11 Best D.C. Museums Open at Night

December 14th 2023
Tripshock News
11 Best D.C. Museums Open at Night

Washington D.C. is the nation’s capital, and a city full of culture, history, and diversity. The area is basically a living encyclopedia, having witnessed so many historically significant events like the War of 1812 and the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, for example. With that being said, it probably comes as no surprise that Washington D.C. museums are some of the best in the country, and come in all different shapes and sizes.

Choosing the best museum to visit can be difficult, especially after sorting through the over 70 museums that call D.C. home. Not only that, most museums will close around 5:00pm, making it even more difficult for those on a tight schedule. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of the 11 Best D.C. Museums Open at Night, so choosing the perfect museum to accommodate both your interests and itineraries is easier than ever!

Table of Contents



1. Smithsonian Institution


Smithsonian institution building

Pictured above is the first ever Smithsonian Institution building, which opened in 1855. Image from Wikimedia


Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution is the largest museum and research complex in the world, featuring 19 museums and the National Zoo. According to their website, https://www.si.edu/, the Institution has 155.5 million museum objects and specimens, which means you’re going to need as much time as possible to explore the wonders of the Smithsonian! Luckily, many of their museums are open later than most to accommodate schedules and give visitors more time to meander through the museum.

If tackling the Smithsonian museums is on your vacation agenda, it is recommended to plan and decide in advance which museums you would like to visit. This is because many travelers can spend anywhere from a half day to two whole days or longer exploring just one of these museums. Packed with so much historical information, artifacts, exhibits, and more, it’s easy to get lost and completely lose track of time. Check out this list of all of the Smithsonian museums in Washington D.C. to better prepare for your trip:


Smithsonian Museums, Galleries, Gardens, and Zoo


When it comes to the best D.C. museums open at night, the Smithsonian has definitely got you covered! While most museums are open from 10:00am until 5:00pm or 5:30pm, the Smithsonian Institution has a few museums that are open until 7:00pm. This is great for not just night owls, but those wanting to do multiple activities in the same day, as well. Below are the museums that are open late for your scheduling convenience:

National Portrait Gallery

8th and F Streets, NW, Washington, D.C. | 11:30am until 7:00pm daily

Archives of American Art Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery

8th and F Streets, NW, Washington, D.C. | 11:30am until 7:00pm daily

Smithsonian American Art Museum

8th and F Streets, NW, Washington, D.C. | 11:30am until 7:00pm daily

In addition, the Smithsonian Gardens, located within the Smithsonian museum grounds, are open 24 hours, with the exception of Haupt Garden, which is open daily from sunrise to sunset (except for December 25th). Not only that, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo grounds close at 7:00pm during the summer, with the exhibit buildings and visitor center closing at 6:00pm. The zoo also hosts a ton of late night events fun for both kids and adults alike! From their annual ZooLights to Brew at the Zoo, there are a ton of events taking place in the evening to keep the whole crew entertained, year-round.


2. National Gallery of Art


National Gallery of Art

Visitors entering the south side of the West Building of the National Gallery of Art. Image from Wikimedia


Established in 1937, the National Gallery of Art has over 150,000 pieces reflecting the best of the best in creativity, art, and expression. The different mediums you may encounter at this gallery include paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, decorative art, time-based media, and more! From realism to pop art, there’s something for every type of art connoisseur at the National Gallery of Art.

Guided tours through Adventures for Creative Tourists are available, as well as self-guided tours. Normal business hours for the gallery are Monday through Friday 10:00am until 5:00pm, and 11:00am until 6:00pm on Sunday, but that’s not all! The National Gallery of Art also hosts what’s called “NGA Nights” on select dates throughout the month from 6:00pm until 9:00pm. Those in attendance will enjoy art, live music, dance, engaging educators, activities, and more, free of charge. For more information about the National Gallery of Art’s evening events, click here: https://www.nga.gov/calendar.html.


