Visiting NMAAHC in 2019

Visitors to the museum interacting with the our digital lunch-counter.

Alan Karchmer

Two years ago, the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened its doors to the public. Since then, we have welcomed nearly five million visitors. The museum’s unique mission, its relevance to people today, and its spectacular setting on the National Mall combined to make it a magnet for local, national and international visitors. As such, public interest in the museum is as high as ever.

Welcoming large numbers of visitors on a daily basis is an honor, and has been exciting for the staff of the museum. However, keeping pace with public interest is a challenge. While we would like to accommodate all those who wish to visit our museum, large crowds create safety and security concerns, and can inhibit the visitor experience. In addition to keeping all staff and visitors safe, we want to be sure that those who come to our museum can take the time to view objects, read labels and enjoy a meal in our Sweet Home Café at their leisure.

In order to provide a safe and pleasant visitor experience, we have required timed passes for entry. We understand that the protocol for timed passes can be confusing, and that passes are not required at most museums on the National Mall. We have heard your feedback, and are always working to improve visitor experience. That is why over the past year we have collected data and implemented a number of pilot programs to determine how we can make our museum more accessible. As a result of our findings, we have restructured our protocols for entry.

We will require timed passes fewer days of the year, allowing people more opportunities than ever to visit our museum on a walk-up basis. In addition, we have revamped our group reservation system, and will reopen our online portal for group passes in January. 

As with other popular destinations, some days and times are simply busier than others, and we cannot accommodate the high volume of visitors on certain days of the year without requiring passes. We are working every day to make our museum accessible to all. In the meantime, these updated procedures will provide greater access to our museum.

Here is How it Works

Starting in January, 2019, the museum will require timed-entry passes for certain peak times and seasons, when visitation is highest. During off-peak times, when visitation is lower, visitors can enter the museum on weekdays without passes. When planning a trip to the museum, visitors are encouraged to check to determine whether they will need to obtain timed passes. Following are guidelines for visiting the museum.

  • The Museum’s hours of operation are 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. 364 days a year. The museum is closed on December 25.
  • Timed passes are required every Saturday and Sunday, regardless of the season. Walk-up entry is not available on weekends.
  • Walk-up entry is available every Monday through Friday from 1 p.m. until close.
  • During off-peak season (September. – February), walk-up entry is available every Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until close.
  • During peak season (March – August.), visitors will need a timed pass to enter the museum before 1 p.m.
  • Groups of 10 or more people require group passes every day of the year, during both peak and off-peak seasons.

Visitation Seasons

January:           Off-peak season
February:         Off-peak season
March:              Peak season 
April:                 Peak season
May:                 Peak season
June:                Peak season
July:                 Peak season
August:            Peak season
September:     Off-peak season
October:          Off-peak season
November:      Off-peak season
December:      Off-peak season

Visiting the Museum During Peak Season (March - August)

  • Visitors will need to obtain timed entry passes to visit the museum on a weekend, or before 1 p.m. Monday – Friday during peak season.
  • Visitors can obtain timed entry passes up to three months in advance of their visit. These advanced passes are issued the first Wednesday of every month.
  • Same day timed entry passes also are available online every day.

Visiting the Museum with a Group of 10 or More

  • Group passes for 10 people or more are required every day of the year, during both peak and off-peak seasons.
  • On January 7, 2019, the museum will launch its online system for group visits. Groups of 10 or more people will be able to view the dates and times available for any particular day. The Museum provides group entry for 75,000 persons or more each month, with more available on weekends when groups frequently visit.

How much does it cost to visit the museum?
Entrance to the museum is free, as with all Smithsonian museums on the National Mall.  Visitors purchasing passes online and through other means may be purchasing counterfeit passes and may not be able to gain entry. Passes to the museum are not for sale.

Can I visit the museum without a timed pass?
Yes. Walk-up entry is available Monday – Friday afternoons (after 1 p.m.) all year. If you are visiting during our off-peak season (September – February.) walk-up entry is available all day Monday – Friday.

When are you going to eliminate timed passes altogether?
Unfortunately, the museum can only accommodate so many visitors at a time. In order to avoid long lines and wait times, we will not completely eliminate timed passes until average visitation numbers are at a level we can accommodate daily.

What if I am in the neighborhood and just want to have lunch there?
Please come visit. Beginning at 1 p.m. every weekday, visitors may enter as capacity allows. Come for lunch at our Sweet Home Café and stay for the afternoon!

When is the busiest time to visit?
The museum is busiest on Saturdays and Sundays and on weekday mornings, between the months of March and August If you want to visit the museum when it is less busy, we recommend coming on a weekday during off-peak season (September-February).

What if I my entire family wants to visit?

If your family, or the group you are visiting with, is nine people or less you should follow our guidelines to determine if you need timed passes. Families or groups of 10 or more require a group pass to enter every day of the year. The museum will open the new Group Pass Reservation System on January 7, 2019, for groups of 10 people or more.

What if I obtain a pass and my plans change?

You may cancel your passes or exchange them for a different date, subject to availability by calling (844) 750-3012.

What if no passes are available and I’m visiting from out of town?

If you are unable to reserve a timed entry pass, you can still visit the museum on a weekday. If you are traveling to D.C. between the months of March and August., walk-up entry begins at 1 p.m. If you are visiting between September and February, you may enter without a pass any time during our regular business hours (10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.).

The museum requires timed entry passes Saturdays or Sundays. If you are only in town for the weekend, all other Smithsonian museums in Washington are free, and no passes are required. 

How can I obtain a pass for my grandmother who does not use a computer?

She can reserve a pass by calling (844) 750-3012. If you, or someone she knows has a computer, you can reserve a pass up to three months in advance online at