Free museum admission

Where will you go? 1500 museums are free on Museum Day

Smithsonian magazine’s Museum Day is coming up on September 21 and we’re celebrating because on that day 1500 museums will be joining in to offer free admission to anyone who downloads a ticket.

Many science centers, aquariums, zoos and gardens will be offering free admission on Museum Day as well.

The free nationwide event presents a great opportunity to stop in and revisit a favorite exhibit at a local cultural institution or visit a museum in a town you’re visiting without worrying about all the admission fees.

Where can you go?

This year, Museum Day is celebrating the Smithsonian Year of Music, with many participating museums offering special music-themed programming.

The Lightner Museum in Saint Augustine, FL, will host a museum-themed scavenger hunt in its galleries. The music will also demonstrate the electric self-playing violin, the Gem Roller Organ and many other early mechanical musical instruments in its collection;  

The Armenian Museum of America in Watertown, MA will have live Armenian music in the galleries;  

In Missoula, the Montana Natural History City will offer demonstrations and experiments to show and explain how different animals hear;  

In North Carolina, a high school Rock Orchestra will play a selection of train related songs at the Wilmington Railroad Museum;

And in Mumford, NY, the Genesee Country Village and Museum, the state’s largest living history museum will be celebrating early shape-note music with a shape-note sing open to all.

Many all-music-all-the-time museums are participating as well.

Museum Day visitors to MoPOP in Seattle, WA will have full access to galleries and to exhibits dedicated to Jimi Hendrix, Prince, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and more. 

Music-fans will also get full access to the music history offered at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles; to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, VA; and in Memphis, TN, to the Blues Hall of Fame, the Memphis Rock ‘N Soul Museum and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.

And in Kansas City, MO, the American Jazz Museum will host a jazz storytelling session that explores the sounds and styles of jazz and present a screening of “Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary.” 

TThe full list of museums participating in Museum Day, September 21, can be found here. And Museum Day tickets can be downloaded here.

Only one ticket will be issued per email address, but each ticket is good for admission for two people.

(A slightly differen version of my story about Smithsonian magazine’s Museum Day first appeared on CNBC)

Friday freebies: Free admission to parks and museums nationwide

Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago

Museums are great, but admission fees can sometimes make you think twice about checking out the exhibitions.

That’s why we love free museum days such as the Museums on Us program sponsored by Bank of America.

The program offers free general admission at more than 225 museums nationwide during the first full weekend of each month to anyone with a Bank of America, Merill Lynch or U.S. Trust credit or debit card.

This weekend, the first full weekend in September, you can get free admission in Chicago at the Alder Planetarium and the Art Institute of Chicago; in Atlanta at the Atlanta History Center and the High Museum of Art; and in San Francisco at the de Young Museum.

Check out the full list of museums offering free admission this weekend here.

Another year-round free entry program to keep in mind is the Every Kid Outdoors Program.

The program provides fourth graders with free, multi-use vouchers to national parks, wildlife refuges, marine sanctuaries, and forests and is a collaboration between the Department of the Interior, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Forest Service.

The bonus here is that because fourth graders aren’t likely to drive themselves to these sites, the vouchers not only provide free entry for fourth graders, but to all children under 16 in a group and up to three accompanying adults – or an entire car for drive-in parks.

Find details about getting the pass here. Vouchers are valid now through August 31, 2020.

Travel Tidbits for a holiday weekend

Have you had enough barbecue, fireworks and parades yet on this holiday weekend? If you need more things to do, consider going to a museum – for free.

Free Museum Admissions

As part of the Museums on Us program, more then 225 museums, science centers, gardens and other attractions around the country are offering free admission this weekend (July 6 and 7) to Bank of America debit or credit card holders. Many other attractions around the country are hosting special events as well.

Participating museums in the Museums of Us program range from the Seattle Museum of Art to Chicago’s Alder Planetarium and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York.

You can also take advantage of this offer at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan; at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia and the World War I Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. Find more details here.

Curtiss biplane at Henry Ford

History, art or culture – for free – during Museum Day Live!

From “Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline”: ‘Minivan to the Polar Forest,’ by Ray Troll. Courtesy Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center

 

Spending time at a museum, garden, science center or a special cultural attraction is a great way to learn about a new subject or a city you’re visiting. But with some admission prices tipping the scales at $20, the costs of being curious can add up. Especially if you’ve got a family in tow.

That’s why the always-free-entry policy at Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. is such a great draw and why, once a year, Smithsonian magazine hosts Museum Day Live!, an event in which more than 1000 museums across the country waive admission for anyone who takes the time to download a free ticket.

2017 Museum Day Live! takes place this Saturday, September 23 and includes large and small museums in all 50 states.

Seattle’s Museum of Flight is on the list, as is the Carolina’s Aviation Museum, the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor  and Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinville, Oregon.

Visitors are permitted to download one ticket – granting access to the ticketholder and a guest – per email address. A full list of participating venues, including many with special events planned for the day, can be found here.

