Planning Your Visit to the African American History Museum Way, Way Ahead

No weekend passes available through the end of the year

The exterior of the Museum of African American History and Culture as seen during the media preview day on Sept. 14, 2014. The newest of the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall will open on Sept. 24, 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
The exterior of the Museum of African American History and Culture as seen during the media preview day on Sept. 14, 2014. The newest of the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall will open on Sept. 24, 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted September 22, 2016 at 10:32am

The National Museum of African American History and Culture will be the 20th facility operated by the Smithsonian Institution, and the first to open since the National Museum of the American Indian a dozen years ago.

Interest in visiting has been overwhelming — so much so that a system of timed passes has been put in place to regulate the crowds. And, as of Wednesday morning, the earliest available tickets that could be reserved online were a handful at midafternoon on Election Day, Nov. 8, with nothing at all available on weekends through the end of the year.

Here are some other things to know about planning your visit:

LOCATION: The museum is on the National Mall northeast of the Washington Monument, with entrances on Constitution Ave., and Madison Dr. It’s about equidistant from the Smithsonian and Federal Triangle Metro stations (Blue and  Orange lines). There is no parking garage.

HOURS: After extended times to accommodate a particularly huge throng for opening week, starting Oct. 3, doors will open every day (except Christmas) at 10 a.m. and close at 5:30 p.m.

PASSES: They are free and they are a must. Passes may be reserved online at nmaahc.si.edu/visit/opening or by telephone (919-653-0443, or 800-514-3849), with a maximum of six tickets per order. Some same-day passes will be available at the museum after 9:15 a.m. each day, with a maximum of four per group.

GETTING INSIDE: Every visitor needs a pass, even infants. The quarter-hour noted on the ticket is not a guaranteed time of admission if the crowds are too big. All visitors must pass through a metal detector and their belongings will be subject to inspection. There is an extensive roster of predictably prohibited items, including food and drinks. There is no coat or baggage check.

WHAT’S INSIDE: There is 85,000 square feet of exhibition space on five floors, with nearly 3,000 objects in a dozen different exhibitions, along with 13 different interactive displays and 183 videos. The museum has two distinct parts: The 60 percent that’s underground is a chronological path of African-American history from the beginnings of slavery through Reconstruction and the civil rights era until Barack Obama’s inauguration; the 40 percent above ground contains galleries focused on African-American contributions to culture and the arts in this country and globally.

AMENITIES: Brochures and audio guides for self-directed tours are available in English, French, and Spanish. There’s a museum store, of course. The Sweet Home Café, which seats 400, provides seasonal offerings at four stations organized to showcase regional African-American cuisines.