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Sensory-Friendly Programs

As a precautionary measure in light of COVID-19, the National Gallery has canceled sensory-friendly programs until further notice.

Connecting Through Conversations: Online Resource

Conversations about art can elicit personal responses in the moment that do not rely on memory or previous knowledge. We invite you to explore art with your loved ones, using this online resource to guide and prompt such conversations.

Join us early for a sensory-friendly experience at the National Gallery.

Families impacted by sensory processing disorders are invited to visit the National Gallery of Art before public hours as part of our twice-yearly Family Day community program. Before-hours activities include sensory-friendly programming for children and their families as well as for adults and their companions.

Family Day programming will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will include storytelling, sketching, exploring materials, and fun for all ages! Family Day is free and open to everyone.

For more information, please call Lorena Bradford in accessible programs at (202) 842-6905, or email [email protected].

General and Sensory Information and Tips

Here are some tips to help you prepare for a sensory-friendly visit to the National Gallery at any time.

Open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily.

The National Gallery is open every day of the year except December 25 and January 1.

The National Gallery has two buildings, the East and West Buildings, and a Sculpture Garden.

The East Building houses modern and contemporary art from about 1900 through today.

The West Building features works of art primarily from the Western world dating from the late Middle Ages through the mid-19th century.

The Sculpture Garden is situated along Constitution Avenue between 3rd Street NW and 9th Street NW and offers modern sculptures in a garden setting with gravel pathways.

At each entrance, you will move through a security screening device. Officers may ask to take a look inside any bags as you enter.

We also ask that backpacks be carried on one shoulder only. This process is generally quick unless there is a line to enter the museum.

There is an information desk near every entrance. Maps and daily schedules of events are available, and art information volunteers can answer questions and provide tips.

Water bottles and packaged food (like granola bars) can be brought into the National Gallery as long as they remain in a bag. Open containers (like coffee cups and take-out food) may not be brought in.

National Gallery Rules and Routines
We ask that everyone follow some general guidelines during their visit.

  • Keep hands and arms near their bodies so they don’t touch the works of art.
  • Walk in the museum.
  • Use quiet, inside voices.
  • Stay with family or friends.
  • Carry backpacks on one shoulder only.

Visual and Auditory Stimuli
Some galleries, open areas, and dining spaces can become crowded and noisy depending on the time of day and time of year, but quieter spaces can usually be found. Galleries farther away from the central atrium or passages (toward the perimeter of the buildings) are likely to be less crowded.

An underground moving walkway connects the East Building to the Cascade Café and the West Building. The walkway is lit by Leo Villareal’s Multiverse, a work of art comprising dozens of strands of lights embedded into the ceiling and walls surrounding the moving walkway. Thousands of small lights blink and sweep across the walls and ceiling.

Getting Around
Elevators and stairs connect all levels of the East and West Buildings. Ask a member of the security or visitor services staff (dressed in black) if you need assistance locating the elevators.

An escalator near the Terrace Café in the East Building also connects the Mezzanine Level to the Upper Level.

Restrooms in the East Building are located on the Ground Level near the Study Center entrance; on the Concourse Level across from the gift shop; on the Mezzanine Level near the stairs; and next to the Terrace Café on the Upper Level.

Restrooms in the West Building are located inside each entrance and off the Rotunda.

A family/companion care restroom can be found in the underground connecting link between the East and West Buildings, across from the Cascade Café. Another is available off the Rotunda in the West Building.

Toilets flush automatically. Paper towels are available, but some restrooms also have automatic hand dryers.

Toilet flushes and hand dryers are loud.

Sandwiches, salads, snacks, and drinks are available after 10:00 a.m. in the Terrace Café, located on the Upper Level in the East Building. It can be busy and noisy around lunchtime, but is usually quieter from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. and after 3:00 p.m.

A selection of soups, salads, specialty entrées, burgers, signature sandwiches, and fresh pastries and desserts are available at the Cascade Café after 11 a.m. This food-court environment can be busy or noisy during prime lunch hours. Tables off to the side (near Villareal’s Multiverse and the Education Studio) are often quieter than those near the cash registers. The chairs can create loud noises when moved.

Pizzas, sandwiches, salads, and desserts can be purchased in the Pavilion Café in the Sculpture Garden.

Find more information about hours of operation, location, and menus.

Information desk volunteers can provide directions and suggestions for quiet spaces.

Security officers and visitor services staff (dressed in black) can also answer questions.

Contact Lorena Bradford in accessible programs at (202) 842-6905 or [email protected] with any questions or for more information.

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