We love a museum, whether it’s as grand as the Louvre, or as kitschy as the Spam Museum. We also like the word free, so we sniffed out a few opportunities to get in for free, including Smithsonian Magazine’s Free Museum Day! Sure, there are a few catches, but what better way to stretch your family’s travel budget?
Update: Sadly, Smithsonian Magazine announced that they have “made the difficult decision to pause Museum Day for 2023,” but hinted that the event will return in 2024. However, Bank of America’s “Museums on Us” and the Blue Star Museums programs continue.
Free Museum Day
Every year, Smithsonian Magazine sponsors Museum Day. Anyone holding a coveted “golden ticket” gets in for free! (Note: Not actually gold, and not from Willy Wonka. However, still free from Smithsonian Magazine.) These aren’t just the big Smithsonian museums in Washington DC (many of which are free every day). The magazine has partnered with hundreds of museums across the country. To find participating museums near you, enter your zip code here. You can also search for a particular museum if you have a favorite, or a destination in mind.
By way of example, we searched around our home base in North Texas. The freebies include American Airlines’ incredible CR Smith Museum, the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, the Frontiers of Flight Museum at Dallas Love Field, the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame (which we didn’t even know was here), and almost a dozen more.
Be sure to go online to get your free Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day tickets in advance of your visit. Then go and be free…to enjoy Free Museum Day!
Free Museums Every Month from Bank of America
If you’re a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch cardholder, you may be able to take advantage of their free museum offer, Museums on Us.
This offer is limited to the cardholder (no Plus Ones), but is valid for the first full weekend of every month. Entry does not include special exhibition or ticketed shows, buy you are otherwise free to enjoy the museum, for free!
You can find participating museums here. The list is smaller than the Smithsonian Magazine’s offering. For example, there are only 13 participating locations in Texas. That said, they are remarkable museums.
Blue Star Museums
Every summer – Memorial Day through Labor Day – the National Endowment for the Arts teams up with Blue Star Families to offer free admission for active military families at more than 2,000 museums nationwide.
The vast list includes art and history museums, children’s museums, and even some zoos and nature centers. You can find participating museums in this state-by-state listing. Our North Texas basecamp is surrounded by about two dozen participating locations, including the George W. Bush Presidential Library & Museum.
We’d love to hear about any more free admission opportunities you might know about. Just leave the details for everyone in the comments. Thanks in advance!