6 Things to Do If You Don't Have a Timed Pass for the National African American History Museum

Passes for the new National Museum of African American History are gone, but you can still participate in festivities this weekend

What to Know

  • The Dedication Ceremony before the opening of the museum is free and and will also be livestreamed on Sept. 25.
  • For those who are patient, you can wait in line for entrance to the museum! Same-day timed passes won't be available until Sept. 26.
  • Various churches and organizations around the area will be hosting viewing parties and celebrations throughout the day of the grand opening.

Like other Smithsonians, the new National Museum of African American History and Culture is free to the public -- but the museum is instituting a timed pass system to help get as many visitors in as possible.

Unfortunately, the timed passes for September and October were snapped up within two days

Yes, you could try your luck by waiting in line, or reserve a pass now for November or December. But even if you don't have a pass just yet, there are still fun (and free!) things to do around D.C. during the museum's grand opening weekend.

1. See the museum's dedication ceremony

You can still catch the museum's dedication ceremony on opening day this Saturday even without a ticket. Head to the Washington Monument grounds, where you can see it via large-screen viewing areas.

The ceremony will feature musical performances, plus speeches by special guests such as President Barack Obama, Rep. John Lewis, former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush, and Chief Justice John Roberts.

The museum will also be livestreaming the ceremony through its website. The museum also recommends bringing a blanket to lay out on the grounds of the Monument. 

2. Catch the music of Freedom Sounds

Freedom Sounds, a three-day music festival, will held on the Washington Monument Grounds to celebrate the museum from Friday at noon through Sunday night.

Each day has a theme: Friday is "Homecoming," Saturday is "Celebration," and Sunday is "Call and Response." The festival is free and open to the public.

You'll find musical performances, dance, spoken word, oral history activities, and two evening concerts on Saturday and Sunday. Entertainment will be provided by local, national and international performers, with everything from jazz and R&B to gospel and folk, to classical, Afro-Latin jazz and hip-hop.

Living Colour, Public Enemy and The Roots will headline Saturday night; Experience Unlimited, Meshell Ndegeocello and a special guest will take the stage Sunday.

You'll also find drum circles, storytelling and interactive workshops to celebrate the museum's rich content and stories.

Concessions will include southern barbecue, soul food, Gulf Coast Kitchen Po'Boys, Kenyan curries, Caribbean jerk, and more.

Freedom Sounds Schedule:

  • Friday: noon-5 p.m.
  • Saturday: 1-5 p.m.; headliners 6-9 p.m.
  • Sunday: noon-5 p.m.; headliners 6-9 p.m.

3. Take an online tour

Get a taste of what the museum has to offer with the museum's online preview. Explore thousands of artifacts from the museum's permanent collection online here. You can search by topics, including everything from clothing to education to military to politics.

4. Visit the African American Civil War Museum

Consider visiting another black history museum instead! The African American Civil War Museum (AACW) formed a citywide host committee that has planned events and activities to engage residents and visitors during the week of the National Museum of African American History's official opening. Now through Sunday, the committee and its volunteers will host events by the Martin Luther King, Jr., Library and at the museums.

On Saturday, the new museum's grand opening day, the AACW will be hosting its own watch party and gathering. You can also catch a play and live music in the late afternoon.

The AACW is located at 1925 Vermont Ave. NW. It'll be open Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

5. Author Reading & Workshop at Baltimore's Black History Museum

Baltimore's Reginald F. Lewis Museum is hosting its own event Saturday in celebration of the grand opening of the newest Smithsonian. During the event, parents and kids can join award-winning illustrator Shadra Strickland for storytime of her book, "Bird," a tale about a young boy facing family struggles. A drawing workshop with the artist will follow.

Participants will also receive a free commemorative poster, while supplies last. The event starts at noon and requires a reservation.

The museum is located at 830 E. Pratt St. in Baltimore.

6. Visit the National Book Festival

Head down to the Washington Convention Center for the Library of Congress National Book Festival this Saturday. The event is open to the public and free to everyone.

The festival allows visitors a chance to explore the world's largest library: the Library of Congress. You'll find special exhibits, presentations, panels and speakers including Stephen King, Bob Woodward and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the festival.

You can also pick up free memorabilia such as posters and bags, as well as presigned books on the expo floor.

The festival runs from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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