You’ll be able to see that new baby panda at the National Zoo very soon. The Smithsonian announced that eight of its facilities will again open to the public during May, including the National Zoo, home of the newest panda cub, 8-month-old Xiao Qi Ji.
The openings begin May 5 with the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, part of the National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia. That is a special day for the museum, as May 5 is the 60th anniversary of the first U.S.-manned space flight by Alan Shepard. His Mercury capsule, Freedom 7, will be on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center for the first time.
On May 14, three more facilities will open their doors, including the National Portrait Gallery, National Museum of African-American History and Culture, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum and its Renwick Gallery.
On May 21, the National Zoo will open along with the National Museum of American History and the National Museum of the American Indian. Note that the remaining Smithsonian museums will remain closed for the time being.
Health And Safety Rules
The facilities will all reopen with health and safety measures in place, following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those measures include:
- Potential visitors who are sick or do not feel well are asked to stay home.
- All visitors will be required to wear a face covering during their visits.
- The number of people in each location will be closely monitored, with timed visits in place.
- Social distancing will be encouraged, and one-way paths and directional guidance where appropriate will be enforced.
- Museum cafes will remain closed, although the restaurants and food trucks at the National Zoo will be open.
“We have a lot of signage keeping people moving in the right direction,” Doug Hall, Smithsonian COVID Response Coordinator, told The Hill. “All of the things are primarily gears toward social distancing, keeping people separate, and of course cleaning at the end.”
Timed Entry Passes
For those facilities that are opening, all visitors must reserve free timed entry passes for all locations.
Passes are already available for the Udvar-Hazy Center. Passes for the other locations will become available starting one week before their openings.
Timed entry passes can be found on the Smithsonian’s visitor information page. Visitors can reserve up to six passes per day for any location. Each group must have at least one adult.
The Zoo (And The Pandas)
Those planning to visit the zoo must get a timed entry pass as they would for any other museum, and those wanting to see the pandas will need a separate pass for that as well. Panda-specific passes will be made available at the zoo each day throughout the day to those already inside the grounds.
And for those fans who can’t make it to Washington, or simply can’t get enough of the pandas, they can be watched anytime on the zoo’s panda cams, which give you access to views of Tian Tian, Mei Xiang, and Xiao Qi Ji, the cub that was born August 21, 2020.
The Smithsonian closed all of its facilities last March when the coronavirus pandemic hit. But in July, it opened eight of its facilities only to shut them again in November as COVID numbers got worse.
With the numbers improving, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser loosened restrictions on businesses starting May 1, prompting the Smithsonian to try again.
“We continue to be out of the red in all of the community spread categories, so that’s good news,” Bowser said in opening things up.
For the Smithsonian, keeping things open is the goal. “We certainly don’t want to close again,” Hall said. “That’s worse than not opening in some cases.”
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