Museums

Air & Space Museums to visit free on Museum Day

Most museums around the country are open again and waiting for your visit. And while you will still want to wear a mask and keep your distance from other patrons when you do stop in, on Saturday, September 18 you may be able to visit your favorite museum for free.

Saturday is Smithsonian magazine’s Museum Day, when many museums, attractions, and gardens around the country offer admission for free to anyone who has downloaded a free ticket.

For The Points Guy site, we put together this list of Air & Space museums on the free-ticket list that are certain to please avgeeks. You can read more about the museum in the article and search the Museum Day website for a participating museum near you.

Seattle, WA:  The Museum of Flight (regular adult admission: $25) welcomes Museum Day ticket to the museum’s new exhibit, Stranger Than Fiction – The Incredible Science of Aerospace Medicine, and everything else in their vast collection.

Titusville, FL: American Space Museum (regular adult admission: $10): Exhibits include everything from spacecraft parts to astronaut suits and Soviet cosmonaut mementos.

Hutchinson, KS: Cosmosphere (regular adult admission: $24.50) In addition to having the largest collection of Russian space artifacts outside of Moscow, this museum boasts a collection of U.S. space artifacts that it claims is second only to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

Dallas, TX: Frontiers of Flight Museum (regular adult admission: $10). This museum on the southeast corner of Dallas Love Field and has more than 40 air and space vehicles, 20 galleries (including the Braniff Gallery, the Golden Age Gallery, and a gallery devoted to the history of Southwest Airlines).

New York, NY: Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum (regular adult admission: $33) is a legendary aircraft carrier and a National Historic Landmark that is big enough to house 28 aircraft, the space shuttle Enterprise, a British Airways Concorde, and Growler, the only guided missile submarine open to the public.

Museum Monday: Scientific Instruments at SFO

SFO Museum : Equinoctial inclining sundial  c. 1865

SFO Museum exhibits rare 19th to early 20th-century scientific instruments

SFO Museum: Double-scope theodolite  c. 1890–1910

The newest exhibition from the SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is filled with rare mid-nineteenth century to early twentieth-century scientific instruments.

At a glance, they are clearly works of mechanical know-how and art. But these objects also tell a story about the emergence of modern science and the specialized instruments scientists built and used to explore the world.

From the exhibition release:

When modern science emerged in the seventeenth century, scientists invented specialized instruments to explore the world and universe in a closer, more logical manner. These intriguing devices facilitated the careful study of almost all facets of life through the research and demonstration of ideas and theories. During the nineteenth century, new technologies allowed for the precision manufacturing of scientific instruments. An array of instruments assisted some of the most brilliant minds on Earth as scientists made early discoveries in the fields of electrodynamics and atomic theory.

This exhibition in the Harvey Milk Terminal 1 of the San Francisco International Airport displays a selection of antique scientific instruments and explores their uses. Dates: September 11, 2021, to April 3, 2022.  The exhibit is accessible to ticketed passengers but non-ticketed guests may get access by emailing curator@flysfo.com.

SFO Museum: Geissler tube rotator [with modern tube]  late 19th century
SFO Museum: Helmholtz resonators  c. 1890

Get you free museum tickets

Between shutdowns, staff layoffs, and budget cuts, the pandemic has been tough on museums and cultural attractions across the United States.

But that won’t stop more than 1000 museums, zoos, and cultural centers from opening their doors for free on Saturday, September 18 as part of Smithsonian magazine’s Museum Day 2021.

Each participating museum will offer free admission to guests who present a museum day ticket downloaded from the Museum Day site. Visitors may request one ticket per email and each ticket provides general admission to the ticket holder and one guest.

In addition to offering savings on admission fees, which can be quite hefty, Museum Day gives guests a chance to revisit a favorite museum or explore a new one.

The event, which was canceled last year due to COVID-19, celebrates the reopening of museums and the return of arts and cultural experiences with this year’s theme of Experience America.

You can search by city, zip code, or state for a museum near you. Here are a few examples of museums you might want to visit with your free Museum Day ticket – or any day.

