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Cheap Culture – Enjoying Museums for Free (or Almost Free)

Apr 13, 2017

“Do you want to get into museums, but can afford it?  Do you want to know the admission hacks to get in for free or cheap?  Read on!

We would all agree that museums, science centers, and historical sites are wonderful and educational spaces. They may even cross over in your mind to inspirational. But whmuseums for freeen was the last time you or your family actually went to one?

Cost can be a challenge. Maybe you’ve relied on an AAA membership or a quick search for “Free Museums” and have come up short. Although you may come across great clusters of museums in cities like Houston or Washington, D.C. that are always free, for many the most prohibitive factor is price.

Well, your worries/excuses are over!

Here is the definitive list on how to soak in all the museums you want for cheap or free. Bring your whole family, your BFF, your date, or yourself. Enjoy!

  1. Free Days – In recent years, many museums participate in monthly or annual free days, both in the United States with Smithsonian Magazine’s Museum Day Live on September 23, 2017 and internationally with International Museum Day on and around May 18th, 2017. Don’t forget companies like Bank of America and other credit cards which sponsor monthly free museum days! This is a great time to get in the spirit of museums; however, remember that everyone else may be there as well! If you like to be around big crowds and can remember these dates, it might pay off.
  2. museums for freePay-As-You-Wish – Many larger institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art or other heavily endowed museums have the blessing of generous donors. For instance, the Met’s annual report only cites around 15% of its budget as having come from admissions. Often these larger places will have a pay-as-you-wish policy in place that you will most likely only be able to utilize by paying at the door. Check with the museum ahead of time, or look for small print on their admission price sign. You are not being a cheapskate! Museums offer this to make museum collections available to all as often as they would like to come. If you have a penny, go on in!
  3. After hours” and “final hours” – Many larger museums or sites may offer special free entry times, particularly at the end of the day during the last hour of operation, or on a Friday evening. These one- or two-hour slots are usually posted on websites. Some museums offer these for anyone. Others may offer a “First Friday” type hour for singles, or adults only. If you are visiting a large city and really only want to get a glimpse of a few things in a particular venue, this would be a great way to do it without paying an entry fee. And what about a quick, cheap date!?
  4.  Student/Teacher I.D. = Free! Many museums, science centers, and historic sites offer significant discounts or even free admission to students and teachers. Traveling in Europe? Teachers – bring your teacher I.D. and you can get in many places for free! Homeschooling parents, do you wonder what to do about that I.D. card? Well, I know of at least one site that can have both Teacher and Student I.D. cards printed for you at a small cost. See this link for more info. College students or even adults going back to school, make sure to ask about these discounts as well. You are never too old to learn for free.
  5. museums for freeMilitary I.D. – Military servants and families, we appreciate your sacrifices so much. Museums do as well! Don’t feel shy about flashing your military I.D. Most institutions are happy to offer you a discount!
  6. Library Passes – Did you ever consider checking out a free pass with your local library? It’s true! Many libraries around the country will have a limited amount of free admission passes to be checked out by patrons for 24-48 hours. These passes may get you entrance to museums in your local area. The great news is that you can check them out again and again if you like the museum. You don’t have to feel so committed to staying if it’s boring to you, or if your companions (read: children) suddenly take a turn for the worse!
  7. Groupon – You know this site. Check it out for museum deals both close to home and when you travel. There’s always something interesting.
  8. Reciprocal Museum Membership – This one-year museum pass is great for travelers or frequent museum goers, and they make amazing gifts! There are reciprocal organizations around the world. Just check the fine print. Some must be purchased at an actual museum and others can be purchased online. While these may offer full or partial discounts to admission, gift shops, or cafes, they may also not be consistent at every place you plan to visit. So again, I will say: Check the fine print for any limitations. These are great options for the right people. Some of the largest reciprocal memberships in the United States include: (NARM) North American Reciprocal Museum Association, (ASTC) Association of Science-Technology Centers, (AZA) The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, (ACM) The Association of Children’s Museums, American Horticultural Society RAP, or even Time Travelers Reciprocity Network.
  9.  museums for freeEducation Days – Check the local “Calendar of Events” for special opportunities to bring lots of children to a museum for free. Often educational institutions will host special programs on Saturdays or vacation weeks to draw in families. They will often host an activity for a minimal charge that coincides with one of their exhibits. Your children will get a full hands-on experience, and cheap admission. Maybe you’d like to learn more than a mere exhibit offers. Look for special lectures offered for free and you may get insight you hadn’t expected.
  10. Organize a group – If you are part of any group at all (Scouts, Awana, Ladies’ Craft Group, Men’s Running Group, Homeschool Association, etc.), consider contacting a museum for a group tour and special rates. It’s definitely more fun with friends!
  11. Volunteer – Finally, if you really, truly love a museum or site nearby, consider volunteering to help that organization. Most often, volunteers receive the thanks of these special treasures by having free passes, discounts, or other unique perks. What a great way to give back to the community and encourage others who visit.


There you have it: 11 ways to go visit an incredible treasure near you. Now step away from the computer and grab those car keys!

You may also be interested in Mrs. Rapelje’s Blog called: Why Go to a Museum If I Have the Web?







Julie Rohr is both a homeschooling parent and a professional educator.  She has served students of all ages and skill levels in both live and online settings.  She has written curriculum and has presented on topics in local, national, and international forums.  Julie has taught for the past 22+ years in many areas of art and culture.  She knows there is more to enjoy in great art than just “The Last Supper.”  Ms. Rohr has personally developed a series of Art History courses that delights and engages students.  Her drawing classes have seen participants grow in leaps and bounds!  She is excited to offer a new course in general art for high school students that will ensure they have a solid foundation in a broad range of visual art topics. Additionally, Ms. Rohr serves as a student and parent-oriented community builder, offering social events and clubs for Excelsior students and families.  The results of her time in class and clubs are confident, thoughtful, informed students who are ready to contribute to the culture around them with a biblical view of art and creative skills.  

The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the author and should not be taken to represent the views of Excelsior Classes, LLC or the consortium of teachers.