What You Need to Know About the September 24 NMAAHC Grand Opening

Entry Passes are all gone for today, but there is plenty to see and do on the National Mall

Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush at the Presentation of the Colors Beth Py-Lieberman
Congressman John Lewis Beth Py-Lieberman
President Barack Obama Beth Py-Lieberman
Sign language interpreter with former President George W. Bush Beth Py-Lieberman
The Voice of Tomorrow Choir on the front porch of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture Beth Py-Lieberman
Stevie Wonder at the opening celebration Beth Py-Lieberman
Ringing of the First Baptist Church Bell opens the new National Museum of African American History and Culture Beth Py-Lieberman

The church bells of Washington, D.C. rang out in response to the ringing of the Freedom Bell from Williamsburg, Virginia, which signaled the long-awaited opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. President Barack Obama told the assembled crowd that he has watched from the air on the many occasions he has approached the White House on Marine One, saying "I have always been comforted as I watched this museum rise from this Earth."

As the President and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with the four-generation Bonner Family together opened the doors, and the wait was over.

The free timed entry passes for today are long gone and the next passes available are for the months of December and January. But there is still plenty to see and appreciate down on the National Mall this weekend with two days of musical performances in the two-day Freedom Sounds: A Community Celebration festival taking place on the Washington Monument grounds. Here are a few tips for enjoying the weekend events.

1. Don't Drive

Public entry to the celebrations is at 17th Street and Constitution Avenue. Streets are closed and security is tight, so tip to follow is to meet the people all around you. They are here with stories to share.

2. Check Out the Other Museums and Our New African American Stories Tour

The Smithsonian Institution museums are open today. The American History Museum is closed until one, but the other museums open on time. Smithsonian.com introduces a new Museums Tour experience with a new African American Stories tour. Make your itinerary and find the artifacts, artworks and other iconic pieces to visit and see.

3. Enjoy the Music

The Freedom Sounds: A Community Celebration gets underway at 1 p.m., entrance is at 17th and Constitution. Performances by Sweet Honey in the Rock, Louis Toppin, Stax Music Academy, Jay Summerour's Blues Trio, Don Flemons, Jean Carne and others take place throughout the day with food and gelato.

4. Stop By and Meet the Editors and Writers from Smithsonian.com

We'll be are stationed at the Social Media tent at the festival. We're taking oral histories and collecting images. Tell us why you are here and what the NMAAHC museum means to you. 

5. If You DO Have Passes For Today, Here's a Tip—Go High First

If you do get into the museum today, you may wish to start your visit at the top of the museum. The view from the very top is quite spectacular. The vista over the Washingotn Monument Grounds and across to the Lincoln Memorial is breathtaking. And the exhibitions on the upper floors, including Musical Crossroads are an uplifting experience to begin your journey.

6. There's a Preview Exhibition Just Up the Way at the American History Museum

The National Museum of American History is the site of an exhibition of artifacts and artworks from the collections of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. "Through the African American Lens" is a preview exhibition and features some of the museum's most prized artifacts from James Brown's bold red jumpsuit, works by seamstress Anne Lowe and other milestones of African-American history.

7. If You Missed the Ceremony, Watch It Here