DC Smithsonian museums stay open late, throw dance parties to celebrate summer solstice

Are you looking to eat some delicious fruit, shake a leg, and play games with friends this summer? All those activities and more will be taking place all day, and late into the night, this Saturday at Smithsonian Museums across D.C.’s National Mall.

“Solstice Saturday” on June 22 marks the official beginning of summer, with the longest day of the year and actual solstice a few days before on June 20. There will be late-night parties and activities at several museums, all revolving around the Smithsonian Institution’s Cosmic Journey campaign.

Hofstra University is also throwing the Astronomy Festival on the National Mall, with solar, optical and radio telescope observations, plus talks with scientists, taking place in front of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden from 6 to 11 p.m.

The celebrations at each museum and sculpture garden are outlined below.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

The museum will be looking at the cosmos through an Afrofuturism lens, highlighting the “Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures” exhibit, which closes in August. No timed-entry passes are required after 4 p.m. and the museum will stay open until 10 p.m.

There will be panels during the day highlighting Afrofuturism and paying tribute to “Black music and Queer artists,” according to a news release. There will also be an Afrofuturism DJs party starting at 5 p.m.

For more information on specific panels and new exhibitions, check out the museum’s event page.

National Museum of American History

The museum will be highlighting Latin music all day until 10 p.m. at Fenómeno Latino: Latin Music’s Global Rise.

The daytime portion of the festival will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and will include story time with DC Public Libraries, salsa dance lessons and a drum circle. The late night part of the festival from 5 to 10 p.m. will include reggaeton dance lessons and panel on “The Rise of Reggaetón”, plus DJ sets and performances at the museum’s outdoor Mall Terrace.

Arts and Industries Building

The Smithsonian building will be transformed into a glow-in-the-dark arcade party from 7 to 11 p.m., with a variety of arcade and table games offered.

Entry will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis, and organizers encourage gamers to reserve a ticket online before the event.

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

The museum will be highlighting audio art on Saturday, partnering with DC Listening Lounge to put on daytime and late-night musical performances and interactive art installations.

All ages are welcome at the Sound Scene 2024: Solstice festival, which will include interactive audio art installations, small group workshops and live performances from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Later in the night, the European Union also partners with the museum to put on the multicultural State of the Arts Night x Sound Scene. The indoor and outdoor event will include “performance, conversation, and interactive projects inspired by sound and the solstice” from 5 to 11 p.m., according to the museum’s website. Organizers also recommend registering for the event online.

National Air and Space Museum

This science-obsessed museum will be celebrating Sally’s Night, marking the anniversary of when Sally Ride became the first American woman to visit space. Museum visitors can participate in trivia challenges and hands-on science activities, plus enjoy free planetarium shows till 11 p.m. Reserve a free ticket online before the event.

National Museum of African Art

The National Museum of African Art will be continuing its “Live Arts Series The Earth Still Shakes!” with “live musical performances that explore how artists talk through their bodies to express connections to objects, the natural world and the cosmos,” according to a news release.

Panel discussions will be followed by a dance party in the Haupt Garden at 5:30 p.m., lasting until the museum closes at midnight. Check out the full performance lineup and register at the museum’s website.

National Museum of Asian Art

Celebrate the bevy of summer fruit, make crafts and check out special late-night gallery tours at the Asia After Dark event.

Adele Kenworthy’s CUT FRUIT installation, an interactive fruit stand on the Plaza, will be accompanied by storytelling, poetry and future-telling, as attendees enjoy fresh fruit from 4 to 8 p.m. Galleries will stay open until midnight and food trucks, including Fava Pot and Kush Food Truck, will be feeding museumgoers from 6 to 9 p.m.

Read more about the event and register online here.

There will be no special performances or exhibits for Solstice Saturday, but the National Museum of the American Indian will be open until 8 p.m. and the National Museum of Natural History will be open until 10 p.m.

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Emily Venezky

Emily Venezky is a digital writer/editor at WTOP. Emily grew up listening to and reading local news in Los Angeles, and she’s excited to cover stories in her chosen home of the DMV. She recently graduated from The George Washington University, where she studied political science and journalism.

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