Always bustling during the day – especially throughout the summer months, when tourists by the tens of thousands descend on Washington, D.C. – the Smithsonian opens its doors some nights, too. And when it does, it gives guests a chance to see the nation’s finest museum complex in a whole new light.
Dubbed “Smithsonian at 8,” this series of evening parties boasts a host of different themes, from holiday-based fetes to no-special-occasion-necessary mixers. And because this is the Smithsonian, after all, each event has an educational component, too. (Don’t worry – learning really can be fun.)
The program from last summer's "In the Night Garden" soiree — Photo courtesy of Smithsonian at 8
Billing itself as the city’s “premier 21+ after-hours event featuring a unique mix of culture, art, history and science,” the event series is a must-attend for thoughtful revelers who seek something cerebral to go with their Scotch.
Its most recent extravaganza, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Smithsonian at 8 Valentine’s Day Party” brought 500+ guests to the National Postal Museum for a fond look back at the days of snail mail – once the only way to get a Valentine into the hands of that special someone.
The Castle hosts many of the Smithsonian at 8's most popular events — Photo courtesy of Smithsonian at 8
Among other draws, guests were able to leisurely peruse the displays and interactive exhibits in the new William H. Gross Stamp Gallery (the largest of its kind in the world). Cocktails, a photo booth, dancing and live music by DJ Trayze kept the party thrumming, allowing everyone to sip, swing and learn something new all at the same time.
Monthly themes vary, and they’re not always announced too far in advance (a good reason to get on the Smithsonian at 8’s free email list and to like its Facebook page). Past events have included “Smithsonian Remix: New Spins on Archival Sounds” at the S. Dillon Ripley Center; the cosmonaut-honoring “Yuri's Night at the Smithsonian,” also at the S. Dillon Ripley Center; and “In the Night Garden: A Jazz Age Party” at the Enid A. Haupt Garden at the Castle.
Revelers at "In the Night Garden" eagerly dressed the part — Photo courtesy of Smithsonian at 8
This July, revelers can look forward to another outdoor soiree at the Castle. Details are still being finalized, but whatever the evening holds, it’s sure to be the kind of only-in-Washington experience that many people seek, but few end up finding.
Tickets to Smithsonian at 8 events are $15 in advance and $20 at the door (if available). VIP tickets – which entitle holders to extra goodies like complimentary drinks and dessert – are $35 in advance. All sales are final, and tickets must be picked up at the door.
"Signed, Sealed, Delivered" offered guests an evening of snail-mail fun — Photo courtesy of Smithsonian at 8