Today: 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM

A dinosaur looking at you

Reopening: What to Know

Welcome Back: Now Open for Wonder

En Español

We’re thrilled to welcome you back to the Museum!

The wait is over! Starting Friday, July 17, the Museum is open to everyone.

We’ve made significant changes to ensure everyone’s health and safety, including a new online ticketing system for visiting the Museum, enhancements for cleaner and touchless experiences, and new rules to encourage safe spacing between groups of guests. We can’t wait to welcome you back!

During this phase of the Museum reopening, the Dinosaur Trail, Train, Farmyard, Sailboats, Sprout Café, Explore the Wild, Earth Moves, and Hideaway Woods will be open. And while some of your other favorite exhibits and indoor experiences the Main Museum Building and Butterfly House will remain closed a bit longer, we welcome you to enjoy the Museum grounds for a great day outside with family or friends. We've got miles of walkways to explore: make it a nature stroll with the kids, an animal-viewing experience, or a family hike under the trees. 

Please read the following carefully to ensure your next visit will be fun and enjoyable!

How to plan your next visit

We’ve changed a few things about how you visit the Museum to better protect the health and safety of our guests, staff, and animals.

To help limit crowding, we’re limiting the number of guests on campus and requiring a timed-entry system. All visitors will need to reserve tickets before their visit.

Reserving your tickets

Both Members and general admission guests must reserve or purchase tickets for the Museum online before your visit. Each guest in your party (regardless of age) will need a ticket. If you’re a Member, your admission is free, but you will need to reserve tickets for admission on a selected day and time. General admission guests can purchase tickets online as well for a specific entry time. 

Member Ticket Reservations

General Admission Tickets

Business Member Reservations

With your confirmed ticket, you can either present a printout of your reservation or show the reservation electronically on your mobile device, and we’ll check you in and get you on your way!

When is the Museum open?

The Museum is open to the public from 10 am – 5 pm, Tuesday – Sunday. Closed Mondays. Members with reservations can enter the Museum at 9 am.

Where do we go to enter the Museum?

To allow for a less crowded admission experience, we’ve changed the entry process to make it easier, faster, and safer for both Members and general admission guests.

Members: Members should enter the Museum at the entrance to the right of the main building, where staff will greet them and handle their reservation tickets.

General Admission guests: General admission ticket holders will enter through the left door of the main entrance. Guest relations staff will welcome and assist visitors in a newly renovated, larger admissions area.

We know this is new for everyone, so staff will be on the plaza in front of the Museum to help direct and assist guests as they arrive and help them through admission as quickly and easily as possible.

What to expect when you visit

What's open?

During this first phase of reopening, all of our indoor exhibits (Main Museum Building and Butterfly House) and some of our outdoor experiences will remain closed. Still, many of our popular attractions will be open for guests, including:

Hideaway Woods: A two-acre, nature discovery environment with treehouses, a flowing streambed, and nature sculptures. Flex your body and imagination all while viewing the world around you from new perspectives. 

Earth Moves: Explore a cave made from sandstone, change the flow of a 20-foot waterfall, and discover interactive experiences with sand, stones, and rolling water. 

Explore the Wild: Hike around the boardwalk and the wetland, watch the lemurs play, check-in on Eno and Ellerbe at the Red Wolf habitat, and see what our bears do to keep cool during hot summer days.

Dinosaur Trail: Take a stroll back in time and enjoy an up-close look at over a dozen life-sized dinosaurs. These guys may not have survived the late Cretaceous period, but they’ve handled COVID-19 just fine.

The Farmyard (opens at 10am): Drop by and visit Lightning, Dusty, and Miss Piggy. They may be wondering where you’ve been all this time. Their lives have been very different without visitors in the Farmyard.

The Train: Our Train is up-and-running for your next ride! We’ve upgraded the Ellerbe Creek Railway with new plexiglass dividers behind each train seat to provide improved safety and sanitization.

Sailboat Pond: Captain a radio-controlled boat in a beautiful 5,000-square-foot elliptical sailboat pond. 

Sprout Café (closes at 3pm): Our café is open and ready to serve guests in our outdoor seating area. We’re offering a “grab and go” menu with plenty of delicious options, including a kid’s menu. We’ve rearranged our tables to allow for more spacing between groups.

Museum Stores: The Elements Museum Store and coffee bar will be open, but with limited capacity.

What else is different?

Because we love our guests and staff — and science! — we take health department recommendations for preventing the spread of COVID-19 very seriously. Accordingly, here are some things we ask you to be mindful of when you visit:

  • All staff and volunteers will be wearing facemasks. Following rules set by the State of North Carolina, Durham County, and the City of Durham, we also require all guests to wear facemasks while at the Museum. While in outdoor areas of the Museum, all guests 11 and up are required to wear a mask. While not required, guests under the age of 11 and older than 2 are strongly encouraged to wear a mask outdoors. While using indoor spaces such as bathrooms, store, and admission areas, all guests older than two are required to wear a mask. The medical experts that we spoke to while creating our safety plans had concerns about children wearing masks outside in the heat as their respiration is higher than adults.
  • If you, or anyone in your group, feels sick, has a fever, cough, or shortness of breath, please stay home.
  • Please respect six-foot distancing between groups of guests and others.
  • We’ve added new sanitization stations around campus and encourage you to wash your hands frequently during your visits.
  • Drinking fountains are closed, but we've added water bottle filling stations around campus
  • New rules can be hard to follow, especially for young children, so please be kind and respectful to others during your visit. That said, please try to cooperate with our rules to help make the reopening positive and enjoyable for everyone.

