How-To: Get Into the Best Museums for Free

by  Mollie Pendexter | Sep 5, 2017
Cooper Hewitt
Cooper Hewitt / iStock

On September 23, museums across the country will open their doors for Museum Day Live! - and it's all totally free. Led by the Smithsonian, which is gratis to visitors every day, this is the perfect opportunity for exploring museums you haven’t been to -- or maybe just seeing some of your favorites at zero cost. In addition, participating museums are partnering with Microsoft to provide specific lesson plans, tours, and interactive learning modules. Tailored to each location, museums will utilize this technology for an even more immersive learning experience. It's easy to participate: just head to the official websitesearch for the museum of your choice, and download your ticket, which is good for two people. Here are a few of our favorite options. 

New York

The Cooper Hewitt Museum: This funky design museum features contemporary and historical design pieces. Located across from the East 90th Street Central Park entrance, the outdoor garden area is a beautiful place to unwind after your stay. (Tickets normally $5.)

Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum: Family friendly alert! Located just off the West Side Highway, this interactive museum features a slew of exhibits, including the spectacular G-Force Simulator 4D experience. Walk the decks of the aircraft carrier ship, formally named a National Historical Landmark, and explore exhibits that feature everything from spacecraft to droids. (Tickets normally $24 for kids, $33 for adults.)

The Jewish Museum: Featuring over 30,000 pieces of Jewish antiques and art, this museum, located in the Warburg Mansion on East 92nd Street is a special look into the history of Judaica. Discover artifacts from famed Jewish historical sites at the current “Archaeology Zone” exhibit or explore Florine Stettheimer take on visual poetry. Visit their outpost of Russ & Daughters for some Jewish-style deli grub -- or even better, grab some takeout lox with schmear and eat it across the street at Central Park’s East Meadow. (Tickets normally $15.)

Bartell-Pell Mansion Museum: Get a historical view of the Pelham Bay Park area or stroll through the kid's gardens with the little ones. Located in the Bronx, this is a great excuse to explore some green area outside of Manhattan. (Tickets normally $8.)


Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl HarborOn Museum Day Live, this historic site and museum will be simultaneously hosting “Living History Day.” Working to bring the past back to life with WWII-era reenactments and activities, this becomes an all-day experience for the entire family. Guest partner Canon USA will be there to loan cameras, as well as host short workshops on photo preservation and black-and-white photograph colorization. (Tickets normally $20.)


Zimmer Children’s Museum: Kids will love this fun and educational Los Angeles museum with exhibits like The Mann Theater where they can put on their own productions. And there's Construction Zone where kids can build while learning about community responsibility. This is a great any-day trip for kids who like to get hands-on. (Tickets normally $7.50.)

Grammy Museum at L.A Live: Calling all music enthusiasts. Explore the rich history of music and the Grammy’s at this interactive collection of historical artists. Established in 2008, the famed Michael Jackson exhibit resides here, and was once home to the likes of the now-traveling “Taylor Swift Experience” and “Sinatra 100.” (Tickets normally $12.95.)


Chicago History Museum: A great museum for all ages, guests discover the story of Chicago’s rich and tumultuous past. With boundary-pushing exhibits like “Facing Freedom in America,” as well as fun-ones like “Sensing Chicago” where you can lounge in a human-size Chicago dog, there is truly something for everyone. (Tickets normally $16.)

Washington DC

United States Botanical Garden: This gorgeous public garden, cultivated by Congress in the 1820s, is not only pretty but a  learning center for botanical sustainability. Featuring the Rose Garden, First Ladies Water Garden, and the Butterfly Garden, there are endless exhibits to spend an afternoon getting lost in. (Always free.)

New Orleans

Southern Food & Beverage Museum: Located on the up-and-coming Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, this is a living history organization dedicated to the discovery and celebration of the food and drink in the South. During Museum Day Live, the museum will play host to a book signing by beloved local Beth D'Addono, who will be signing her new book, "100 Things To Do in New Orleans Before You Die." (Tickets normally $10.50.) 


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