The Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. is one of the most popular attractions in the area, and certainly worth a visit. However, due to their timed-entry approach, many visitors are confused about the best time to get tickets and where to go to pick them up.
This guide is for small groups, families, couples, and individual who wish to tour the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum — if you are a group leader with a group of 40 or more people, you should visit the group page of the museum to set up your tour in advance.
The Permanent Exhibit vs. Museum Exhibits
If you don’t wish to tour the permanent exhibition (which is a three floor walk through of the history of the holocaust), you can simply visit the museum and explore the exhibits on the ground floor. No tickets are needed.
If you wish to do the permanent exhibition (which I highly recommend), you will need to have a ticket for every member of your group. Tickets are free, but depending on when you visit, may be hard to come by.
When Are You Visiting?
If you are visiting the museum during slow months, which are September through February — then no ticket is required for the permanent exhibit. However, during the busy months (April through August) you must have a ticket. Each ticket is timed, meaning you have a 1 hour block to display your ticket and enter the permanent exhibition. For example, a ticket with 11:00 on it means you can use that ticket to enter the exhibition between 11 am and noon. Tickets do expire, so make sure you are there during your time period.
Getting Tickets in Advance of Your Visit
If you plan 5-6 weeks in advance, you may be able to order advance tickets from the Holocaust’s museum website. There is only a $1 processing cost per ticket.
Getting Tickets the Day of your Visit
If you missed your opportunity to order advance tickets from the web, you can still visit the museum, but it requires a little more commitment on your part. You need to line up in the alley next to the museum between 8:30 – 8:45 a.m. The alley is located next to the entrance (between 14th and 15th street — see on Google Map in new window) and has benches facing outward.
The line can get fairly long, so I would recommend getting there no later than 9:15 a.m.
At 9:45 (they say 10 a.m. on the site, but the three times I have lined up it starts at 9:45), employees will begin to distribute passes to guests. They will give you the next available ticket time, but you can also request a ticket for a later time if you prefer.
If you are in line by 8:45 a.m., you have an extremely good chance (98 percent of the time) of getting a pass.
A Few Things to Consider That May Effect Ticket Availability
Each person in line can request up to 20 tickets. So even though there are only 40 people ahead of you in line, that may be 200-800 ticket requests. Although most groups set up special group tours way in advance so this rarely happens.
Active and Military Veterans as well as First Responders (Fireman, Police, Medics) are taken to the front of the line before tickets are passed. If you are in one of these groups, just line up, and a staff member will walk the line and ask you for ID and bring you to the front of the line to get your pass.
The Holocaust museum is located right next to the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. If you have more than one person in your party, have one wait in line for the Holocaust Museum tickets, and send the other one to the ticket booth on 15th street (about a 2 min walk). Have them pick up tickets for the Engraving tour at 10 a.m. Then, ask for a timed pass for the Holocaust museum at 11 a.m.
Once you have your passes. Just walk down 14th street (about 2 minutes), enter the Engraving Museum and take the tour. (about 30-45 mins). Then walk back up the street to the Holocaust Museum and enter at 11 a.m. to do the permanent exhibition.
The exhibition presents a comprehensive history of the Holocaust through artifacts, photographs, films, and eyewitness testimonies. The Permanent Exhibition is divided into three sections – “Nazi Assault,” “Final Solution,” and “Last Chapter.” Most visitors spend an average of two to three hours in this self-guided exhibition.