Tips and Guidelines

Putting safety first

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If sick stay home, wear a face covering, timed-entry passes may be required

The safety of the Smithsonian's visitors, volunteers, staff, and collections is of the highest importance. As the nation's most beloved collection of museums and galleries, we work hard every day to ensure the preservation of our country's treasures for the enjoyment of generations to come.

Know Before You Go: Guidelines for Visiting

We ask that all visitors, including those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, follow these safety measures to protect everyone’s health. Visitors who do not adhere to safety policies and guidelines may be asked to leave.

If Sick, Stay Home

We’re asking all visitors who are sick or feel unwell to please stay home. If you are at increased risk of severe illness, you may also want to consider staying home.

Face Coverings

All visitors ages two and older are required to wear a face covering while visiting Smithsonian locations in indoor spaces regardless of vaccination status. Face coverings may be removed while eating or drinking in designated spaces. 

Face coverings should fit properly, covering the nose, mouth, and chin with no large gaps on the outside of the face, and they should have at least two layers. Face shields are not permitted as a substitute for a face covering but may be worn over a face covering or mask. Bandanas, single-ply gaiters and face coverings, and masks with an exhalation valve are not permitted. 

Proof of Vaccination (New York City)

All visitors ages 5 and over are required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to visit New York City museums. (See Key to NYC)

Proof of Vaccination (Washington, D.C.)

Museum and Zoo Entry

Visitors are not required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter any Washington, D.C.-area museum or the National Zoo.

Indoor Dining  

Per a Washington, D.C., mandate for indoor dining: 

Beginning January 22: visitors 12 and older must show proof of having had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.  

Beginning February 15: visitors 12 and older must show proof of full vaccination: one or two doses depending on the type of vaccine.  

Note: Visitors placing to-go orders from cafes will not be required to show proof of vaccination.  

Acceptable forms of proof of vaccination include: 

  • A CDC-issued vaccination card (or a photo of the card) 
  • Record of immunization from a health-care provider or public health authority  
  • A COVID-19 verification app (e.g., VaxYes, Clear, Excelsior, MyIR) 
  • World Health Organization Vaccination Record 

Visitors 18 years and older must also show photo ID, such as: 

  • State-issued driver’s license or limited purpose driver’s license  
  • Any other state-issued identification card  
  • Passport  
  • DC One Card  
  • Student ID  
  • Permanent resident card 

Visitors may dine in without showing proof of vaccination if they provide documentation of a medical exemption (such as a doctor’s note) or a religious exemption (such as an attestation form); both exemptions must be accompanied by a negative result from a PCR or antigen test taken within the past 24 hours.  

Social Distancing

We encourage visitors to maintain a safe social distance of six feet or more between households or groups at all times. 


Please wash and sanitize hands frequently during your visit and practice good hygiene. Hand-sanitizing stations will be available throughout our facilities. 

Personal Belongings 

We encourage you to limit the number of personal belongings and bags you bring into our facilities as they will be subject to a thorough search. Limiting the items you bring will increase your speed through security checkpoints, helping us all maintain a safe social distance. Please note that we do not offer coat or bag storage.


    When you visit any of the Smithsonian's buildings you will discover that we have security measures to ensure your safety and the safety of the objects contained within. At many of our museums, you'll be greeted upon entry by one of our security personnel who will conduct a thorough hand-check of all bags, briefcases, purses, and containers.

    Visitors are required to walk through a metal detector at the following museums: 

    • Air and Space Museum and its Udvar-Hazy Center (DC & VA)
    • African American History and Culture Museum
    • American History Museum
    • Natural History Museum
    • National Postal Museum
    • American Indian Museums (DC & NY)

    Those who are unable to go through the metal detector will be hand-screened with an electronic wand by security personnel. Bag checks will be conducted by hand or via an X-ray machine.

    We ask for your patience, cooperation, and assistance in keeping America's treasures safe.

    We encourage you to limit the number of personal belongings and bags you bring into our facilities as they will be subject to a thorough search. Limiting the items you bring will increase your speed through security checkpoints, helping us all maintain a safe social distance. Please note that we do not offer coat or bag storage. Visitors should not leave personal belongings unattended.

    No accommodations are available for eating bag lunches within the museums.

    Many items are prohibited at all Smithsonian museums. Do not bring sharp items into the museums such as knives (including pocket or "Swiss Army" style knives), screwdrivers, scissors, etc. Other items not permitted include firearms, pepper spray, and Mace.



    The Smithsonian permits still and video photography for noncommercial use only in its museums and exhibitions, unless otherwise posted.

    For the safety of our visitors and collections, the Smithsonian prohibits the use of tripods, monopods, selfie sticks or similar devices in our museums and gardens. This is a preventive measure to protect visitors and objects, especially during crowded conditions. We encourage museum visitors to take selfies and share their experiences—and leave the selfie sticks in their bags.

    Working members of the media who need to use a tripod or monopod must obtain permission from the museum's Public Affairs Office and must be escorted by a museum staff member while in the building or garden.


    Smoking is prohibited in all Smithsonian facilities.


    Service animals are welcome in the museums and the National Zoo. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. Pets are not permitted.

    Prohibited Conduct

    Visitation policies at the Smithsonian Institution are designed to protect visitors and staff as well as secure and preserve the collections, facilities, and historic buildings entrusted to the Smithsonian's care.

    While on Smithsonian premises NO VISITOR SHALL:

    • Carry firearms, other dangerous or deadly weapons, or explosives, either openly or concealed on the premises. The prohibition on firearms applies to all visitors, including those with firearm permits, but not to active law enforcement personnel authorized to carry firearms.
    • Display or carry placards, signs, or banners
    • Destroy, damage, or remove property
    • Climb upon any part of a building
    • Use loud, abusive, or otherwise improper language
    • Loiter, sleep, or participate in unwarranted assemblies
    • Create any hazard to persons or things
    • Perform obscene or indecent acts
    • Engage in disorderly conduct
    • Use, possess, or sell illegal drugs
    • Bring dogs or other animals, other than service animals
    • Take photographs for advertising or any other commercial purpose
    • Solicit for commercial or charitable purposes or distribute advertisements, pamphlets, handbills, and flyers

    In addition to the above, while on Zoo premises, NO VISITOR SHALL:

    • Kill, injure, or disturb any exhibit or research animal by any means except to secure personal safety
    • Pet, attempt to pet, handle, move, or remove exhibit or research animals
    • Feed exhibit or research animals, except in strict accordance with authorized signs
    • Catch, attempt to catch, trap, remove, or kill any free roaming animals inhabiting the premises
    • Go over, under, between, or otherwise cross any guardrail, fence, moat, wall, or any other safety barrier
    • Seat, stand, or hold children over any safety barrier
    • Throw or toss rocks, or any other missiles into, from, or while on premises
    • Bring strollers, baby carriages, or other conveyances, except wheel chairs, into exhibit buildings and public restrooms
    • Engage in ball games, or any athletic activity, except in places as may be officially designated for such purposes
    • Smoke or carry lighted cigarettes, cigars, or pipes into exhibit buildings, or to have a fire of any kind on the premises
    • Damage, deface, pick, or remove any herb, shrub, bush, tree, or turf, or portion thereof

    Visitors who violate these rules may be subject to fine or imprisonment. The complete Smithsonian buildings and grounds regulations can be found in Title 36 of Code of Federal Regulations, parts 504 and 520 (National Zoo).