Yes, you can visit some of your favorite museums for free!
It might take some planning but it can be done. So you want to revisit an exhibition with a friend that’s in town or maybe you just can’t afford to go to a museum with your entire family when traveling on a budget. Of course, if you can pay the entrance fee without feeling any pain in your pocket, please support the arts! But if for some reason this isn’t possible, here are some tips and tricks that will let you visit museums for free in the United States!
Libraries Rent Museum Passes
It’s 2018 and I just learned about this! Of course libraries and museums would team up together, right? Many museums have agreements with state/local libraries and Connecticut is one of them. Many libraries in the state of CT provide a “museum pass.” It works much like renting a book. Head to the library, ask for the Library ArtPass and you’ll get a pass that will grant two adults and two children under the age of 17 free entry to museums around Connecticut for a limited amount of days. And then just go back to the library when you’re done and return the pass. If you hand it back later than the indicated date, there will be fees incurred, much like returning a book late, so just have this in mind! Google your state and “library/museum pass” or call up your library and ask them if they have such a program.
Credit Card Perk
Most know that a cool credit cark perk is having car or travel insurance covered when you travel. Did you also know that some credit card companies also let you visit museums for free? Bank of America has the Museums on Us program and cardholders have free access to certain museums in each state on the first weekend of each month. In April I went to the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, CT (just show up and show your card at the front desk) and soon I’ll be visiting the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. And if you’re not sure if your card has this perk, call them or check online. Most museums also have these special program details on their website!
Museum Free Days
Many museums have a free day per year, per month or per week. For example, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, CT has a bunch of free opportunities per month AND per week. If you go between 4 and 5 p.m. from Wednesday to Sunday, entrance is free. EVERY WEEK! The second Saturday of each month is free all day. The MoMA in NYC has also teamed up with UNIQLO and entrance fees are waived every Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. I must admit the lines get a little bit crazy sometimes… as is common everywhere in NYC. If you’re interested in visiting a specific museum, their website will usually indicate the days when the fee is waived!
City/State Resident Perk
Many states and cities provide their residents amazing perks, and having free access to a museum is one of them. For example, if you are a resident of NYC and have the IDNYC, you have access to visit more than 40 museums. You better use that to your advantage. And again, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum in Hartford, CT gets extra points for providing free entry to all Hartford residents every day. Your city loves you, and I would accept that free love.
Reciprocal Membership Programs
If you can support a local museum or one that you especially love, do it. With this option, you are paying to visit one museum for an entire year but if this museum happens to be on the Reciprocal Organization of Associated Museums (ROAM) list, then you also have access to more than 100 museums for FREE across the United States and Canada. This is a great way to save money if you’re interested in visiting museums in different cities!
The North American Reciprocal Museum (NARM) Association is a similar reciprocal program that has access to more than 900 museums!
‘Suggested Donation’ Entry
Some museums across the United States are based on donations on a “pay what you wish” program. For years, the Metropolitan Museum of Art had this type of system and while now there is an obligatory $25 entry fee for adults, I recommend you head to museums that have this system. If you have a family of four or more, you can decide to pay based on your budget! This helped a lot when friends from other countries would visit and I had recently just been to the museum we were visiting.
Most of the time, a current student ID will let you get a discount at museums. At the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, university students can visit for $5 while the normal adult fee is triple this amount. There are some institutions that allow completely free entry to students. For example, if you are a CUNY university student, you have access to almost all of the NYC museums for free.
FREE all the time
The Smithsonian Institution museums in Washington, D.C. are always free. The Yale University Art Gallery is always free, and while technically not a museum, it’s bigger than many museums I’ve visited. To check out my recent visit there make sure you click here! There are some museums that are completely free and open to the public every single day that they’re open.
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