Surviving a Blockbuster Exhibit

If you are in DC right now, the hot ticket to get is the Hirshhorn’s “Infinity Mirrors.” Just go on your favorite social media site and look for #infinitekusama, you’ll see what I mean.

This is just one example of a “blockbuster” exhibit. Just like in movies, some museum exhibits are higher profile. Maybe they have never before seen works, objects that don’t usually travel from their home location, more of one type of object then is usually together…or some other “wow” factor.

Other things that are usually used to describe a blockbuster exhibit? Hard to get tickets and long lines. Not really the perfect set up for young museum goers.

So, what are you options? Assuming you don’t want to skip it entirely and don’t want to/can’t go on your own…. you make a plan.

Here are my 5 well tested (but not at all fool proof) tips for enjoying a blockbuster exhibit

  • Get There at Opening
    • If you are getting reserved tickets, try to get them for as close to the time the museum opens as possible. We had 10:00am entry to Infinity Mirrors and were only waiting in 5-10min lines for the different rooms. By the time the 11:00am folks were in the lines were much longer.
    • Arrive early and snag a spot in line. Yes, waiting in a line to wait in a line is tiresome but if you are near the front you have a better chance of seeing what you want to see. When we saw the Renwick Gallery’s reopening exhibit we waited in line outside before the museum open, but then pretty much could walk through the museum.
  • Keep Your Expectations Realistic
    • I didn’t plan to see every room in the exhibit, the fact that we did was an unexpected bonus. This is not going to be the visit where you read every curatorial note or detailed label. Be realistic about what you are going to see and plan to beeline for your highlights.
    • Also be realistic about what your kids might get out of it. They may love it, they may barely notice it…anything is ok. You are there and that is huge.
  • Divide and Conquer
    • If it is at all possible to go with another grown-up…do it! The more hands the better and you’ll be able to linger at something you want or let one person wait in line while the other takes the kid to the bathroom, look at other things etc.
  • Plan Ahead
    • It goes without saying, but hit up the bathroom, eat a snack and make sure all those needs are taken care of before you go in.
    • Also read up on any special rules or regulations in advance. Are strollers allowed? Bags? Cameras? Special security protocols? Less surprises are definitely better.
    • Beyond that though, prep your kids for what to expect. For Infinity Mirrors we talked about how we would have to wait in line. I practiced “Look with your eyes, no touching”with the two year old. We even went on Instagram and looked at some of the rooms so they’d know what they would be like (darkness, flashing lights etc.). Knowing what to expect makes kids a lot more comfortable and willing to explore
  • Enjoy it!
    • I know, I know, a cheesy one to finish on but it is worth repeating. If you can’t tell from some of my other posts, I am a planner and get VERY focused on how things will come togxether. If I let that take over I would never enjoy the visit, all I’d remember was the stress of planning. Once I’m there, I try to hit the one or two things I was really hoping we’d see, and go with the wonder and excitement of the kiddos.

So, will it all be worth it? Hard to say. You may leave the exhibit disappointed and exhausted. If you do, that is ok. Just regroup and try again with something else.  But, I haven’t regretted a visit yet. For the Kusama exhibit, every minute in line was worth it to have my 2 year old pulling me back to the “pumpkin room” three times so she could drop to her knees and go “Ooooooo!” at the art.

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