map (PDF). The Guide and Map is also available in the following languages and alternate formats:

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

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

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 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. 


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 my be carried through the museums or stored in lockers during your museum visit.

The best ways to explore the Smithsonian are by foot, rail, bus, and bike.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 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 bike: pick up a rental from Capital Bikeshare docking stations near most Smithsonian museums. 

If you are riding your own bike, you may secure it at one of the bike 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


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. As such, it makes a great gateway for our visitors’ journeys through the Smithsonian. Here visitors can consult with our in-house volunteer experts about what to see and do; find interactives to help them plan their 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 visitors with their planning before the other museums open, and it closes at 5:30 p.m.  

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 alternate, 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.