Tag Archives: Places to Go in DC this Summer 2021

The KFDC Guide to Reopenings Around DC this May

Lay back, look up, and enjoy Renwick 1.8


Spring is always a time of renewal, and May is about to bring even more of it with a bunch of reopenings around DC.  Several Smithsonian museums, the National Zoo, and a few more beloved places will be welcoming visitors again.  All of them will have extra safety measures, including required advance timed-entry tickets.  Here’s a quick guide to where you can look forward to going, with both logistics for visiting and some recommendations for what to see and do while you’re there.  Happy Returns!


Get a close look at Discovery (photo credit: KFDC Contributor Emily Moise)

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (Air & Space)
Where: 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway | Chantilly, VA
When: Starting May 5, Daily, 10am – 5:30pm
Admission: Free timed-entry passes (parking is $15)
Covid Safety

The Chantilly arm of the National Air & Space Museum showcases two hangars full of fascinating artifacts of flight. You can see all kinds of air and space crafts, including the Space Shuttle Discovery, a Concorde jet, and even a new Star Wars X-Wing Starfighter. For safety reasons, flight simulators, the IMAX theater, and Observation Tower will not be accessible. But as noted in this post about places to play indoors, the museum is a relatively low-risk space in Covid times with its spacious facility and timed-entry passes. Little kids should be well-attended, but have the flexibility to roam and, on a slow day, maybe even run circles around the massive installations.
KFDC Tip:  The museum is a hike from DC, so make the most of your time out that way and plan on a meal, too.  Check out Yelp’s list of nearby restaurants, several of them offering outdoor dining.


The box where Lincoln was shot as he watch a performance of ‘My American Cousin’

Ford’s Theatre
Where: 511 10th Street NW | Downtown DC
When: Starting May 12, Wednesday – Sunday
Admission: $3 timed-entry tickets

The historic theatre and its museum are opening again for self-guided visits with a modified schedule. The site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination is a fascinating site to explore — both seeing where it took place and learning more about Lincoln’s presidency and events of that time through museum exhibits. Visitors will be able to walk through the theatre’s balcony level and Presidential Box as well as tour the museum. And National Park Service rangers will be on hand to answer questions and explain the events surrounding Lincoln’s assassination. As I noted in this KFDC write-up, kids of all ages can go, but about ages 8 and up would get the most out of it. Tickets will be available each Friday for the following Wednesday – Sunday, and timed entry will be on the hour 10am – 12pm, and from 2-4pm (closed during the 1pm hour for cleaning).
KFDC Tip: The theatre isn’t staging performances again yet, but you can watch/listen to virtual play readings on the website.

A Statue of the famous 1968 Olympics Black Power salute at the NMAAHC

National Museum of African American History & Culture
Where: 1400 Constitution Avenue NW | WDC
When: Starting May 14, Wednesday-Sunday, 11am – 4pm
Admission: Free with timed-entry passes
Covid Safety

The NMAAHC is easily one of the most remarkable, important, and powerful attractions to open in DC in recent years. The museum is huge and obviously covers some heavy subject matter, so be sure to the read the KFDC Guide to Visiting the National Museum of African American History & Culture with Kids before you go. There are some interactive elements that I assume will not be accessible, but the museum has three levels full of hands-off exhibits, too.  While I think it’s best for kids in about 3rd grade and up, there are a few elements for younger ages, too.
KFDC Tips: The museum has some great online resources for talking about race.  When you visit, plan for some time to explore the National Mall, too — the NMAAHC is located right across the street from the Washington Monument, and the World War II Memorial , Tidal Basin, and Constitution Gardens are also close by.


See some old friends at the National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery & American Art Museum
Where: 8th and G Streets, NW | WDC
When: Starting May 14, Wednesday-Sunday, 11:30am – 7pm
Admission: Free with timed-entry passes
Covid Safety
Since the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum are physically connected, a pass for one gets you into both.  All of the sections in both museums are great to explore, but I’ve found kids’ favorites in the Portrait Gallery are America’s Presidents (especially Obama) and the Hall of Champions on the third floor featuring famous athletes. Every Eye Is Upon Me: First Ladies of the United States opened right before the museum shut down in November and is only running through May 23, so get tickets to go soon if you hope to see it.  In the American Art Museum, we often head up to the third floor where there are large contemporary paintings in bold colors and interesting, even quirky sculptures and installations. Read more about the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museums here and here, but note that programming and special events are not happening right now.
KFDC Tips: The Alexander von Humboldt exhibit, on view until July 11, includes a mastodon skeleton, a little something to tide over dino loving kids until they can visit the Natural History Museum again!  And the Kogod Courtyard connecting the museums will also be accessible, and the stunning space is a must-stop on any visit to the museums.


Ai No Keshiki – Indigo Views, part of Forces of Nature at the Renwick

Renwick Gallery
Where: 1661 Pennsylvania Ave., NW | WDC
When: Starting May 14, Wednesday-Sunday, 10am – 5:30pm
Admission: Free with timed-entry passes
Covid Safety
Part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Renwick showcases contemporary American craft, often through exhibitions featuring awesome large-scale works. Maybe you saw the fantastic Wonder and No Spectators: The Art Burning Man in recent years. We caught the current Forces of Nature right before the gallery closed last fall, and it’s reminiscent of those with art installations that are interesting, beautiful, even a bit whimsical. It’s on view until August 15, and I recommend going to see it.
KFDC Tip: While you’re in the area, visit Black Live Matters Plaza located just across Lafayette Square from the Renwick on 16th Street between I & K Streets.


