My son is finally at the age where he can handle being still in public for long periods of time — and he's also at the age where he is excited about learning historical and cultural information. So it benefits us both to take a trip to a museum where we can each stay entertained.

Until recently, I thought some museum excursions were not possible given our limited entertainment budget. But I discovered that many promotions and special discounts are offered not only by the museums themselves but through other outlets as well.

So if you want to take your family on a museum excursion this summer, follow these tips to do it for less.

Go on Target's Dime

Target, as part of their community outreach/education initiative for children, sponsors some absolutely free attendance days as well as discounted tickets at museums around the country. So whether it's a free admission to the Museum of Latin American Art in Los Angeles or the Children's Museum of Atlanta that you desire, this site can show you what's available in your city (use the drop-down menu to search available locations in your region).

Check a College/University

Many institutes of higher learning have free museums, art galleries, library exhibits and more on campus that are open to the public. The University of Texas in Austin has a phenomenal four-story Natural Science Center that can all be explored for free. Ditto for the University of Michigan's Museum of Art located in Ann Arbor. Search institution web pages in your state (or a state you plan to visit this summer), as these publically-funded colleges and universities offer some gems of cultural discovery for adults as well as kids.

Show Your ID

If your local college's museum is not free to the public, you still might be able to score a free ticket. If you have a current student ID, you can get free admission to many museums (like the Natural History Museum of Utah, the Mayborn Museum Complex at Baylor University in Texas and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, just to name a few). No student ID? Inquire about government employee discounts, senior citizen discounts, teacher discounts or children special offers. Sometimes, these groups can get free admission or several dollars off a purchased ticket.

Go on a Holiday

If a local museum in your area is not closed for a specific holiday, it might actually have its doors wide open — to all! Some museums offer free admission on holidays, so if you don't have July 4th or Labor Day plans, a museum excursion might be the perfect event! Discover some possibilities using this site.

Use Your Military Status

If you or a member of your family is Active Duty military, serves in the National Reserve, or is Reserve Military personnel, you can get free admission to over 2,000 museums that are part of the Blue Star Family. These museums offer free admission from Memorial Day through Labor Day to these groups as a way of saying "thanks" for the services provided. Visitors can then blog about their visits, and kids can enter the Way Cool Creativity Contest after their visit. Now that's the way to get the whole family involved!

You can also get free admission by:

  • Joining a Passport Program
  • Using your Bank of American credit card
  • Going on a day that's free to the community (like a first Saturdays promotion or third Thursdays promotion)

To learn more about these techniques, read KCL’s article How to Visit Museums for Free.

A limited entertainment budget can be stretched further by planning some trips to local museums. They offer incredible educational and bonding opportunities for the whole family. And when admission is cheap — or free! — there's no reason not to take advantage of them this summer.

Visit a Museum for Free This Summer