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    No Entry Fees: The Best Free Museums in the US

    Best Free Museums in the US

    * Where to find free museums and galleries in 12 major cities
    * Some are always free, others are free on certain days or evenings

    Mike GerrardBy Donna Dailey and Mike Gerrard, Editors of 101 USA Holidays

    There are fabulous museums and art galleries all across the USA, where you can see everything from priceless antiquities to cutting edge contemporary art. But hefty admission charges can soon add up. Luckily, there are many free museums, including some of the country’s most renowned art collections.

    Our directory will help you stretch your sightseeing budget in 12 top destination cities. Unless otherwise noted, these museums have free general admission every day (though there may be a charge for special exhibitions and for parking). Others offer free admission on particular days or evenings each month. Most museums offer reduced admission for seniors and children (ages vary), so it’s a good idea to bring ID. Check the websites for current details.

    Baltimore

    Baltimore Museum of Art
    Ranging from 19th-century to contemporary art, the museum is home to the world’s largest collections of works by Henri Matisse as well as an extensive sculpture garden.

    Walters Art Museum
    A broad collection of world art, from Egyptian mummies, to medieval treasures, to Old Master paintings and Art Nouveau jewelry.

    Boston

    Institute for Contemporary Art
    National and international art in a range of media, with a strong collection of works by women. Free Thursdays after 5 pm.

    Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
    Exquisite collection of Renaissance art, sculpture, decorative arts, rare books, letters and more, set in a Venetian-style palace. Free admission on your birthday (ID required), or anytime for those named Isabella.

    Museum of Fine Arts
    A world-class collection from ancient to contemporary times, featuring paintings, drawings, photography, textiles, musical instruments and more. Free Wednesdays after 4pm, and on special Open House days.

    Chicago

    Chicago Children’s Museum
    An experiential museum for kids of all ages, with exhibits ranging from a dinosaur expedition to a tinkering lab. Free for all visitors Thursdays 5-8pm and the first Sunday of each month for ages 15 and under.

    DePaul Art Museum
    A diverse collection of modern and contemporary art from around the world, located on the DePaul University campus in Lincoln Park.

    DuSable Museum of African American History
    Exhibits and activities illustrating African American history, culture and art. Free Tuesdays, all day.

    Glessner House Museum
    A National Historic Landmark and one of the leading house museums in the country. Free admission (guided tours only) on Wednesdays.

    Mitchell Museum of the American Indian
    Dedicated to the history, culture and art of Native American tribes from across the United States and Canada. Free on the first Friday of each month.

    National Museum of Mexican Art
    One of the largest collections of Mexican art in the USA, from ancient to times to present day.

    Smart Museum of Art
    Wide-ranging permanent collection and changing exhibitions, located on the University of Chicago campus.

    Dallas and Fort Worth

    Amon Carter Museum of American Art
    Works in a variety of media by American artists.

    Crow Collection of Asian Art
    Showcases the art of India, China, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia from ancient to contemporary times.

    Dallas Museum of Art
    Extensive collection of art spanning 5,000 years, highlighting cultures from around the globe.

    Kimbell Art Museum
    Fine European collection ranging from Old Masters to Picasso, set in vaulted galleries.

    Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
    Large permanent collection and changing exhibitions. Free on Sundays and half-price on Wednesdays.

    Museum of Geometric and MADI Art
    Striking works of geometric and non-representational art.

    Sid Richardson Art Museum
    Paintings by leading artists depicting the American West.

    Houston

    Art Car Museum
    One-of-a-kind collection of elaborate art cars, plus changing art exhibitions.

    Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
    Changing exhibitions of regional, national and international works of the last 40 years.

    Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
    Exhibitions highlight regional and national artists working in wood, glass, fiber, metal and other materials.

    Houston Center for Photography
    Exhibits highlight emerging photographers and trends, as well as leading photographers of the past century.

    Houston Museum of African American Culture
    Exhibitions, films and other programs that focus on African American culture and experience.

    Lawndale Art Center
    Contemporary art exhibitions with an emphasis on works by local artists.

    The Menil Collection
    Collections include Surrealist works, the arts of Africa, the Americas, the Pacific Islands, the Ancient World, and more.

    Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
    The city’s leading art museum features collections of international art from antiquity to the present day. Free on Thursdays.

    Station Museum
    Changing shows of contemporary artworks that raise awareness of cultural, political and personal issues around the world.

    Miami

    Bass Museum of Art
    South Beach’s leading contemporary art museum has free Family Days on the last Sunday of each month.

    Gold Coast Railroad Museum
    From model railways to steam and diesel trains. Free first Saturday of each month (except March).

    HistoryMiami
    Florida’s biggest history museum offers free Family Fun Days on the second Saturday of each month, with activities starting at noon.

    Institute of Contemporary Art
    Open in December 2017, this is Miami’s newest museum space with changing exhibitions on three floors.

    Miami Children’s Museum
    Among the interactive attractions are a music studio, a construction zone and a cruise ship to play on. Free every third Friday after 3pm.

    Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami
    MoCA is North Miami’s main art museum, with a good Caribbean collection. Free outdoor jazz concerts and admission by voluntary donation on the last Friday of the month.

    Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum
    On the FIU campus, this museum is noted for its Latin American and 20th-century American art collections.

    Pérez Art Museum Miami
    Contemporary art museum in Museum Park. Free every first Thursday and every second Saturday afternoon.

    The Wolfsonian-FIU
    University museum in the Art Deco district with a wide-ranging collection. Free on Fridays 6-9pm.

    Los Angeles

    Annenberg Space for Photography
    Photographic exhibitions, often with music and video.

    Autry Museum of the American West
    Displays and exhibitions covering historic and modern Western life. Free on the second Tuesday of each month.

    The Broad
    Post-war contemporary artworks by leading artists of the 20th century.

    California African American Museum
    Permanent and traveling exhibits on the art, culture, history, experience and achievements of African Americans.

    California Science Center
    A world of scientific wonders. Free, but small charge and timed tickets required for Space Shuttle Endeavour.

    The Getty Center
    Impressive hilltop home of J. Paul Getty’s extensive art collection. The Getty Villa houses works from the antiquities collection. Free admission, but parking fee.

    Hammer Museum
    Paintings, drawings, cartoons, graphic arts and more, plus exhibitions of photography and design.

    Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
    European and American art, rare manuscripts and beautiful gardens. Free on the first Thursday of the month with advance tickets.

    Los Angeles County Museum of Art
    LACMA is the city’s leading art institution, with works from antiquity to the present day. Free on the second Tuesday of every month.

    Marciano Art Foundation
    Private contemporary art collection with works from the 1990s to the present. Free with advance ticket reservations.

    Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
    Features leading and lesser-known contemporary artists at three city locations. Free Thursdays 5-8pm. Always free at Pacific Design Center.

    Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
    The USA’s second-largest natural history museum after the Smithsonian. Free on the first Tuesday of the month (except July and August) and every Tuesday in September. Reservations advised.

    Norton Simon Museum
    Known for its collection of Dutch Old Masters and French Impressionists. Free on the first Friday of the month from 5-8pm.

    Page Museum at the LaBrea Tar Pits
    Fascinating look at prehistoric LA. Free on the first Tuesday of the month (except July and August) and every Tuesday in September.

    Paley Center for Media
    Tens of thousands of TV and radio programs, plus memorabilia. Admission is free, donation suggested.

    New York City

    American Folk Art Museum
    The nation’s leading collection of American folk art dating from the 18th century to the present day.

    Asia Society and Museum
    Small but superb collection of Asian art, collected by J.D. Rockefeller 3rd. Free on Fridays, 6-9pm, Sept-June.

    Bronx Museum of the Arts
    Innovative contemporary art exhibitions, with a focus on artists of diverse cultural backgrounds.

    Brooklyn Museum
    Huge collection of art and artifacts from cultures around the world. Free first Saturday of the month, 5-11pm.

    Children’s Museum of Manhattan
    Interactive exhibits for children to play and learn. Free on first Fridays of the month, 5-8pm.

    El Museo del Barrio
    Collections and exhibitions highlighting New York’s Latino culture. Free every third Saturday of the month, and free for seniors on Wednesdays.

    FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) Museum
    Award-winning exhibitions showcasing leading designers and the art of fashion.

    Frick Collection
    Traditional paintings and sculpture housed in a beautiful mansion. Free on first Fridays of the month (except September and January) 6-9pm.

    Historic Richmond Town
    Living history village and museum that re-creates American colonial life. Free on Fridays.

    Jewish Museum
    One of the world’s leading museums dedicated to Jewish art and culture through the ages. Free on Saturdays.

    Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art
    Dedicated to artworks and perspectives by LGBTQ artists. Admission free, donation suggested.

    Morgan Library and Museum
    Rare books, manuscripts and drawings collected by financier J.P. Morgan and housed in his ornate mansion. Free on Fridays, 7-9pm. Also free admission to the McKim Rooms only (Morgan’s library, study, the rotunda, and the librarian’s office) Tuesdays 3-5pm and Sundays 4-6pm.

    Museum of Chinese in America
    Exhibits on the history and culture of Chinese American communities. Free on the first Thursday of the month.

    Museum of Jewish Heritage
    Exhibits from the Holocaust to contemporary issues. Free Wednesdays and Thursdays 4-8pm.

    Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
    New York’s leading contemporary art museum. Free Fridays 4-9pm.

    Museum of the Moving Image
    Dedicated to the moving image in all its forms, from 19th-century optical toys to digital art. Free on Fridays, 4-8pm.

    National Museum of the American Indian
    The New York branch of this Smithsonian museum, set in the historic US Custom House, highlights the culture of Native peoples across the Americans.

    Neue Galerie
    German and Austrian art from the early 20th century. Free on first Fridays of the month, 6-8pm.

