When kids (or parents) need a day out of the house, have an upcoming report, or just want to soak in a little culture and learn something new, museums offer it all. The problem is that education isn’t cheap, and museums can often come with a hefty admission price.

Some of the most popular museums in the United States are free, including most of the Smithsonian Institution’s 19 museums and the National Zoo!

Passport Program

For those of us outside of the D.C. area, our best resource is the Passport Program offered through the Association of Science – Technology Centers. It works like this: Purchase a membership to a participating museum or science center in their area, and then get free admission to other participating museums and science centers throughout the country and around the world (there are more than 300 that participate in the program).

For example, I purchased an annual membership for my family ($90 for two adults and up to four children ages 3 to 20, plus two bonus one-time-use adult tickets) to our local Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. By using the Passport Program, we are granted free admission into hundreds of other museums and science centers across the United States and around the world. Bring on the jazz hands and angelic music, because it’s free! Join during a membership drive or with a Groupon deal and it’s possible to get a membership at a reduced price as well. I was lured into our membership by an iPad drawing/reduced rate for new members. I didn't win the iPad, but we sure have come out ahead!

Recently my family of three took advantage of the reciprocal program by visiting the Orlando Science Center while on vacation. Between OSC's Star Wars exhibit (who needs Disney World when hovercrafts and pod racers are an option?) and the dinosaur fossils, this was the perfect pick for my husband and son. Admission to OSC would normally have cost our family $27 for each adult and $20 for my 10-year-old son, bringing us up to $74 plus tax. Instead we simply flashed our membership cards from Oregon and BOOM, we are in watching IMAX movies, digging for fossils, watching alligators, programming R2D2, and enjoying the day and the free fun!

Community Days

Many museums around the country offer a free admission day (or reduced admission price) once each month. Check your local museum’s website or visit the Museum Free Days website for a list of many museums around the country that offer free admission on certain days.

Banking Benefits

Bank of America’s Museums on Us program is a free perk that offers free admission to participating museums on the first full weekend of every month. Simply present your Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card along with a photo ID to gain one free general admission to any participating institution.

This is a guest post by Nichole from Lincoln City, Oregon
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