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Museums are a great family activity to learn about art, history, and culture. However, they can also be expensive. If you love exploring museums but don’t want to spend a ton of money, there are ways to score free admission. Fortunately, we even found free museums in every state across the U.S. Plus, we did some digging and discovered several ways to get into pay museums for free or at a reduced cost.
So whether it’s a bank promotion or community programs, options are available to enjoy the museum experience without breaking the bank. Keep these tips top of mind the next time you’re traveling or enjoying a staycation as a budget-friendly activity.
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1. Get free museum admission with your bank.
Some banks offer their customers free or discounted museum passes. It’s a perk for holding an account with them. Here are two that offer this benefit:
Bank of America
If you’re a Bank of America customer, get excited. BofA offers free museum admission to their customers through the Museums on Us program. On the first full weekend of every month, Bank of America, Merrill, or Bank of America Private Bank (U.S. Trust) cardholders can gain free admission to over 225 museums across the United States.
Not to be outdone, Capital One offers eligible cardholders a complimentary 6-month museum admission. They do this through the Capital One Cultivist Museum program. The 6-month trial gets you and up to three guests free access to museums around the world, including:
- New York’s Guggenheim Museum
- Paris’ Louvre and Musee d’Orsay
- San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art
- The Art Institute of Chicago
First, though, you must join via this Capital One/Cultivist partnered link to get your free 6-month trial. It’s easy to cancel any time before your 180 days are up, and you won’t be charged anything. However, if you fail to cancel within that window, they will charge $40 a month until you cancel. This offer expires on June 22, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. ET.
2. Check out museum passes through the Culture Pass program at your local library.
Some libraries participate in programs that offer free museum admission to library cardholders.
Passes typically admit two people. Most libraries allow you to “check out” or “borrow” free museum admission passes a limited number of times a month. However, these are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
- New York Public Library (NYPL)
- Brooklyn Public Library (BPL)
- Queens Library
- Columbus Metropolitan Library
- Arizona State University Library
Other public libraries may have their own museum pass program.
- Boston Public Library
- Chicago Public Library Explore More Illinois and Museum Adventures
- Jersey City Public Library
- Pinellas Public Library Cooperative
- San Diego Public Library Discover & Go
- San Francisco Public Library Discover & Go
Related: Check out these summer reading programs that offer freebies for kids.
3. Use your EBT card for free museum admission through the Museums for All program.
With the nationwide Museums for All program, those who receive SNAP food assistance can get reduced or free museum admission at over 1,000 museums in the U.S. They can do this by using their EBT card and ID. Some museums offer WIC cardholders admission for free or at reduced rates as well.
- Admission is $3 or less per person.
- Up to four people can get reduced or free admission per EBT card (you may find some museums allow more than four).
- You can visit participating museums as often as you’d like; there are no limits to the number of visits you can get with your EBT card.
It’s recommended you call the museums beforehand to ensure they’re open and whether they require reservations.
Note: You can’t pay with your EBT if your tickets are not free. You must use cash, credit, or debit card, etc.
4. Military members can get free museum admission through a complimentary Blue Star Families membership.
From Armed Forces Day to Labor Day (May 20, 2023 – Sept. 4, 2023), active and retired military (including National Guard and Reserves) and their families can visit more than 2,000 Blue Star museums across the country for free. Visit BlueStarFam.org for participating museums.
5. Military, students, and teachers can enjoy free admission through museums.
We love sharing discounts, but free is better. If you’re an active military member, student, or teacher, call your local museum and inquire about reduced or free admission. We found several museums that offer free admission to students and/or teachers.
- The Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, Ohio, offers teachers free daily admission.
- Head to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in Los Angeles where they give free admission to USC students and California teachers.
- The Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh offers free admission to K-12 teachers through their Teacher Appreciation program. Teachers must work in Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, or West Virginia.
- MoMA in Manhattan gives active military members and their families (with dependent cards) free museum admission daily. This museum also offers students from several schools free admission:
- Columbia University in the City of New York
- Cooper Union
- CUNY Schools
- New York University
- Pratt Institute
- School of Visual Arts
- SUNY Schools
- The Juilliard School
- The New School
- The Rockefeller University
Note: you will need to show your teacher’s, USC, or military ID for the respective freebies.
6. Visit museums on free admission days.
Many museums offer free admission on specific days of the week or month. For example, the Art Institute of Chicago offers Illinois residents free admission every Monday, Thursday, and Friday in the winter. This year the dates are Jan. 9 – March 24, 2023. Here are a few other examples:
- Each year Smithsonian Magazine celebrates Museum Day by offering free admission. The event is meant to encourage people to visit their local participating museum. Last year Museum Day was Sept. 17, 2022. Although they have yet to announce the date for this year, we expect it to be Sept. 16, 2023.
- The Museum of Flight in Seattle doesn’t charge admission on the first Thursday of every month from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
- Seniors 65 and older can visit the Rubin Museum in New York City the first Thursday of each month for free.
Other museums, such as the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., are free to the public every day except Christmas.
7. Find free admission offers through museums.
Contact your local museum and ask if they have any free admission offers. Here are two we found:
- New York City residents who are new Met members of The Metropolitan Museum of Art can get a 1-year complimentary free membership with a valid IDNYC card.
- The MFA Citizens program at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston gives newly naturalized U.S. citizens a 1-year complimentary membership to the museum.
8. Take a group tour through a museum.
Some museums offer free admission to groups, such as school groups or community organizations. For example, the Art Institute of Chicago offers free museum admission to the following groups every day:
- Kids under 14
- Chicago teens
- Active-duty military
- LINK and WIC cardholders
- Illinois Educators
Other museums, like the Exploratorium in San Fransico, California, offer free admission to Title 1 K-12 classroom field trips. The Detroit Institute of Arts in Detroit, Michigan, offers free admission to groups of adults 55 and older. And the museum will provide free bus transportation if your group has at least 25 from Macomb, Oakland, or Wayne counties.
It’s always a good idea to check with the museum directly to confirm the availability of these programs and to find out about any restrictions or requirements.