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:
- 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 22, 2018.
- 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 your local museum or check its website for details.
- Some museums are free all the time. The National Museum of African Art, Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, and the Baltimore Museum of Art offer free entrance to exhibits (with the exception of some special exhibits).
- 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.