Explore Top Museums for Free

museumsGoing to a museum can be an expensive proposition these days, with prices at many hitting $25 per adult (not to mention the cost of parking or transportation). But, it price does not have to be a deterrent, particularly for those not sure they will enjoy the art, historical or natural phenomena on display. Many top-notch museums are free at select times or have free days sponsored by large corporations to encourage locale residents to play tourist in their own town and explore. Special “Museum Days,” like an upcoming one on March 12, also make many facilities free of charge on that self-proclaimed holiday.

Several museums founded by philanthropists are free at all times, although reservations may be needed. For example, in Los Angeles, The Broad, the new contemporary art museum in downtown (advance reservations are still needed due to popular demand); the Getty Center off the 405; Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City; Hammer Museum in Westwood and the Nethercutt Automotive Collection in Sylmar have no admission charge. Another example is the Smithsonian Institution, which keeps nearly all of its 19 museums and the National Zoological Park free of charge.

Museums in large cities have at least one day a month or set hours each week, where they offer free admission to ensure everyone can afford the experience of visiting their collections. In New York City, examples include the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, both of which offer free admission on Friday evenings. In Los Angeles, Thursday evenings offer free admission to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), MOCA Geffen Contemporary, Skirball Cultural Center (actually all day Thursdays) and the Japanese American National Museum.

Bank of America and Target are two corporations with programs to make museum admission free at times (check their Websites for the latest lists). BofA’s “Museums on Us” program provides free general admission (excluding exhibits with special ticketing) to those with its credit or debit cards the first weekend of each month at more than 150 museums in 98 cities throughout the U.S. In Illinois, for example, the list includes the Museum of Contemporary Art, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago History Museum and others. In Boston, the list includes the Museum of African American History and the Museum of Fine Arts.

Target has a list by city of museums available to visit and when. Two examples are the Brooklyn Museum, which is free on the first Saturday of each month, and the Museum of Latin American Art in Los Angeles, which is free every Sunday.

There is an annual Museum Day that offers free access that day to explore many top sites. The March 12 event is a special extra edition of Museum Day Live, developed to encourage women and girls to explore participating museums, zoos, libraries and cultural sites. Examples of sites participating include, in NYC, the City Fire Museum; the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum; Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum and the Museum of the City of New York. In Denver, Colo., the list includes the History Colorado Center, Forney Museum of Transportation and Byers-Evans House Museum. Many participating venues have special activities planned. Advance tickets are required and can be reserved online.

Written and Edited by Dyanne Weiss

Smithsonian Magazine: Museum Day Live!
Timeout: New York: Free Museum Days in NYC
International Council of Museums: IMD 2016
Bank of America: Museums on Us 2016
Target: Corporate Responsibility , Community Events

Photo of 1909 Gobron-Brille courtesy of Nethercutt Automotive Collection

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