Smithsonian To Phase Out Timed-Entry Passes and Extend Hours Starting July 20

July 16, 2021
News Release
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Smithsonian Castle

Starting Tuesday, July 20, the Smithsonian will no longer require timed-entry passes to visit most of its museums. However, free passes will still be required to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Zoo. In addition, museums on the National Mall will return to their pre-pandemic hours, which for most museums is 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The Smithsonian, which closed in March 2020 and again in late November 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, first implemented the use of timed-entry passes at most museums as part of a gradual reopening plan to manage reduced-capacity levels and allow for adequate social distancing. Starting July 20, the Smithsonian will return to pre-COVID-19 capacity numbers at its museums and the Zoo.   

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, which has required free timed-entry passes since it opened in 2016, will continue to require passes. In addition, the National Zoo will continue to use free passes as a way to manage its normal capacity limits (not restricted due to COVID-19). However, starting Tuesday, July 20, the Zoo will no longer require additional passes to visit the giant pandas. Visitors will just need a pass to enter the Zoo. Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City, which typically charges for entry, will continue to require tickets but will offer free tickets through Oct. 31. All other Smithsonian museums will stop using timed-entry passes.

Several Smithsonian museums are scheduled to reopen this summer for the first time since March 2020. These locations will not use free timed-entry passes when they open, including the National Museum of African Art and the National Museum of Asian Art’s Freer Gallery, both opening Friday, July 16.

Reopening Schedule

Friday, July 16            National Museum of African Art
                                    National Museum of Asian Art’s Freer Gallery

Friday, July 30            National Air and Space Museum
                                    Smithsonian Institution Building (the “Castle”)

Friday, Aug. 6             Anacostia Community Museum

Friday, Aug. 20           Hirshhorn Museum (Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden remains open)

Friday, Aug. 27           National Postal Museum

Visiting the Smithsonian

Visitors will need timed-entry passes to visit through Monday, July 19. Starting Tuesday, July 20, visitors can walk up to most Smithsonian museums without passes, just as they did before March 2020.

Advanced timed-entry passes issued for July 20­–Aug. 15 will be canceled at all locations except the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Zoo and will not be scanned at entry. July 20 and onward all visitors, including those who previously reserved passes, will enter Smithsonian museums as walk-up visitors. Visitors to the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Zoo should continue to reserve free timed-entry passes in advance of their visit at

Safety Measures

To protect the health of visitors and staff, the Smithsonian continues to implement safety measures based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other sources, including:

  • Requesting that all visitors who are sick or do not feel well stay home. 
  • Requiring all visitors ages 2 and older who are not fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to wear a face covering during their visit.
  • Providing hand-sanitizing stations for visitors and conducting enhanced cleaning throughout all facilities. 

Some museum cafes, exhibits, galleries, interactives, theaters, retail stores or indoor spaces may be closed or operating at a limited capacity. Detailed information for visitors is available on the museum websites. 

Museum Hours and Information

Many museums are currently operating at reduced hours. Starting July 20, all museums on the National Mall will return to their pre-Covid-19 hours of 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. The Smithsonian Institution Building (the “Castle”) will open at its normal hours of 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Museums currently operating on a five-days-a-week schedule will continue to do so. A full list of museum days and hours is available online at  

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Alexandria Fairchild

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Madeleine Weyand-Geise

(202) 802-8136