3. National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden


National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

Image of an intriguing sculpture at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden taken by Ron Cogswell via Flickr


The most recent addition to the National Gallery of Art is the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden! Visitors can stroll through a stunningly scenic garden and enjoy sculptures in a serene and relaxed setting. In the center of the garden is a giant fountain, perfect for picnics in the summer, and ice skating when converted into a rink in the winter.

The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden is the perfect activity for art enthusiasts, history buffs, and even date night! While the gardens are typically open daily from 10:00am until 4:00pm, those looking for evening entertainment have come to the right place. Friday nights in the summer from 5:00pm until 8:30pm, guests will enjoy a free concert series called “Jazz in the Garden.” A wide variety of stylings can be expected, including the following:

  • Brazilian Folk Jazz
  • Blues
  • Reggae
  • African Fusion Jazz
  • Cuban Charanga
  • New Orleans Jazz
  • And MORE!


4. National Building Museum


National Building Museum

Travelers enjoying the massive columns and amazing architecture at the National Building Museum, one of the top tourist attractions in Washington D.C.


Only four blocks from the National Mall, the National Building Museum is something you don’t want to miss! One of the best D.C. museums open at night, this awe-inspiring structure has a jaw-dropping Great Hall, 75-foot-tall Corinthian columns, and a 1,200-foot terracotta frieze. This all-ages museum is the perfect way to take in the beauty, history, and significance of architecture, engineering, and design.

The museum will usually close around 5:00pm, but that’s when the front lawn comes to life! The National Building Museum hosts a summer block party Thursday through Saturday during select summer weekends. Guests in attendance will enjoy live music, delicious food, and more!


5. National Geographic Museum


National Geographic Museum

One of the best DC museums open at night, the National Geographic Museum has plenty of amazing exhibits, as pictured above


The National Geographic Museum is a must-see when visiting the area. With a plethora of exhibitions showcasing exploration, research, education, and storytelling, this museum has something to entertain even the pickiest of travelers. Visitors will enjoy all of National Geographic’s hard work through everything from photographs, to artifacts, to lectures, and more!

This engaging museum is open Monday through Sunday from 10:00am until 6:00pm, closed only on Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you’re wanting to dive deeper into all the wonder that National Geographic has to offer, then you’re in luck! This museum hosts “Nat Geo Nights” on the third Thursday of each month from 5:30pm until 8:30pm. View the event schedule below:

  • 5:30pm - 6:30pm: Kick off the evening with happy hour and hands-on activities like drink tastings or trivia. At this time, a cash bar and additional food for purchase will be available.
  • 6:30pm - 8:00pm: Guests will listen to chats with experts and audience Q&A.
  • 8:00pm - 8:30pm: Enjoy a post-chat discussion and last call before heading home with an amazing memory!


6. International Spy Museum


International Spy Museum

Pictured above is the International Spy Museum at L’Enfant Plaza, one of the top things to do in Washington D.C. Image from [Wikimedia](https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2019_International_Spy_Museum_02.jpg)


Channel your inner Bond… James Bond and head to the International Spy Museum where you will learn everything you need to know about espionage and intelligence. Intelligence plays an essential role in national security, and this museum provides an engaging way to understand its part in history and the present. Popular exhibits at the International Spy Museum include:

  • Briefing Center
  • Stealing Secrets
  • Making Sense of Secrets
  • Covert Action
  • And MORE!

This all-ages experience is perfect for those looking for the top D.C. museums open at night. Open Sunday through Thursday from 9:00am until 7:00pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 9:00am until 8:00pm, there is plenty of time to explore the secretive and stimulating world of espionage!


7. The Phillips Collection


The Phillips Collection

The east parlor of the Phillips Collection captured by Mr.TinDC via Flickr


Enjoy the finer things in life and head to the Phillips Collection for over 5,000 extraordinary pieces of art, ranging in style from French impressionism to contemporary. This amazing museum houses several works created by masters of their craft including:

  • Edgar Degas
  • Henri Matisse
  • Georgia O’Keeffe
  • Pablo Picasso
  • Vincent van Gogh

And the collection keeps on growing! On the first Thursday of every month, the museum hosts “Phillips After 5” and welcomes a new theme to the mix. From 5:00pm until 8:30pm, guests will enjoy art, music, refreshments, and more! For more information, please visit https://www.phillipscollection.org/.


