Museums on Us

City break: free dinos and glittering gems in Dallas

If you’ve flying somewhere this weekend and have a free afternoon, check your wallet. There may be free dinosaurs or art treasures in there.


If you’re a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card holder, you’re eligible for a free admission at more than 150 museums around the country – a perk that returns on the first weekend each month as part of the long running Museums on Us program.

If you’re near Dallas, for example, you’ll get free entry at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science , where general admission is $15.

As I learned during an all-too-short visit this week, the museum has five floors filled with 11 interactive permanent exhibits offering everything from dazzling gems and minerals to a bird hall, a dinosaur-filled then and now exhibit and the opportunity to learn about and explore sport, science and space.


Free museums & expensive luggage delivery

Photo courtesy Harvard Museum of Natural History via Flickr

I’m a big fan of “free” and a big fan of the Museums on Us program that offers free admission on the first weekend of each month to more than 150 museums around the country to anyone who has Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card.

The list includes museums, zoos and attractions such as Chicago’s Alder Planetarium, where general adult admission is usually at least $12, and the Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge, Mass. where adult admission is usually $9.

With the money you save, you might want to fly down to New Orleans and hop on one of the new riverboats  now cruising up the and down the Mississippi or buy yourself a meal at the new full-service Wolfgang Puck Express restaurant in Terminal 7 at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), where things like bacon-wrapped meatloaf and oven roasted salmon are now on the menu.

Or use your saving towards the new baggage delivery service being sold by American Airlines and BAGS VIP Luggage Delivery. Beginning Monday, Aug. 6, you can pay ($29.95 for one bag, $39.95 for two bags and $49.95 for three to 10 bags) to have the bags you check at more than 200 U.S. airports delivered to your home, office or hotel instead of having to go pick them up at baggage claim and tote them with you.

Passengers can purchase the service on-line up to two hours prior to departure and, for delivery locations within 40 miles of the airport, expect their bags to be delivered to their destination within one to four hours of arrival.

A good deal? For some, maybe. But keep in mind that the price for Baggage Delivery Service is in addition to the regular bag fees that need to be paid at check-in. And for bags that need to be delivered between 41 and 100 miles from the airport, there is an additional $1 per mile charge and an estimated delivery time between four and six hours instead of one to four hours.

No word yet on whether all fees are returned if your luggage goes missing or if delivery times are not met.

Free admission at 150 museums, courtesy of Museums on Us

Banks don’t give out toasters anymore. But at least the Bank of America is continuing its Museums on Us program.

On the first weekend of each month, more than 150 museums, science centers, zoos and cultural attractions around the country offer free admission to anyone who shows their photo ID and a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card.

Because some museum admission prices hover around $20 now, this is a great way to extend your travel budget while you’re on the road. And it may be a good excuse to see a museum in your town that you’ve always been curious about.

If you’re anywhere near Dearborn, Michigan this weekend, keep in mind that your Bank of America card gets you free admission at the Henry Ford Museum, where the regular admission is $17 ($35 for the Henry Ford/ Greenfield Village combo) and where the Driving America exhibition is the latest attraction.

1955 Chevy Corvette Roadster, courtesy the Henry Ford

Among the many other exhibits inside this 13-acre museum building is a Heroes of the Sky section focusing on the pioneers of aviation.

1928 Ford Trimotor

Make it a museum weekend

 I’m a big fan of museums and a big fan of free.

So that makes me a big fan of Bank of America’s  Museums on Us program, which offers Bank of America and Merrill Lynch debit and/or credit cardholders free admission to more than 100 museums, zoos, science centers and other cultural attractions around the country on the first full weekend of each month.

This is February’s first full weekend, so if you’ve got one of these cards – and supposedly one out of every two households does – it’s time to check the list and go see a museum for free.

The list of participating institutions recently expanded from 100 to 150 museums, so there’s a good chance you’ll find a free museum in your city or in the city you’re visiting.

Where can you go? The list includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, NC, the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, CA, MUZEO, Los Angeles, and the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, MO.  

And  if you happen to be in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and aren’t into football,  you can use your card to get free admission to the Dallas Museum of Art  and the Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas  and the Museum of Science and History in Fort Worth, which includes the Fort Worth Children’s Museum, a planetarium, dinosaurs, an exhibition on energy that includes a 30-foot tall drilling apparatus and the Cattle Raisers Museum, which tells the story of Texas and Southwestern cattle raisers.

Free admission this weekend at more than 100 museums

On the first weekend of every month more than 100 museums, zoos and attractions around the country offer free admission to anyone with a Bank of America card as part of the Museums on Us program.

Visiting one of the participating venues is a great way to stretch a weekend entertainment budget and a good excuse to get acquainted with the work of a new artist or get reacquainted with a favorite animal at your local zoo.

One place on the list this month is the Wichita Art Museum in Kansas, which is hosting a traveling exhibition from the National Air and Space Museum through the end of September.

In Plane View: Abstractions of Flight features 56 large-format photographs by Carolyn Russo showcasing the elegance and beauty of airplane design.  For example, this photo shows grooves in the exhaust cone of the North American X-15.

In Plane View Exhibit at Wichita Art Museum

Can’t make it to Kansas? When the exhibit leaves the Wichita Art Museum, it will travel to the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia and then, in January 2011, to the Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences in Peoria, Illinois.

You might also take advantage of the Museums on Us program to get free admission to the Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan (Saturday only), where the 15 planes in the Heroes of the Sky exhibit includes this 1926 Fokker Trimotor used by Richard Byrd in his attempt to be the first to reach the North Pole by plane.

Ford Fokker at Henry Ford Museum

According to the museum notes:

Because Edsel Ford funded Byrd’s trip to the Arctic, the plane was named for his daughter, Josephine. Tony Fokker, the manufacturer, wanted to be sure no one mistook the plane for a Ford, so he painted the giant “FOKKER” on the wings and fuselage. There’s no heater in this plane, so temperatures inside the cabin could have easily reached -50° F while flying through the Arctic sky.