News & Politics

How to Get Tickets to the Smithsonian’s African American History Museum

Photograph by Evy Mages

Excitement for the National Museum of African American History and Culture has been so strong that a month before it opened, the Smithsonian created a ticketing system for the first several months of visitors. Passes to the museum—which, like all other Smithsonian branches, is free to enter—have been reserved through late October, and the museum is currently offering passes for November and December.

The museum, which opens September 24 with a ceremony at which President Obama is expected to cut the ribbon, represents the completion of a goal first set out more than a century ago when a group of black Civil War veterans in DC proposed a national museum celebrating African-American contributions to the country’s history. The 28,500 tickets made available for the opening weekend were snapped up in less than an hour when the Smithsonian made the first batch available.

Excited to visit this new museum but haven’t made a reservation yet? Here’s what you need to know about how to get inside:

How do the tickets work?

The Smithsonian is distributing timed passes, meaning entries will be staggered in 15-minute intervals. There’s no limit on how long people can spend inside the museum, which spans the entire arc of black history in America, from the 15th-century origins of the Atlantic slave trade to today. The museum opens with five floors of exhibits, with more than 3,000 objects on display along with 13 interactive exhibits and nearly 200 video features. The Smithsonian recommends multiple visits.

What about after the first weekend?

Same-day passes will be available starting Monday, September 26, but advance passes are still recommended for the museum’s first several months. They’re available online here. Advance tickets for dates through December are gone; more passes are expected to be released for people who plan to visit in January 2017.

When is the museum open?

The museum will open to the public at 1 PM on September 24 after the opening ceremony, which starts at 10 AM. It will also be open the following day from 7 AM to midnight. It’ll be open between 10 AM and 7:30 PM for the first full week and until 10 PM on October 1 and 2 before settling into its normal hours of 10 AM to 5:30 PM.

Where is the museum exactly?

The museum is at 1400 Constitution Ave., Northwest, at the corner of Constitution and 15th St. The closest Metro stops are Federal Triangle (12th St. and Pennsylvania Ave., NW) and Smithsonian (12th St. and Independence Ave., SW) on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines.

Can I attend the opening ceremony and festival?

The opening celebration at the museum is open to the public, but for those who will be outside the secured area with the president and other dignitaries, there will be viewing areas nearby on the Mall with large screens. The usual rules about what people can bring to large events on the Mall apply. The museum’s opening is also being marked with a free, weekend-long music festival on the Washington Monument grounds featuring Public Enemy, The Roots, Preservation Hall Jazz BandLiving Colour, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Experience Unlimited.

Can I bring a selfie stick?

No, the Smithsonian bans those.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.