There is only one scheduled day of the year when the Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo close their doors and lock the gates. With the exception of random snowstorms and last year's government shutdown, the Washington, D.C and New York City museums and the National Zoo are open 364 days of the year, but on December 25, the Smithsonian goes dark.
For those 24 hours, not a single artifact can be viewed, no Wright Flyer, no Hope Diamond, no Ruby Slippers and no panda cubs. The guards, the staff, the docents all take a day off to spend with family and friends. (Don't worry, a crew of dedicated animal keepers do staff and care for the animals at the Zoo.)
For museum fans waiting out the day, we've put together a few images of Smithsonian holiday cheer to tide you over until December 26 when the museums on the National Mall open at 10 in the morning, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery on 7th Street, N.W., open at 11:30; and the grounds of the National Zoo open at 6 a.m. with the exhibit buildings welcoming visitors at 10 a.m. And later in the evening from 5 until 9 p.m., the Zoo's festive (and FREE!) display of more than 500,000 LED twinkle lights, or Zoolights, is back on in full blaze and splendor.