Things to Do

All the Smithsonian Museums on the Mall Will Stay Open Late This Saturday

Celebrate the summer solstice with late-night museum hours, stargazing, and a cosmic arcade.

A previous Solstice Saturday at the Natural History Museum. Photograph courtesy of the the Smithsonian Institution.

The summer solstice is this Thursday. For the Northern Hemisphere, that means the sun will be at its highest point in the sky, showering us with more light than any other day of the year. For DC specifically, it also means we’ll see an abundance of Smithsonian events, as part of its annual Solstice Saturday on June 22.

The museum giant has been hosting the festival since 2018 as a way of celebrating the first official Saturday of the summer. Since then, the evening has entailed a mixture of late-night museum hours—with some even staying open until midnight—performances, and activities. This year’s particular theme centers around the Smithsonian’s Cosmic Journey celebration, which marks 25 years of the Chandra X-ray Observatory, a space telescope that has been capturing pictures of the cosmos since 1999.

Here’s what you can expect at this Solstice Saturday (though, be prepared and stay hydrated—it’s going to be an exceptionally hot weekend):


A Night at the Museum(s)

Ushering in the start of summer, all of the Smithsonian museum’s on the National Mall will stay open beyond their regular hours on Saturday.

  • National Museum of the American Indian: Open until 8 PM
  • American History Museum: Open until 10 PM
  • Natural History Museum: Open until 10 PM
  • African American History and Culture Museum: Open until 10 PM
  • Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden: Open until 11 PM 
  • National Air and Space Museum: Open until 11 PM
  • Arts and Industries Building: Open until 11 PM
  • National Museum of Asian Art: Open until midnight
  • National Museum of African Art: Open until midnight


A Cosmic Arcade Party at the Arts and Industries Building

900 Jefferson Dr., SW

Stop by the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building, which will serve as the welcome center for the evening, for glow-in-the-dark fun paired with arcade and table games, including Skee-Ball, air hockey, double shot basketball, mini golf, and a life-size Lite-Brite. An immersive visual art performance will mix galactic sounds with images of the cosmos. 

Details: Saturday from 7-11 PM; free, but registration encouraged here.


An Astronomy Festival on the National Mall

7th to 9th streets, SW

Take a tour of the night sky alongside astronomers at Hofstra University’s  annual astronomy festival, which calls itself the “largest annual astronomy outreach event in the US” and is held in partnership with the Smithsonian’s Solstice Saturday. Amateur astronomers will set up dozens of telescopes throughout the Mall, providing views of the Moon, Venus, star clusters, and more. You’ll also find plenty of booths with demonstrations, hands-on activities, and handouts, hosted by various astronomical societies, such as NASA and The Planetary Society (whose CEO, Bill Nye, has appeared at the festival before).

Details: Saturday from 6-11 PM; free.


A Feast for the Ears at the Hirshhorn

Independence Ave. and 7th St., SW

Sound Scene, a unique festival hosted at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and produced by the DC Listening Lounge, presents installations, performances, and workshops that fuse audio and art. For example, build your own instrument powered by the sun, wind, or other alternative energies at this workshop; hear a catalogue of sound collected from smartphone videos on past solstice dates as part of an installation called “Longest Day / Longest Night”; or stay for performances by various musicians such as violinist Audrey Wright, who will wear a garment that displays sound-responsive light patterns. You can discover more performances and workshops at the event, which will continue on Sunday, here.

Details: Saturday from 10 AM-10 PM and Sunday from 10 AM-5 PM; free, but registration recommended here.


A Lineup of Live Music at the African Art Museum

950 Independence Ave., SW

Photograph courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution.

In addition to staying open until midnight, the African Art Museum is ushering in the official start of summer with beverages, food trucks, docent-led tours, and live music from the band Eme & Heteru, known for its funky Afrobeats, and Nkosenathi Koela, who specializes in traditional African music. Other artists include Inka Kendzia, Chmba, and Soñxseed.

When: Saturday from 4-11:45 PM; free.


Fruit, Poetry, and Storytelling at the Asian Art Museum

1050 Independence Ave., SW

Savor fresh slices of fruit with artist Adele Kenworthy, whose artistic produce stand CUT FRUIT explores the way humans, particularly in Asian cultures, share prepared fruit as an act of love. Accompanying her fruit stand, which will be around from 4 to 8 PM, will be poetry and storytelling from various artists as well as an after-hours gallery tour of The Peacock Room with curator Diana Greenwold at 6 PM.

When: 4-11:45 PM; free, but registration encouraged here.


A Reggaetón Dance Festival at the American History Museum

1300 Constitution Ave., NW

Reggaetón, a genre of pop music that originated in Puerto Rico, is at the heart of a festival hosted at the National Museum of American History. Take reggaetón dance lessons from DC’s Salsa With Silvia Dance Studio, sit in on a panel discussion on the worldwide rise of the genre, and of course listen to a DJ mix up a playlist of reggaetón tracks.

When: Saturday from 5-9 PM; free, but registration encouraged here.

Jessica Ruf
Assistant Editor