Tips and Guidelines

Putting safety first

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Entry to the Smithsonian Visitor Center in the Castle

Make the Smithsonian Visitor Center your first stop when visiting Washington, D.C. Located in our signature building, the Smithsonian Castle; the Center opens daily at 8:30 a.m., before our other museums open. View highlights from all of our museums and the zoo, learn some Smithsonian history, enjoy the Castle Café, and consult with our in-house experts about what to see and do.

The safety and security 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. 

Please review the following safety, security, and policy measures. 

The following safety measures are in place to protect the health of our visitors, staff, and volunteers. Safety measures are based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local governments. We ask that all visitors, including those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, follow these safety measures to protect everyone’s health.

Please note that we may adjust our safety guidelines based on changing CDC COVID-19 Community Levels. We encourage visitors to regularly check our website before their visit for the latest guidelines.

During this time, we are implementing the following safety measures: 

If Sick, Stay Home

We are asking all visitors who are sick or feel unwell to please stay home.

Visitors are encouraged to wash and sanitize hands frequently during their visit. Hand-sanitizing stations will be available throughout our facilities.

Masks

While face masks are not currently required, all visitors who feel more comfortable wearing a face mask during their visit are encouraged to do so.

The Smithsonian welcomes millions of visitors each year. We encourage visitors to maintain a safe social distance of six feet or more between households and groups when possible, but our museums get crowded, especially during peak visitation times. Visitors who wish to avoid crowds are encouraged to plan their visit during weekdays.

Proof of Vaccination

Visitors are not required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to visit.

At many of our museums, you'll be greeted upon entry by one of our security personnel who will conduct a thorough hand-check of all bags, briefcases, purses, and containers. We encourage you to limit the number of personal belongings and bags you bring into our facilities as they will be subject to a thorough search. Limiting the items you bring will increase your speed through security checkpoints.

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

  • Air and Space Museum and its Udvar-Hazy Center (DC and VA)
  • African American History and Culture Museum
  • American History Museum
  • Natural History Museum
  • National Postal Museum
  • American Indian Museums (DC and NY)

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.

We ask for your patience, cooperation, and assistance in keeping America's treasures safe.

Visitors should not leave personal belongings unattended, nor leave them stored at one museum while visiting other sites.

Many items are prohibited at all Smithsonian museums. Do not bring sharp items into the museums such as knives (including pocket or "Swiss Army" style knives), screwdrivers, scissors, etc. Other items not permitted include firearms, pepper spray, and Mace. See Prohibited Conduct for additional information.

We encourage you to limit the number of personal belongings and bags you bring into our facilities as they will be subject to a thorough search. Limiting the items you bring will increase your speed through security checkpoints.

The following museums currently offer visitor lockers/storage:

  • African American History and Culture Museum
  • American History Museum
  • Asian Art Museum (Freer and Sackler)
  • Hirshhorn Museum
  • Natural History Museum
  • Udvar-Hazy Center (VA)

Visitors should not leave personal belongings unattended, nor leave them stored at one museum while visiting other sites.

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, selfie sticks or similar devices 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.

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.
  • 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
  • Damage, deface, pick, or remove any herb, shrub, bush, tree, or turf, or portion thereof, in any Smithsonian Garden or at the National Zoo

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

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).