Flight Path Museum & Learning Center at LAX

The Flight Path Museum and Learning Center is a great aviation and aerospace museum at Los Angeles International Airport.

LAX Flight Path Museum airplane models

Gold Coast Railroad Museum: Miami, FL

The museum houses more than 40 historic rail cars including the Presidential Rail Car ‘Ferdinand Magellan,’ and Florida East Coast Steam Locomotive #153. 

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, NY

The legendary aircraft carrier Intrepid is a National Historic Landmark. See 28 aircraft, the space shuttle Enterprise, and enter Growler, the only guided missile submarine open to the public.

Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA

The Museum of Flight is the world’s largest independent air and space museum. It displays over 160 airplanes and spacecraft on a 23-acre campus. The museum’s six buildings include the original Boeing Aircraft factory.

Museum Monday: Aerospace Medicine at Seattle’s Museum of Flight

Smithsonian magazine’s Museum Day returns on September 18, 2021 and on that day more than 1000 museums, science centers, and gardens around the country will be offering free admission to anyone who shows up with a downloaded Museum Day ticket.

Seattle’s Museum of Flight (where regular admission is usually $25) is on the list this year and we’ve already downloaded our ticket so we can go see the museum’s newest exhibit called Stranger Than Fiction – the Incredible Science of Aerospace Medicine.

The exhibit includes dozen of artifacts, including medical kits, airsickness bags, flight suits, and spacesuits. and tells the story of aviation and space adventurers, doctors, and researchers who make it possible for people to fly through the air and off into space.

Below are some of the retro comic book-style images the Museum of Flight is using to help make the exhibit accessible to all. And here is the official Stranger Than Fiction soundtrack, created by artist Leeni Ramadan.

(All photos courtesy Museum of Flight)

Museums & exhibits not to miss

[This is a slightly different version of a story we prepared for USA TODAY ]

As communities begin lifting COVID-19 restrictions, many museums around the country are finally able to reopen their doors.

Reserve a ticket, venture in, and you will find that your favorite artifacts have been waiting patiently for your return. And that museum staff have used their ‘time off’ to mount new exhibitions and create new experiences.

Many free museum admission programs are back too.

“While the museum visit may look a little different, whether that be enhanced cleaning procedures or wearing masks,” says Laura Lott, President and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). “Visitors can expect a safe experience in which their curiosity is sparked, and they feel reconnected to their communities.”

Here are some museums where you can start getting reconnected.

Pawns and Passports at the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis, MO

Courtesy World Chess Hall of Fame

To inspire travel planning, the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis, MO makes a move with “Pawns and Passports.” The exhibition features more than 50 chess sets celebrating the popular culture of different regions. Included is a Russian chess set made from ancient mammoth ivory and an elegant Chinese puzzle ball set, with carved concentric spheres. Exhibition dates: June 3, 2021 – January 30, 2022. Bonus: A virtual tour of the exhibit will be available.

Driven to Win: Racing in America at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. Dearborn, MI


Courtesy Wes Duenkel Motorsports Photography

The sprawling Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, MI is now open daily and revved up with a new permanent exhibit about American auto racing.

Driven to Win: Racing in America celebrates stock cars, sports cars, drag racing, land-speed racing, and more, with plenty of interactive displays, historic race cars, and racing simulators.

The 80-acre outdoor Greenfield Village reopened April 17, but only Thursday-Sunday for now, due to the pandemic.

Bonus: The longing running Motor Muster in Greenfield Village returns on Father’s Day Weekend (June 19-20) in Greenfield Village.

Kusama: Cosmic Nature at the New York Botanical Garden. Bronx, NY

Dancing Pumpkin, by Yayoi Kusama © YAYOI Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts and David Zwirner

A celebration of the wonderfully imaginative artwork of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, who has a lifelong fascination with, and whimsical view of nature, runs through October 31, 2021, across the 250-acres of the New York Botanical Garden. The Kusama takeover includes new, monumental sculptures, expansive floral installations, and soon, a new Infinity Mirrored Room experience.