Improvements for your safety

Since closing the Museum in March, we’ve looked carefully at every aspect of the Museum to consider how we can change our space and our operations to better ensure a safe, healthy environment for our guests, staff, volunteers, and animals. We’re sticking to the science and listening to health officials and experts on the best ways to protect everyone while still offering a rewarding Museum experience.

Here’s what we’ve done to make the Museum as safe as possible for everyone:

  • Reimagined and changed the Museum entrance to create a spacious and comfortable arrival experience for guests and attending staff
  • Instituted new cleaning and sanitization procedures in accordance with guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
  • Maximized hands-free transactions at admissions, stores, and cafe
  • Replaced all restroom faucets and soap dispensers with touch-free models
  • Installed alcohol-based, hand sanitizer stations throughout the campus
  • Required all staff to wear facial masks or other personal protective equipment
  • Required guests to wear facial masks. (Exceptions to the mask requirement apply to children under 11 and those with certain medical conditions.)
  • Arranged café tables for distancing, eliminated indoor lines, and implemented an express grab-and-go menu
  • Relocated some exhibits and seating to maximize the width of circulation corridors
  • Removed highly tactile indoor exhibit elements where achieving sanitation standards isn’t possible
  • Rearranged or removed some exhibit components to increase general circulation within galleries
  • Installed sneeze guards at each point of sale
  • Removed or propped-open restroom doors
  • Installed plexiglass dividers behind each train seat
  • Upgraded all main museum air filters to high efficiency, Merv-11.
  • Consulted with HVAC services to explore maximizing the fresh air exchange
  • Replacing door-opening buttons with touch-free interfaces (coming soon)

Other frequently asked questions about our reopening

I’m a member. Do I still need to reserve a ticket for admission?

Yes. Your reservations are free, but you need to book them online before your arrival. Reserve your admission tickets here.

Is there a limit on how many reservations I can make?

During this first stage of reopening, we want to make sure everyone has a chance to come back to the Museum. To help ensure that, Members are limited to two reserved visits per week. General admission guests may purchase up to 10 tickets at a time. 

With my reserved-time admission, how long can I stay at the Museum?

Once you’re in the Museum, you’re welcome to stay as long as you like!

What if I need to cancel or change my reservation?

You may change reservations or a timed general admission ticket by calling us at  (919) 220-5429 ext. 313 or by emailing Our reservations team is available Monday through Friday, 9 am – 4 pm.

Can I bring extra guests with me to the Museum during the Members-only preview?

You may bring as many guests as you like, but we are limiting your group to the level of your membership during the Members-only preview.

What happens if I show up to the Museum without a reserved ticket?

We urge all guests to reserve or purchase admission tickets online before coming to the Museum. However, if a Member shows up without a reservation, we will do our best to accommodate them if we have available tickets. Still, we cannot guarantee that we will have space to admit their party at a given time.

Can I leave the Museum and come back the same day?

Your ticket is good from the time of entry and for the remainder of the same day. Hold on to your e-Ticket email and show it for reentry into the Museum.

Why all the masks?

Public health experts recommend protective face coverings as a proven method for significantly reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19. And at the moment, the state of North Carolina, Durham County, and the City of Durham require anyone in public spaces to wear a facemask. As state and local regulations change, we may alter the mask requirements.

Will you have masks for sale?

Yes. Masks for both adults and children will be available for purchase at the Museum Store.

When will the rest of the Museum/indoor exhibits reopen?

We don't know. Once state and local health regulations allow us to reopen our indoor exhibits, we are likely to reopen them soon after. But we won't reopen our indoor exhibits until the health and science experts indicate we can do so safely. We look forward to reopening the rest of the Museum, but for now, we remain in a wait-and-see mode.

Can we still bring food to the Museum and where can we eat?

Yes, outside food and beverages are still permitted. We reserve tables at Sprout Café for café diners only. However, we have many other spaces available for guests to eat, including the picnic dome across the street from the Museum next to the south side parking lot, the picnic area off the main trail (across from the Dinosaur Trail), or at any of the seating areas near the Dino Trail or Gateway Park. We understand that visitors may need a beverage or snack to enjoy a day at the Museum fully, so we allow spill-proof and re-usable sippy cups, travel mugs, and water bottles, as well as light snacks for children in single-serving, re-sealable containers. Coolers and picnics are only allowed at the picnic dome. As always, please help us keep the Museum clean and beautiful and be sure to dispose of any trash in a garbage bin. We encourage everyone to bring a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated on hot, humid days — the water fountains are turned off for health and satefy reasons, but we have water bottle fillers available around the Museum.

Given that the Museum has been closed since March, will memberships be extended?

Yes, we will be extending Explorer memberships for the months we were closed. Expiration dates will be adjusted before we reopen, and members will receive an email with details.

Are reciprocal memberships being honored for admission?

Like similar zoos, aquariums and science centers, the Museum is not offering admission discounts through reciprocal programs at this time.  We hope to be able to resume our reciprocal discounts soon.

Will strollers and wheelchairs still be available to rent?

Yes. You can rent either when you check-in at admission.

Members receive UNLIMITED admission all year long!