Smithsonian at 8

The SMITHSONIAN at 8 event series offers one-of-a-kind experiences for guests 21+.


james smithson’s
holiday birthday ball:
party like it’s 1765!

Fri., Dec. 4, 8–11 p.m. (7–11 p.m. for VIP ticket-holders)

Smithsonian Castle, 1000 Independence Ave., SW
(Enter from Independence Ave. or Jefferson Dr., SW)

Must be 21 years old with valid photo ID to attend.

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Smithson Holiday Birthday Ball

When it came to gift-giving, James Smithson was a champ. On his death in 1829, the English chemist and mineralogist left his sizeable fortune to the United States—a place he'd never visited—to found "an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge" called the Smithsonian Institution.

Now, on the 250th anniversary of his birth*, it's time to give him a big thank-you by gathering in the original Smithsonian building, the historic Castle, for a birthday bash inspired by James, his era, and the Smithsonian itself.

It’s going to be a terrific party:

  • Learn plenty of quirky and fascinating facts about Smithson in a trivia challenge. Here’s a head start: He was crazy about traveling, has a mineral named after him, and he wrote a cookbook.
  • Like any proper ball, count on dancing and drinks, including one inspired by James’s own recipe for ginger beer. Music by DJ As-One and cash bar by Tortoise and Hare.
  • A scavenger hunt lets you explore some of the treasures hidden throughout the corners of our weird and wonderful Castle. Pay a visit to Smithson’s crypt along the way.
  • Head to the photo booth to create your own "portrait." As always, there’s no specific dress code for Smithsonian at 8 events, but if you’d like to dress to impress in 18th-century-inspired finery, think fans, feathers, fancy waistcoats, and anything else suitably dramatic to give a period flair to your modern party wear. You might be a prize winner!
  • There’ll be some crafty activities, too.
Castle Commons

Since there are now about 137 million objects in his collections, Mr. Smithson doesn’t need any gifts. But in the spirit of his generosity, we have partnered with local charity Martha’s Table to help needy families and children this holiday season. You may bring your donations with you to the event, and we’ll deliver them to Martha’s Table for you. For a list of winter clothing needs, click here.

Early childhood wish list>>

K-5 Amazon wish list>>

For more information and other ways to give, click here>>


Special features for VIP ticket-holders: Exclusive early access to the event from 7 to 8 p.m., including an open bar featuring beer, wine, and specialty cocktails and small bites. (Please note that these VIP benefits are available only between 7 and 8 p.m.)


*No one knows the exact date of James Smithson’s birth. His unmarried mom slipped across the Channel to Paris for his birth.


Thank You To Our Partners!

Martha's Table Logo



Win a pair of FREE General Admission tickets to the 12/4 event. #TheRealJamesSmithson has taken over the @SmithsonianTSA Twitter account and is giving away tickets to James Smithson’s Holiday Birthday Ball!

What Would James Smithson Think?
Starting Nov. 23, we will post three pictures of his travels around the Smithsonian on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Help James Smithson understand these wonders by commenting ‘what he would think’ using #SmithsonChallenge.

Go ahead and enter as many unique captions as you can! Three winners* will be chosen and announced Dec. 1.

Read full contest rules>>

*One winner from each of the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram entries.

Purchase Tickets

Order tickets online with Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express.

Buy Tickets
SOLD OUT - no tickets will be sold at the door!

Order by phone at 202-633-3030, Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. A $3 phone service fee applies.

Questions? Call or email us.

Ticket PRICES & policies

General admission: $25

VIP admission: $50 (includes early access, open bar, and small bites from 7 to 8 p.m.)

All ticket sales are final. No refunds or exchanges. Tickets are not mailed. Check-in at the door. All guests must be 21; a photo ID is required for entry.

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