Here are some of the more than 1,300 participating museums to consider visiting

North to Alaska

Courtesy Anchorage Museum

The Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center Alaska’s largest museum, is celebrating the opening of a brand new wing, refreshed galleries and several new exhibitions. A variety of media in ‘Art of the North’ offer varied takes on the Northern landscape and wilderness; the renovated ‘Alaska’ exhibition looks at the Land of the Midnight Sun through more than 400 objects; and ‘Cruisin’ the Ephemeral Coastline’ presents a quirky tour of Alaska fossils through the eyes of Alaska resident Ray Troll and paleontologist Kirk Johnson (director of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History), who are described, respectively, as “an artist with a fondness for cheeseburgers, ratfish and trilobites” and a “a walrus-and ammonite-obsessed scientist.”

Savings with Museum Day Live! ticket: $15 per adult

Meteorites and microbes

From World in a Drop exhibition at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Courtesy Scott Chimileski and Roberto Kolter, Harvard Medical School.

 

A ten-year participant in Museum Day Live!, Boston’s Harvard Museum of Natural History has just launched ‘World in a Drop: Photographic Explorations of Microbial Life,’ offering a rare and often beautiful view of tiny ecosystems. Equally intriguing exhibits elsewhere in the museum include a huge Triceratops skull, three huge whale skeletons, a 15-foot giraffe, thousands of rare minerals, meteorites and gemstones and the hard-to-believe-they’re-not-real collection of over 4000 glass flowers and plants made from 1887 through 1936 by Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, father and son glass artisans from Germany.

Savings with Museum Day Live! ticket: $12 per adult.

Industrial History 

Photo courtesy of NMIH

 

Housed in a former Bethlehem Steel facility that is more than 100 years old, the National Museum of Industrial History is a shrine to America’s industrial history, displaying industrial artifacts from a variety of industries.

Among the items on display are a restored 115-ton Corliss steam engine that was once used to pump 8 million gallons of water a day, a 13-ton, 20-foot-tall Nasmyth steam hammer, and the Scalamandre “White House” loom that made fabric for every White House presidency from Hoover to Clinton. A temporary exhibition about baseball, “Making America’s Pastime,” shows how balls, bats, gloves and uniforms are made, and how they’ve changed over time.

“The museum opened in August 2016 and many in the community have yet to experience all that we have to offer,” said NMIH spokesman Glenn Koehler, “Museum Day Live! gives us a chance to bring those patrons into the museum and engage them in ways we might have not been able to otherwise.”

Savings with Museum Day Live! ticket: $12 per adult.

Popular culture 

Credit: Suzi Pratt

 

Ten interactive exhibits and galleries at MoPOP, Seattle’s Museum of Popular Culture (formerly the EMP) offer visitors a far-ranging tour of music history, contemporary pop culture, science fiction and fantasy and a variety of offbeat trends.

Beyond galleries devoted to the history and development of the electric guitar, Seattle-native Jimi Hendrix and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, current exhibitions include a photo retrospective about the of the late rock icon, David Bowie, and more than 100 artifacts  and props from the ‘Star Trek’ television series and films franchise.

Savings with Museum Day Live! ticket: $28 per adult

 The Lone Star State in World War I, plus a visit from a national treasure

Drafted men reporting for service. Camp Travis, San Antonio, Texas. Ca. 1917-18. San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. (War Dept.) National Archives

 At the University of Texas at San Antonio, the Institute of Texan Cultures is currently hosting exhibits exploring the history of beer, brewers and breweries in Texas (“Brewing up Texas”); the stories and customs of more than 20 of the earliest cultural groups to settle in Texas (“Texans One and All”); and the role played by citizens from the Lone Star State (198,000 men and 450 women) in the World War I.

Museum Day Live! visitors will get a special treat: from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Eva Ybarra, the Queen of the Accordion and a newly minted recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, will perform in the museum and a documentary about Ybarra’s life will be premiered.

Savings with Museum Day Live! ticket: $10 per adult.

Credit: Adam Rodriguez

 Gardens galore

Not all participants in the Museum Day Live! are museums. In Phoenix, Arizona, the 140-acre Desert Botanical Garden will welcome free ticket holders to explore the wildflowers, herbs, cacti, succulents and other plants on the garden’s five looped trails exploring the Sonoran Desert.

“Our Garden believes in celebrating the impact that all public gardens and museums have on their communities, and we’re so proud to have become one of the unofficial flagships for this annual event,” said, Ken Schutz, Executive Director of the Desert Botanical Garden, “In the short term, we may forego revenue on the actual day, but all the benefits that accrue over time more than make up for that.”

Savings with Museum Day Live! ticket: $24.95 per adult.

(My story about Smithsonian magazine’s 2017 Museum Day Live! first appeared on CNBC in a shorter version.)

 

Free museums this weekend

When I’m not in an airport, I’m checking out museums – especially on the first weekend of each month when the Museums on Us program gives Bank of America cardholders free access to more than 150 museums and cultural institutions around the country.

Adler_Ivory_Telescope

Ivory telescope from the Alder Plantarium

If I could zip around the country, I’d use my bank card to gain free access this weekend to the Alder Planetarium in Chicago (general admission: $12), to see the telescope collection and the temporary exhibition that explores the post-Pluto question: What is a Planet?.

Alder image

I’d also head to American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore to see the Big Hope Show – which is closing soon – and to Morristown, New Jersey to see the Toothpick World exhibition and the fortune -tellers, gambling machines and other early coin-operated entertainment machines at the Morris Museum.

1_Intro_assorted machines_courtesy Morris Museum