(TikTok) dancing amid the Degas sculptures at the National Gallery of Art

National Gallery of Art
Where: 1661 Pennsylvania Ave., NW | WDC
When: Starting May 14, Wednesday-Sunday, 10am – 5:30pm
Admission: Free with timed-entry passes
Covid Safety 
It’s not a Smithsonian, but the National Gallery of Art is welcoming visitors again along with the rest of the museums on the National Mall. Only the West Building known for housing works by European masters will be open, and most galleries on both floors will be accessible, with limited exceptions for galleries that do not allow for social distancing. We enjoyed the Degas exhibit back in the fall, and while it’s no longer there, the gallery featuring the artist’s sculptures is great to tour. The wonderful gift shop will be open, so plan on some browsing there, too. And PS: The East Building is coming soon!
KFDC Tip: View even more art outdoors at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden (enter on the north side of the National Mall at 7th Street) and grab a snack at the cafe to enjoy a bite al fresco.


The Dumbarton Oaks Garden is easily one of the most enchanting places in the city

Dumbarton Oaks Garden
Where: 1661 Pennsylvania Ave., NW | WDC
When: Starting May 15, Tuesday – Sunday, 3-6pm
Admission: $10/adult, $5/child
Tickets: Timed entry passes available soon
Covid Safety
One of the prettiest places in DC (imo…as well as one of my favorite places in general), Dumbarton Oaks is finally reopening its gardens for the first time since its Covid closing last spring. The grounds of the historic estate are so enchanting, with winding brick and stone paths leading to the many areas of the terraced garden, all of them showcasing different, lovely landscapes and hardscapes. Tickets are actually available now for season pass holders (starting at $75 for one person), and timed-entry tickets will be released soon.  Currently, the grounds are only open Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday 3-6pm, with a limited number of tickets available every hour.  After May 15, grounds will be open Tuesday – Sunday, 3-6pm.  See more about Dumbarton Oaks  here, here, and here.
KFDC Tip: Before your visit, take kids to play at Montrose Park right next to the gardens, and plan for a snack or meal after.  You have your pick of places to go in Georgetown — we especially like Jaco Juice & Taco Bar on Wisconsin Ave., an easy walk from Dumbarton Oaks.


National Archives
Where: 701 Constitution Avenue NW | WDC
When: Starting May 15, SAturday & Sunday, 10am – 2pm
Admission: Free with timed-entry tickets
Covid Safety

The National Archives Museum will begin to welcome back visitors on weekends. The Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom will be available for public viewing. This includes the Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States, and Bill of Rights. The Faulker murals are also notable. All other exhibits and research facilities will be closed.
KFDC Tip: The Archives are just across Pennsylvania Ave. from the Penn Quarter neighborhood, where there are a bevy of family-friendly restaurants.

Looking for pandas in trees at the Zoo

National Zoo
Where: 3001 Connecticut Avenue NW | WDC
When: Starting May 21, Daily, 8am – 4pm
Admission: Free
Tickets: Timed entry passes available soon
Covid Safety
Because it is outdoors and it houses some of DC’s cutest residents, the Zoo reopening may be the most anticipated one. As in summer and fall of 2020, a limited number of timed entry tickets will be available for each day, and you must reserve them in advance — up to six per person.  If you want to see the new panda cub (which we all do!), free, timed Asia Trail/Panda Passes are required and can be reserved on-site on the day of your visit. Paid parking passes are also available for $30, and must also be purchased in advance. (Note that even FONZ Members still need to reserve timed-entry tickets and purchase parking passes.) You can try looking for metered parking on nearby streets, and the Woodley Park Metro stop on the red line is an easy few blocks walk away. Concessions will be available at some Zoo restaurants and food trucks.
KFDC Tip: The National Zoo is big and requires a lot of walking. If you’re bringing little ones, 1) bring a stroller and 2) check the map ahead of your visit and make a plan of what to see. You may want to save some parts for another outing there.


America on the Move is a fun exhibit to view at the American History Museum

National Museum of American History
Where: 1300 Constitution Avenue NW | WDC
When: Starting May 21, Friday-Tuesday, 11am – 4pm
Admission: Free
Tickets: Timed entry passes available soon
Covid Safety
When I recommended the American History Museum pre-Covid, I often suggested taking children to America on the Move which features all kinds of modes of transport, galleries with toys and games from our childhoods, First Lady dresses, the Star-Spangled Banner, and more relics from the nation’s past. Girlhood (It’s complicated) opened last fall and is fun and interesting to explore. On the lower level, exhibitions like American Democracy that includes a history of voting in the U.S. and Many Voices, One Nation that highlights how our voices shape our country will be interesting for older kids. Spark!Lab and Wegman’s Wonderplace likely won’t be open, but I’ll update if/when it is.
KFDC Tip: The Enid A. Haupt Garden right across the National Mall behind the Smithsonian Castle is a lovely place to enjoy some outdoor time before or after your visit.


A peek at the powerful Americans exhibit at the NMAI

National Museum of the American Indian
Where: 4th Street & Independence Avenue SW | WDC
When: Starting May 21, Wed-Sun, 11am – 4pm
Admission: Free
Tickets: Timed entry passes available soon
Covid Safety
When the museum reopened in the fall, the imagiNATIONS Activity Center, a fantastic space for hands-on explorations of American Indian culture, was not accessible, and that’s likely to be the case this time, too. (Of course, I will keep you updated.). But there is plenty more to enjoy at the NMAI. The Americans exhibit, in particular, illuminates how American Indians are part of the nation’s identity through powerful imagery and compelling displays that illustrate their history. A few more galleries will also be open for touring.  And the museum’s design and architecture alone are worth a visit to see, both inside and out.
KFDC Tip: Something fun for kids (and you): While you’re in the Potomac Atrium, have them look for rainbows of light cast on the walls and floor as sun shines through deliberately placed prisms.

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Filed under 2021, All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Reopened, Social Distancing, Spring