More D.C. Institutions Reopening


As we navigate the tail end of the pandemic, it looks like more and more businesses are reopening with each passing week. On April 23, the Smithsonian Institution announced that it is planning to reopening seven museums and the National Zoo in May.

Beginning on Wednesday, May 5, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the National Air and Space Museum branch in Chantilly, Virginia, will reopen with timed-entry passes. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced last week that COVID restrictions in the commonwealth will be loosened on May 15.

Reopening on Friday, May 14: the National Museum of African American History and Culture at 1400 Constitution Ave. NW; the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which share the renovated Old Patent Office Building at 8th and F Streets NW; and the Renwick Gallery, the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s branch for contemporary craft and decorative arts, at Pennsylvania Avenue and 17th Street NW.

On May 21, the National Museum of American History at 1300 Constitution Ave. NW, the National Museum of the American Indian at Independence Avenue and 4th Street SW and the National Zoo at 3001 Connecticut Avenue NW will join the other reopened sites.

Naturally, the Smithsonian is requesting that all visitors who are sick or don’t feel well stay home. Visitors aged 2 and older will need to wear face coverings and staff will be closely monitoring the number of people at each facility. Each museum will require free timed-entry passes (visit their individual websites for more information). The only food service will be at the National Zoo, which will have restaurants and food trucks available to feed the hungry masses.

Given the popularity of the zoo’s newest panda cub, a separate timed-entry pass is required to visit the Asia Trail/Giant Pandas area. The zoo wants to remind us that the panda is still young and sleeps a lot during the day, much like our own human babies! Xiao Qi Ji is still available for viewing on the live panda cams.

The Smithsonian closed its museums in March of 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 health crisis. From July through October of last year, eight buildings were reopened, then closed again around Thanksgiving. The reopenings listed above are the start of a phased process.

Other buildings will be reopening in May, too. The National Gallery of Art announced that it will be welcoming visitors back to its West Building, on Constitution Avenue between 4th and 7th Streets NW, come May 14. Timed passes will be required, but the museum’s sculpture garden is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily with no passes needed.

Finally, it also looks like Nationals Park will be hosting Georgetown University, which will be having its commencement in person after all.

GU President John DeGioia recently sent a letter to the school community announcing an in-person commencement for the Class of 2021 at Nationals Park. The graduation will be held on Monday, May 24 — undergraduates in the morning and graduate and professional students in the afternoon. Graduates will be allowed to bring two guests and attendees will need to adhere to D.C.’s public health and travel guidance. The ceremonies will be streamed online for family and friends unable to attend in person.

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