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10 Museums with After-Hours Programming in Washington, DC

Luce Unplugged at the Luce Foundation Center for American Art - Washington, DC

Over the past few years, more DC museums have announced evening offerings after 5 p.m., perfect for meeting attendees whose schedules don’t allow for a daytime visit. Check out these museums once evening hits.

When you’re at a convention all day, it can be a challenge finding time to check out DC’s amazing museum scene. What most visitors don’t know is that many of the city’s best museums offer after-hours activities and events. From musical performances and specialized tours to delicious bites and cocktails, the early evening options make for a perfect chance to soak up performances, history and culture.

1 Phillips After 5 – The Phillips Collection

Visitors at The Phillips Collection Phillips After 5 event - After-hours museum events in Washington, DC

On the first Thursday of each month, The Phillips Collection introduces a new theme to its space with music, food and cocktails from 5-8:30 p.m. Topics have highlighted female artists and activists as well as an experience of the island flavors of Puerto Rico and Cuba. Admission rates apply ($12 for adults; $10 for students and seniors).

2 Luce Unplugged – Smithsonian American Art Museum

@katebydesign - Luce Unplugged free concert at the Smithsonian American Art Museum - Free performing arts in Washington, DC

Luce Unplugged is a free, monthly local concert series held in the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Luce Foundation Center for American Art. Thursday shows are a tribute to a Luce Center artwork selected by the performer. Come at 5:30 p.m. to hear a discussion of the artwork, grab a drink from the bar or explore the Luce. Concerts begin at 6 p.m. and more details can be found on their website for the seasonal lineups.

3 Nat Geo Nights – National Geographic Museum
Nat Geo Nights – National Geographic Museum National Geographic Museum

On the third Thursday of each month, the National Geographic Museum opens its doors for an evening of live stories from National Geographic Explorers, music, food and happy hour drinks specials from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 and additional drinks and food are available for purchase. Upcoming event information can be found on their website.

4 National Portrait Gallery & Smithsonian American Art Museum

@discoverwithblake - Electronic Superhighway at the Smithsonian American Art Museum - Free museum in Washington, DC

Both popular museums are open until 7 p.m., giving meetings attendees the chance to see the visual arts, performing arts and new media at the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s collections of art from the colonial period to the present.

5 Summer Block Party – National Building Museum

Hill Country Summer Block Party Backyard Barbecue at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC

From live music to delicious barbecue from Hill Country Barbecue, the National Building Museum knows how to throw a summer block party like no other. Thursdays through Saturdays during the summer, the museum hosts gatherings where guests can explore a major summer installation and purchase food and drink from the front lawn. Admission rates apply ($16 for adults; $13 for children, students and seniors), but admission to the block party is free.

6 Jazz in the Garden – National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

Friends at Jazz in the Garden at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden - Free Outdoor Summer Concert in Washington, DC

Summer Friday nights are easy for locals with the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden’s Jazz in the Garden series. The free jazz concert series runs from 5-8:30 p.m. all summer. If you can get there early, stake out your spot in the grass, lay out some snacks and bring all your friends to enjoy pitchers of sangria, local beers and other refreshments. 

7 Concert Series – National Gallery of Art – West Building

@wakakobayashi- Free concert at the National Gallery of Art - Free performing arts in Washington, DC

On Sunday evenings, typically from fall through spring, the National Gallery of Art features concerts that are open to the public, free of charge. Many musicians who appeared at the Gallery in the past have gone on to worldwide fame, including pianists Claudio Arrau, Eugene Istomin, Earl Wild and the Julliard String Quartets. Audience members are admitted on a first-come, first-serve basis and are held in the West Building’s West Garden Court. For more information on the concerts, visit the Gallery’s website.

8 Evenings at the Edge – National Gallery of Art – East Building

Crowd at National Gallery of Art Evenings on the Edge event - Things to do at Washington, DC museums

On specified days throughout the fall and spring seasons, guests at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Gallery can enjoy works of art, live music, dance performances and pop-up talks from educators from 6-9 p.m. Admission is free but registration is required and opens one month prior to each event. Light bites and drinks are available for purchase. For more information on the seasonal dates offered, visit their website.

9 Brew at the Zoo – Smithsonian National Zoo

Brew at the Zoo - Events at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC

The local craft beer scene in DC is hopping, even at the Smithsonian National Zoo. Brew at the Zoo is an annual craft beer festival, featuring beers from over 60 local craft breweries. Guests must be at least 21 years old and the event includes lawn games, animal demonstrations and local food trucks. The festival is typically during the summer, so make sure to check their website for specific dates.

10 Smithsonian at 8 – Smithsonian Associates

@smithsonianassociates - Smithsonian at 8 event on the National Mall - Summer Smithsonian event in Washington, DC

The largest museum-based education program in the world, Smithsonian Associates, created a program called “Smithsonian at 8” to provide one-of-a-kind experiences inspired by the world of the Smithsonian. Themes range from local to global and the gatherings combine music, food and drink in unique settings. In 2018, the National Museum of African Art and the Sackler Gallery teamed up for an exclusive night featuring art galleries and cuisine from the African and Asian continents. Guests must be 21 and over to attend. Check out their website for information on upcoming events.