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WASHINGTON – Sightseeing in Washington, D.C., will be closer to normal next month.

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The Smithsonian will open seven of its museums and the National Zoo in May, The Washington Post reported. The first reopening is scheduled for May 5, when the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, opens to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Alan Shepard becoming the first American in space, the newspaper reported.

The reopenings come as more people are receiving COVID-19 vaccines, and attractions are relaxing restrictions for visitors.

That will be followed by the National Portrait Gallery, the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Smithsonian American Art Museum and its Renwick Gallery on May 14, The New York Times reported. The final round of openings will include the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Zoo on May 21, according to the newspaper.

Meanwhile, the National Gallery of Art also announced that it will reopen its West Building on May 14, the Post reported. The museum had been closed for the past six months.

“We were concerned about another surge. Worse than not opening is opening and having to close again. We didn’t think we would have to do that when we opened last summer,” Doug Hall, the Smithsonian’s coordinating officer for COVID-19, told the Post. “Cases are flat, and they’re not getting worse. We didn’t see that fourth surge, so we think it’s safe.

“The vaccine being more widely available gives us a comfort level,” Hall told the newspaper. “We’re not relying on it, but it makes it an easier decision.”

Visitors will need to reserve free timed entry passes online for each location, the Times reported. Those passes will be available beginning a week before a museum’s scheduled reopening, according to the newspaper. A Smithsonian spokesperson said capacity will vary but will start around 25%, and then increase when the Smithsonian believes it can safely accommodate more visitors.

Visitors ages 2 and older must wear masks and maintain social distancing and follow one-way paths and directions where applicable, the Post reported. There will be hand-sanitizing stations throughout the facilities, the newspaper reported.

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