Smithsonian Museums, National Zoo Close Due to Second Wave of COVID-19 Cases

The closure impacts eight institutions in D.C.

gates of the Smithsonian National Zoo shuttered
Photo: MANDEL NGAN/Getty

The Smithsonian Museums and National Zoo will temporarily close due to the COVID-19 pandemic, beginning Monday, Nov. 23.

The closure impacts eight institutions in D.C., including the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Museum of American History, the national Museum of the American Indian, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Zoo, the Renwick Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The Smithsonian has not announced a reopening date at this time, “due to the changing nature of the situation.” The museums first closed to the public in March, when coronavirus cases first spiked on the east coast, and had a limited reopening in September.

“The Institution’s top priority is to protect the health and safety of its visitors and staff,” the Smithsonian said in a press release Thursday. “We will use this time to reassess, monitor and explore additional risk-mitigation measures. We are closely monitoring guidance from local governments, public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

While the museums are closed, the public can access virtual exhibitions and the Smithsonian’s online collections. Visitors who has purchased timed passes will be contacted directly by the museums regarding refunds.

On Tuesday, D.C. reported 245 new cases, its second-highest number of COVID-19 cases since the breakout in March, according to the mayor's website. The peak day for COVID-19 cases in the capital was May 1, when D.C. reported 335 new cases in a day.

In Maryland, new restrictions for bars and restaurants, nursing homes, gyms, stores and churches go into effect Friday, according to NBC, as hospitalizations rise the highest they’ve been since the summer.

The U.S. has reported more than 11.7 million coronavirus cases, with more than 252,500 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in many countries around the world, government leaders are taking precautions and shutting back down for a second wave. Ireland became the first European to country to take a nation-wide shutdown as cases rise. The UK and France are both under new lockdown restrictions, as well.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, on Instagram, or at

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