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Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors DC with Kids: Part 1 – Getting Tickets

If you’ve been on Facebook recently and have friends who live near Washington, D.C., you may have noticed beautiful, sparkling, many-mirrored pictures from Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum. It is a mind-bending exhibit that is wildly popular. So, how do you get in to see this? Is it worth it? What is it like with kids? 

Kusama Infinity Mirrors Part 1

Because of the immense popularity of the exhibit, timed tickets are required. There is no cost for the tickets, in line with all Smithsonian museums being free. Each Monday at noon, thousands of tickets are released online for the following week, but they go in about two seconds. The other option is to wait in line to get day-of tickets. This post covers the scoop on that. If you are one of the lucky few to get timed tickets, start at Part Two: Enjoying the Exhibit.

My Top 2 Pieces of Advice:

  1.  Come with boundless patience. If you don’t like lines, or have a specific schedule, this is not the exhibit for you. I saw one family walk out after waiting in line for nearly two hours because they needed to get to something else. One friend referred to the exhibit as Infinity Lines. You have to know that before anything else. I spent eight hours on the exhibit from the time I left my house (15 miles outside of the city) to the time I got home. The time looking at the art was about 30 minutes.
  2. Go with a buddy. I went with another mom and her kids. This allowed us to tag-team bathroom breaks, getting kids out of the rain, and waiting in line. It also freshened up the play dynamics. With eight kids between 1.5 and 9 years old between us, there was always someone for everyone to play with. Adult groups did similar things with one person going to get coffee or stand under shelter.

The Thing You Really Want to Know: I got in line at 8:45; I had tickets in-hand at 10:30. Twitter shows that the Hirshhorn typically gives out all tickets for the day at 11:30-12:30. I entered the exhibit for the 10:30 time slot and left the museum at 12:15.

Now for the blow-by-blow for those who like to know all of the details to decide if this is going to work for your family…

What It’s Like to Get Walk-Up Timed Tickets

Arrival

Even if you are a die-hard street parker like me, that is not going to work this time.  First, you’ll need to get downtown so early that the right lanes will still be for traffic and not parking. Second, a two-hour spot isn’t going to be nearly enough time. METRO, taxi, and Uber are all options, but I booked a parking garage at L’Enfant Plaza ahead of time through a parking website (Parking Panda, Parkopedia, etc.) Factor in extra time to miss the garage entrance at least once, descend to the depths of the garage, look for a spot, unload in tiny quarters, find an elevator, then get a bit turned around when you emerge from the building. The nearest garages to the Hirshhorn that I could find were .03 miles away. Google Maps lists this as a 7 minute walk. It was a bit longer with kids.  

Twitter conversation suggested that people arrive at 8:30 on weekdays and 7:30 on weekends to get in line for same-day tickets. I think that people have heard this and are now coming a bit earlier judging by the line size when I arrived at 8:45.  We were about 70 people back.  

The museum is shaped like a like floating doughnut. The line starts under the doughnut, right in the in the hole. The line is visible from the side of the museum that faces the National Mall. 

 

Infinity Mirrors Kusama-2 

Outside Line

The line does not form directly under the doughnut sides/shelter so plan to be outside in the elements the whole time. I stood in the rain to hold our place and sent the little ones under a doughnut side so our provisions wouldn’t get soaked.  At 9:15, the staff opened the white trailers that provide additional space for standing. Other than that advance, we stood in place until the museum opened at 10 am. The actual tickets are given inside the museum.  I was not far enough up in the line to stand in the white trailers for that 45 minutes (from 9:15-10:00) which meant I was in the rain. But, the trailers were kind of stuffy, so I didn’t mind.  The mood in the line was friendly. People were willing to make friends and chat.

As soon as 10:00 hit, the line started moving, batches at a time. When my place in line progressed to the white trailers, I could see a screen that listed all of the remaining tickets times in 15-minute increments. When a time slot was out of tickets, the number faded.  The 10:00 and 10:15 tickets went out within minutes.

Infinity Mirrors Kusama-9

 

 I got through the white trailers and into the building at 10:30. My group got the last 10:30 tickets. You can request tickets for any available time which means you do not have to go in right away, but with our group of eight kids with bellies that would need lunch before too long, we wanted to get a move on.

So, now for the question that all parents want to know: what did I do with the kids?

Remember my #2 tip from above? Bringing a buddy is key. Until our buddy family arrived, we stood in line and ate snacks, played with matchbox cars, and people-watched. I don’t often use a stroller, but for this I brought out our double-stroller down from the attic because I knew it would be such a long, sensory-filled day. This was helpful for containing two out of three kids in the line. I did OK on my own, and received appreciated compliments about my bravery due to the weather and the kids’ calmness, but I’ll admit that I felt tense with the rain in the mix. Although my family typically loves playing in the rain, it was hard to enjoy it in the setting of a line with a day’s worth of food and supplies to keep dry. 



 

 

When our friends arrived and the rain stopped, the remaining wait was no big deal thanks to preparation. The kids did art, read books, played tag, and used the portable bathrooms. That level of freedom would not have been possible with only one adult.

A note about people joining your party later: each person in line is allowed to claim four tickets. No one cared that my party of four later added six people, because our family warranted up to 20 tickets anyway. Others around us were doing the same sort of math for their groups. That said, late-comers meeting you who go beyond the four-tickets per person would be frowned upon because tickets do run out before the line is depleted. 

Infinity Mirrors Kusama-53

 

Let me backtrack for a moment and repeat: they have outdoor bathrooms. Hooray! Whew! Little kids and so many bathroom breaks was one of my big fears about the day. This was so helpful! (Note: the bathrooms get locked once all tickets for the day are given out, and the line disperses, so don’t expect to use these facilities in the afternoon. You’ll have to schlep down to the basement bathrooms before you go home.)Infinity Mirrors Kusama-3

Getting Tickets

As soon as I hit the white trailers, and the head of the line was near, I had two kids rejoin me in line so we could get the 10 tickets our party needed without any last-minute squabbles with anyone who might care. We moved through the trailer fairly quickly and then got to enter the museum. I left all bags and strollers outside with my friend so I could skip the security check and go right to the ticket desk. They asked if we wanted to get tickets for now or another time. I picked now, and we got the last 10:30 tickets they had left. Had our whole party have been there, we could have gone right up. But, in our case I needed to exit the building to get everyone and everything else. Guess what is next? More waiting, this time inside. But also so much coolness is next, too! Read about it in Part Two: Enjoying the Exhibit

Infinity Mirrors Kusama-11

 

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About More Green for Less Green

Hi, I’m Pamm. Welcome to my little slice of the web! As a progressive Evangelical female pastor and crunchy homeschooling mom, I’m never quite what anyone expects of me. But, hey, that’s what makes blogging interesting, right? Join me as I try to wholeheartedly parent my three little boys, slowly fix up the trashed foreclosure we bought in 2009, and live simply.

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