8. National Portrait Gallery


National Portrait Gallery

The south entrance to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. Image from Wikimedia


The National Portrait Gallery was briefly mentioned earlier, but definitely deserves a little more attention! One of the Smithsonian’s notable galleries, the National Portrait Gallery is the place to be if you love celebrity, history, art, or all of the above. This magnificent museum displays paintings, photos, and sculptures of notable people throughout our country’s history including activists, actors, politicians, and more! This D.C. museum is open at night, closing at 7:00pm daily.


9. John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts


Aerial View of the Kennedy Center

An aerial photo taken of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts shows just how large this beautiful and historic theater is


The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts may not technically be a museum, but it might as well be! Full of history, the Kennedy Center dates back to when President Eisenhower signed legislation to make it a National Cultural Center. This was the first time in history the United States government helped finance an institution dedicated to the arts.

Now, the Kennedy Center is one of the busiest performing arts centers in the country, hosting more than 2,000 performances each and every year! The Kennedy Center is home to the National Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Washington National Opera. Not only that, it hosts an array of events including Broadway shows, dance performances, comedy shows, concerts, and more! The Kennedy Center puts on a show every evening at 6:00pm, and for more information, please visit https://www.kennedy-center.org/.


10. National Mall


Aerial View of the National Mall

Pictured above is an awe-inspiring aerial view of the National Mall and surrounding areas


The National Mall is the country’s most visited national park, and it’s easy to see why! Also known as “America’s front yard,” the National Mall is home to iconic landmarks, monuments, memorials, scenic beauty, and so much more. It’s not a trip to Washington D.C. without visiting the National Mall, which includes the following:

  • African American Civil War Memorial
  • Constitution Gardens
  • Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site
  • Korean War Veterans Memorial
  • Lincoln Memorial
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
  • National World War I Memorial
  • Washington Monument
  • World War II Memorial
  • And MORE!

Aside from the cultural and historical relevance, the National Mall is also a great place to get outdoors, day or night. The National Mall is free and open 24/7, so visitors can enjoy late night bike rides, walks, or simply admire the monuments lit up under the moonlight skies! Please note that most gift shops will still close around 9:00pm, and bathrooms will be locked up around midnight, so it is recommended to plan accordingly.


11. Monuments and Memorials


The White House at Night

Seeing the White House and other monuments lit up at night is a beautiful and breathtaking sight you won’t soon forget! Image from Flickr


The wonderful thing about visiting Washington D.C. is that no matter the time of day, there’s always something to see and experience. If you’re still looking for some more historical facts and fun after your late night museum rendezvous, visiting the nearby monuments and memorials at night is definitely a sight to see. These beautiful and massive monuments illuminated under the moon can be both empowering and humbling. Not far from the National Mall, these iconic landmarks are definitely worth a visit:

  • White House
  • United States Supreme Court Building
  • Folger Shakespeare Library
  • National Postal Museum
  • Union Station
  • National Archives

Another great way to sightsee at night is by hopping aboard the Monuments by Moonlight Trolley Tour! This 2.5-hour tour is a great way to see the top historic sites, while riding in style on a comfortable stadium trolley. Not only that, trolley tours allow you to stop at three of the top landmarks, so you can take plenty of photos to make the folks at home jealous! Stops on the tour include the:

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial
  • Lincoln Memorial
  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial
  • Korean War Veterans Memorial
  • Iwo Jima Memorial



Now that you know the best D.C. museums open at night, all that’s left to do is start exploring! Rest assured, no matter which of the museums you choose to visit, you’re in for an unforgettable experience full of history, culture, fun, and learning.



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