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Apr 272012

I’m a culture junkie. Whether it’s an art museum or a history center, I want to check it out, and whenever it houses a new temporary exhibition, it lures me in again. The downside of my addiction: Admission fees add up quickly. To get my fix without breaking the bank, I use a few tricks to score free and cheap admission to my favorite spots at home and when I travel. Though I’ve yet to find a way to get into every venue for free, with these tips, I’ve cut my expenses by more than half.

Here are nine ways to visit museums on the cheap:

  • You can get free and reduced-price admission to museums, attractions, performing arts events, and more as part of Target’s Arts, Culture + Design program. The dates and deals vary by city. A word of warning before you head out: The free admission days, like at Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta, and the $1 Family Nights, like at the Children’s Museum of Richmond, are popular events; expect crowds and lines.
  • Each September, Smithsonian magazine sponsors a free admission day at 1,000+ museums across the U.S. Museum Day Live will take place on Saturday, September 29, 2012.
  • With the Blue Star Museums program, active duty military personnel and their families receive free admission to 1,500+ museums in the U.S. The deal is available from Memorial Day (May 28) through Labor Day (September 3).
  • If you’re a Bank of America cardholder, you can get free admission to participating museums on the first full weekend of the month as part of its Museums on Us program. The free admission offer is valid for the cardholder only.
  • Most museums offer a free day. Some, like the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, limit the free admission to residents of a specific city or county, while others allow anyone to enjoy the exhibitions for free. Call the museum or check its website for details.
  • You can check out more than books at many libraries. In Georgia, library cardholders can check out a pass to get free admission to state historic sites as well as Zoo Atlanta. Libraries in Denver, Miami and elsewhere also have museum passes they let patrons check out. Ask your library.
  • With programs like CityPASS & Smart Destinations, you can save 50% on admission to museums and attractions in major metro areas. You’ll need to visit all of the attractions within a certain period of time (about a week), but it’s a good option if you want to explore a city’s high-price attractions on the cheap.
  • I buy memberships to the attractions I visit frequently and then use the reciprocal membership benefits to get free admission to art museums and history centers when I travel.
  • Don’t overlook social media. Find the museum’s Facebook and Twitter pages and keep an eye on them for one-day sales and offers for their fans. Some museums offer discounts when you check in on FourSquare, too.

Jennifer Maciejewski

Jennifer Maciejewski writes about anything that piques her curiosity, with profiles and service pieces ranking among her favorites. In 2008, she created Atlanta on the Cheap to teach herself how to blog and use social media plus create an easy way to tell people about fun (and often free) things to do in the ATL. What started as a side project soon became her primary business, and in 2011, she added RVA (Richmond) on the Cheap to the mix. She spends her free time exploring all that Atlanta and Richmond, her hometown, have to offer (on the cheap, of course).

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