Bonus: A variety of special programs accompany this exhibit, including weekend pop-up performances and activities for kids.

SOLDIER/ARTIST: Trench Art in World War II at the National WWII Museum, New Orleans

Courtesy National WWII Museum

In New Orleans, the National WWII Museum‘s exhibit “SOLDIER |ARTIST: Trench Art in World War II” presents more than 150 artifacts exploring the unique military pastime of creating art, souvenirs, and tools out of the discarded materials and waste of war.

The collection ranges from ashtrays and jewelry to radios and musical instruments made by prisoners of war. Through January 2, 2022.

Bonus: The art deco Higgins Hotel, on the museum campus, helps tell the WWII story with artifacts, artwork, photography, and personal story plaques.

The American Struggle, by Jacob Lawrence, at the Seattle Art Museum

Panel16, 1956, Jacob Lawrence, from “Struggle: From the History of the American People.” Private collection, ©2021The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / ArtistsRights Society (ARS), New York.

Jacob Lawrence’s revolutionary, 30-panel series, “Struggle: From the History of the American People,” painted between 1954-1956, is reunited for the first time since 1958 in a touring exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) through May 23, 2021.

The modernist paintings depict pivotal moments from the American Revolution to westward expansion, with Black, female, and Native Americans in central roles. This is the only West Coast venue for the show. It moves on to the Phillips Collection, in Washington, D.C. from June 26 to September 19, 2021.   

Bonus: SAM has paired this exhibition with artwork by contemporary young artists that responds to Lawrence’s work and addresses the ongoing American struggle.

#HastagTheCowboy at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City

Courtesy National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

During the shutdown, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City handed over the reins of its social media account to the facility’s head of security, Tim Tiller.

The internet went wild.

“People from all around the world were drawn to Tim’s positive messages and a chance to learn something about the history and art of the American West,” says museum president and CEO Natalie Shirley.

Now that the museum has reopened, there’s a #HashtagTheCowboy exhibit that includes Tiller’s selfie-famous coffee mug and some of the gifts and art sent in by fans.

Bonus: The museum will be holding its annual Chuck Wagon Festival May 29-30, 2021, with chuck wagon and Native food samples, artist demonstrations, Western reenactors, and more.

Virtual museum experiences not going away

During the pandemic, virtual exhibitions and experiences were the only way many museums could connect with their audiences. There were challenges and some upsides.

“Responding to the challenge of the pandemic, we reached 7 million virtual visitors through live, guided programs and on-demand content in 2020,” said Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. “This is something we will continue to do.”

Photo by Bob Delevante.   Courtesy Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum).

In fact, the museum just unveiled two new free-to-access online exhibitions.

Suiting the Sound: The Rodeo Tailors Who Made Country Stars Shine Brighter, explores the artistry of Western-wear designers whose couture designs helped create country’s music’s “rhinestone cowboy” image.

Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City  explores Bob Dylan’s 1960s Nashville recordings, the role Johnny Cash’s groundbreaking television show had in expanding the perception of Nashville, and the ace session musicians, known as the “Nashville Cats.”

Bonus: The museum is offering a variety of educational programming, including a collaboration with Nashville Fashion Week. Check the website for details.

Free Museum admission

Although the pandemic made deep dents in non-profit budgets, many museums reopen with their free admission and discount programs intact.

Others continue to participate in programs offering free museum passes.

Blue Star Museums offers free admission for active-duty military personnel, including the National Guard and Reserves and their families.

Other programs offering free admission include Museums for All (for SNAP program participants), Bank of America’s Museums on Us program (for those with Bank of America or Merrill credit or debit cards), and the North American Reciprocal Museum (NARM) Association, with more than 1000 art and cultural institutions that honor membership cards from other institutions in the network.

Bonus: Smithsonian Magazine Day, which was canceled in 2020, returns on September 18, 2021, with free admission passes to more than 600 participating museums, gardens, zoos, and attractions.