The Top 10 Free Museums in the US
When planning a vacation, you don’t necessarily think of what museums you’ll go to in making your destination decision. But once you get to your destination, you realize that museums are often at the top of the list of things to do. But you’ve spent so much money on your vacation you don’t want to add any extra cost. That’s not a problem. There are museums across the country that offer free admission. They’re great whether you happen to be in town on vacation, live nearby and can make a day trip, or if you want to plan your vacation around some educational fun.
Best Free Museums in the US
Smithsonian (Washington, DC)
The Smithsonian tops the list because it is not simply one museum, but a collection of 19 museums and a zoo all available for free in the nation’s capital. Art, science, history, the Smithsonian has it all. It will take you more than one trip to see it all. Highlights include the Air and Space Museum and the National History Museum.
Getty Center (Los Angeles, California):
In addition to the arrangement of Western art in the museums four pavilions, the Getty offers exquisite views of the city, beautiful gardens and sculptures, and is itself a site to see. Everything is free, from guided tours to lectures, and even parking after 5 pm.
Frye Art Museum (Seattle, Washington):
Opened in 1952, the museum offers a great collection of art available for free viewing. The founding collection includes 230 paintings. Community lectures, guided tours, a film screening and lecture series called Magic Lantern, and monthly musical performances are available mostly for free as well.
Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore, Maryland):
From one painting in 1914 to 90,000 today, the BMA offers art from around the world dating from the 15th century to the present. It boasts the largest collection of Henri Matisse paintings in the world, two beautiful sculpture gardens, and just recently made available for viewing Renoir’s On the Shore of the Seine for the first time in 60 years (the piece had been stolen from the museum and lost for many years).
Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland, Ohio):
Offering one of the widest arrays of art in the country, the CMA’s mission statement is to provide art “for the benefit of all people.” The collections range from African to Egyptian to medieval art and more. Tours of the museum are free as well. In June, the museum hosts an annual, free Parade the Circle event with stilt walkers, puppets, and more.
The Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, New York):
The museum explores the history and evolution of fashion dating back to the 18th century with a collection of 50,000 garments, textiles, accessories, and more. In addition to the permanent collections, there are rotating exhibits that focus on fashion trends and specific designers, as well as offerings from FIT students.
Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago, Illinois):
Opened in 1984 on the Columbia College Chicago campus, the museum has a vast array of photographs, including cutting-edge, new age work. There are exhibits examining the impact of new technologies on the field.
Dinosaur Trail (Montana)
The trail spreads across the state and is a good way to explore Montana while stopping along the way to see a T-Rex skull, Cretaceous fossils, and even get a chance to touch some fossils.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas City, Missouri)
A wide collection of art and artifacts bring visitors everything from African masks to photography to French cabinet work to an outdoor sculpture garden.
U.S.S. Constitution and Museum (Boston, Massachusetts):
“Old Ironsides” is the oldest warship still afloat in the world. Around since 1797, it is no longer an agent of war but an educational relic. Tours are provided by active duty Navy sailors. There is also a museum onshore available for free.
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