    New York Transit Museum Annex
    Changing exhibitions are free in the museum’s Grand Central Terminal annex.

    9/11 Memorial and Museum
    Moving displays on the events of the September 11 terrorist attack. Free on Tuesdays, 5pm to close.

    Noguchi Museum
    The works of Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi. Free on the first Friday of every month.

    Rubin Museum of Art
    Themed exhibitions on life, art and ideas in the Himalayas, India and neighboring regions. Free on Fridays 6-10pm.

    Studio Museum in Harlem
    Collections and exhibitions showcasing national and international artists of African descent. Free on Sundays.

    Van Cortlandt House Museum
    One of the city’s oldest buildings, depicting life in the Bronx in the 18th century. Free on Wednesdays.

    Philadelphia

    The Barnes Foundation
    The foundation’s 4000 works include fine Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collections. Free on the first Sunday of the month.

    Fireman’s Hall Museum
    Fascinating specialist museum about the history of fire-fighting in Philly.

    The Franklin Institute
    This science museum has numerous interactive zones and exhibits, including The Giant Heart. Free community nights from 5-8pm on the third Wednesday of the month.

    Institute of Contemporary Arts
    On the Penn campus, works by the likes of Andy Warhol and Robert Mapplethorpe are just some of the exciting free displays.

    Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
    Sunday afternoon free family arts workshops include free admission to the oldest art museum and art school in the USA, founded in 1805.

    Philadelphia Museum of Art
    Impressive fine arts museum holding almost a quarter of a million objects and free on the first Sunday of the month and after 5pm on Wednesdays.

    Rodin Museum
    Largest collection of Rodin’s work outside Paris. The gardens, which contain many of his works including ‘The Thinker’, are free though the museum is by a suggested donation.

    Ryerss Museum
    Impressive collection of Oriental art in an 1865 mansion in Burholme Park.

    United States Mint
    Philadelphia and Denver are the only two cities where you can have a free self-guided tour of one of the US Mint’s several operations, including seeing coins being minted.

    Wells Fargo Museum
    The story of the US West begins in the east, and especially in Philadelphia as this popular museum shows.

    Woodmere Art Museum
    Housed in a Victorian mansion, this focuses on artists from Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley. Free on Sundays.

    San Francisco

    Asian Art Museum
    One of the largest collections of Asian art outside Asia. Free on the first Sunday of each month.

    California Academy of Sciences
    This world-class natural history museum in Golden Gate Park is free only four times a year, quarterly on Sundays. Check the website for details.

    De Young Museum
    One of the best fine arts museums in the USA. Free on the first Tuesday of the month.

    Museum of Craft and Design
    Contemporary furniture, jewellery and fashion feature here, with visiting exhibitions. Free on the first Tuesday of the month.

    San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
    Extensive collection and recently expanded, this was the first modern art museum on the west coast. Free on first Tuesday of the month.

    Seattle

    Burke Museum
    Museum of natural history and culture, the best in the northwest USA. Free on the first Thursday of each month.

    Frye Art Museum
    This collection of 19th-century to present-day European and American art was Seattle’s first free art museum. It remains free, including the guided tours.

    Henry Art Gallery
    This contemporary art museum was the first public art museum in the state. It’s free on Sundays and the first Thursday of the month.

    Museum of Flight
    This vast collection is the largest private air and space museum in the world. Free from 5pm on the first Thursday of the month.

    Museum of History and Industry
    MOHAI tells the story of Seattle and the Puget Sound area, with over 4 million items. Free on the first Thursday of the month.

    Olympic Sculpture Park
    Part of the Seattle Art Museum, this separate sculpture park is free daily, from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.

    Seattle Art Museum
    Impressive collection ranging from contemporary art to Native American and other indigenous people’s arts and crafts. Free each first Thursday,

    Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience
    The Wing is an affiliate of the Smithsonian and tells the story of the Asian Pacific American communities. Free on first Thursdays.

    Washington DC

    Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
    Distinctive building and an eclectic collection of modern art.

    National Air and Space Museum
    Largest collection of aircraft and spacecraft in the world and part of the Smithsonian Institute.

    National Archives Museum
    The USA’s story is in this fascinating collection of US historical documents.

    National Gallery of Art
    Matisse, Monet and the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the Americas are among the highlights of this huge free collection.

    National Museum of African American History and Culture
    This Smithsonian museum tells the story of the African-American journey in the USA.

    National Museum of African Art
    This Smithsonian museum has the largest collection of African art in the USA.

    National Museum of American History
    See the original star-spangled banner and be prepared to spend hours in this Smithsonian collection.

    National Museum of the American Indian
    This Smithsonian museum covers the Native-American cultures from all of the Americas, not just the USA.

    National Museum of Natural History
    The best and most visited natural history museum in the world is free and only closes on Christmas Day.

    National Portrait Gallery
    Portraits of the people who made America.

    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Sobering displays on the effects of the holocaust.

    Last updated 13 October 2017

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