There are plenty of ways to have fun with your family without breaking the budget! One of my favorites is with free museum admission. *Updated for 2021*
If your family likes to go to museums–whether they're art, history, science, technology, or anything else–you can take advantage of these programs that offer low-cost or free admission.
Since we have a family of five, regular museum admission can really add up! Getting free tickets like this really helps us keep our entertainment budget low each month while still having fun together.
7 Programs with Free Museum Admission
Blue Star Museums
The Blue Star Museums Program offers military families FREE admission between Memorial Day and Labor Day to over 2,000 participating museums nationwide, like the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago (one of our favorites!).
All active duty service members including National Guard and their immediate family (up to 5 family members, including spouse, child or sibling) can participate. Check the FAQ for identification requirements and a list of participating museums.
All 19 of the Smithsonian Museums (and the Zoo) in the Washington DC area have FREE admission year-round!. They are worth the trip if you are coming from out of town. See those and more at 20 Free Things to do in Washington DC with Tweens. *Note for 2021: timed passes are free and required as Covid restrictions are easing.
Museums on Us by Bank of America
Bank of America's Museums on Us program offers FREE admission to Bank of America, Merrill or US Trust cardholders (just show your card at the admission window).
Most museums are participating on the first weekend of the month, like the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The fine print says only “cardholders” are free, so the kids will have to pay admission.
Wells Fargo Free Museum Days
*Note for 2021: The Wells Fargo program appears to be paused during Covid.
Museums sponsored by Wells Fargo, such as the Museum of Flight in Seattle and the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, offer FREE days that are open to all. Look on the Tickets page of your favorite museum for more information.
Target's Community Events
Target offers FREE and low-cost museum days at many locations across the country, including Atlanta Children's Museum, Port Discovery in Baltimore, and the Seattle Art Museum. Check the Target Community page for a city near you.
Local Museums' Free Days
In your city, the local museums may offer certain days for FREE. Some museums, like the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, offer FREE admission to visitors with proof of local residence. Check your favorite museum's website for more information.
If you are already have a family membership to a museum, check to see if it includes a reciprocal membership for FREE admission at other museums across the country. We used this feature to visit six science museums in one year!
There are several programs, depending on the type of museum:
- ASTC – for science and technology centers and museums
- AZA – for zoos and aquariums
- NARM – for art and specialty museums
- ACM – for children's museums
Be sure to read how each program works carefully. For some museums, a discount is offered rather than completely free admission for all family members.
As you can see, there are many ways to reduce your family's entertainment expenses when you visit museums for free!