“Where can I find free museums near me?”
Do you love learning about America’s presidents?
Or, maybe you’re a movie buff?
Perhaps you’re a huge art fan?
Whatever your interests are, there’s sure to be a museum out there for you.
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If you’ve ever looked for free things to do near you, visiting a museum was probably on top of your list.
If you fancy a day out to a museum, but don’t want to pay for the privilege, then check out our list of free museums.
Yes, visiting (some) museums is among one of those things you can get for free that you still pay for.
Below, we list free museums in major cities across the country, from NYC to LA.
And, we’ve categorized them by city to make finding a free museum near you easier.
In our list, you’ll find museums that are free all the time, and museums that are free on certain days.
We’ve also listed museums that offer “pay what you wish” admission all the time or on certain days.
Table of contents
- Free Museums in Boston
- Free Museums in San Francisco, California
- Free Museums in NYC
- Free Museums in Philadelphia
- Free Museums in Chicago, Illinois
- Free Museums in Los Angeles
- Free Museums in Portland, Oregon
- Free Museums in Nashville, Tennessee
- Free Museums in Atlanta, Georgia
- Free Museums in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas
- Where Can I Find Free Museums Near Me
- Free Museums Day
Free Museums in Boston
Home to some of the best colleges and universities in the country, such as Harvard University, and plenty of historical and artistic attractions, Boston is a great place to visit if you’re interested in museums.
You do have to pay to enter many of Boston’s museums, but some do offer free admission.
The Museum of Fine Arts is another free art museum in Boston. Its collection includes 450,000 works of art, from ancient Egyptian to contemporary art. Admission is by voluntary contribution, so basically pay what you wish, on Wednesdays after 4 p.m.
The Harvard Museum of Natural History combines historic exhibits from the University’s large collections with new and changing, multimedia exhibitions. If you’re a resident of Massachusetts, then you can enter the museum for free on Sunday mornings, from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. from September to May.
Learn all about the history of Massachusetts at the Commonwealth Museum. The museum has been described by the Boston Globe as a “hidden gem” in the city. Admission to the museum is always free.
4. MIT Museum
The MIT Museum features galleries, exhibitions, demos, workshops, and performances. It’s focused on technology and science. The museum is free to enter on the last Sunday of each month from September to June.
The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston is definitely a place to visit if you’re a fan of modern art.
Admission is free every Thursday from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. and on the last Saturday of the month, admission is free for up to two adults who’re accompanied by children 12 and under during play dates.
Free Museums in San Francisco, California
San Francisco is often voted as the most livable city in the U.S. It is home to a number of historical landmarks, and it offers plenty of museums too.
While you have to pay to enter many of San Francisco’s museums, there are some that offer free admission.
The San Francisco Railway Museum is a great place to visit for rail-fans. It features vintage trains and admission is free.
The Asian Art Museum is a free art museum in San Francisco. Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month.
The San Francisco Cable Car Museum presets cable car history, technology and information. Admission is always free.
The Museum of Craft and Design is free to enter on the first Tuesday of every month.
The San Francisco History Museum is Wells Fargo’s flagship museum. It’s located at the Wells Fargo corporate headquarters in the heart of the financial district, where Wells Fargo first opened for business in 1852. At the museum, you can learn about how Wells Fargo provided banking and express services to pioneers in Gold Rush San Francisco. It’s always free to enter the museum.
Free Museums in NYC
New York City has more free museums than you would think. Take a look, and see what museums you could visit without paying for admission.
Featuring a collection of American folk art from the 18th century until the present, the American Folk Art Museum is a great place to visit. It features more than seven thousand artworks! And it’s always free to enter.
If you enjoy contemporary art, then visit The Bronx Museum of the Arts. It features 2,000 artworks from diverse cultural backgrounds. It’s another museum that’s always free to enter.
Learn about the history and evolution of NYC’s coastal defense systems at the Harbor Defense Museum. It has a collection of military artifacts from the Revolutionary War to World War II. Admission is free.
If you’re interested in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American culture and art, then visit The Hispanic Society of America. The museum includes sculptures, paintings, textiles, archaeological finds and other historical relics. You can enter the museum at no cost.
The Morgan Library & Museum offers a huge collection, started by financier J.P. Morgan, of rare books and manuscripts, as well as old master drawings and prints, and other rare pieces. Admission to the museum is free on Fridays from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m.
MoMA PS1 features contemporary artwork. It’s an affiliate of the Museum of Modern Art. Admission is complimentary.
If you’re a fashion fan, then visit The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. It’s free to enter. Admission is free.
Learn about the Native cultures of the Western Hemisphere at the National Museum of the American Indian. Admission is always free.
The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) is focused on the history, heritage, culture and experiences of people of Chinese descent in the United States. Admission is free on the first Thursday of each month, except on major holidays.
This is a 47-acre property that includes historic farm buildings, an orchard and herb garden, farm machinery, greenhouses and animals, like pigs and goats. It also hosts hayrides for kids at the weekends, so it’s a good place for families to visit.
It holds special events too, like workshops, antique motorcycle and auto shows, and county fairs. Admission is always free for individuals and families, except during public events.
The Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture is a research library dedicated to the history and culture of people of African descent worldwide. It features plenty of exhibitions too.
The New York Public Library Stephen A. Schwarzman Building is home to research collections in the humanities and social sciences. You’ll find exhibitions and great research collections there.
You’ll find circulating, reference, and rare archival collections from the performing arts field at New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Aside from books, you’ll also find historic recordings, manuscripts, videotapes, correspondence, sheet music, stage designs, press clippings, programs, posters, photographs and more at the library.
The Museum of Arts and Design is another free NYC art museum.
Admission is pay what you wish on Thursdays from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.
Socrates Sculpture Park is an outdoor museum and a designated New York City public park. The park is dedicated to art, and it gives artists an open space to create and exhibit their artwork. Admission to the park’s grounds, exhibitions and programs is free!
Visit the birthplace of our 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt. He was born at this brownstone townhouse in 1858. The rooms are furnished as they were when the family lived there, and there are tons of historical artifacts to discover there. Admission and tours of the home are both free.
The 9/11 Memorial Museum is free to enter on Tuesday. These free admission tickets are provided on a first come, first served basis at the museum starting at 4 p.m.
The Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust is a museum that aims to educate visitors about Jewish life before, during, and after the Holocaust. Admission is free on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The Van Cortlandt House Museum is a Georgian-style house built by Frederick Van Cortlandt 1748 for his family. Now it’s a museum. You can view the house, grounds, and historical collection for free on Wednesdays.
The Asia Society and Museum has a collection of Asian art, which includes 300 works from between 1,000 B.C.E. and the 1800s. Visit the museum for free on Fridays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., except during the summer, when the museum closes at 6 p.m.
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) offers a collection of modern art. You can get into the museum for free every Friday evening, from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m.
The Museum of the Moving Image is dedicated to the art, technology and social impact of film, television and digital media. Its home to a huge collection of moving image artifacts, and it also screens hundreds of films annually, and it provides education programs as well.
The museum’s collection now comprises more than 130,000 artifacts. Every Friday, admission is free from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The New York Hall of Science is a hands-on science center. It’s a good place for families to visit. It features more than 450 interactive exhibits. Admission to the center is free on Fridays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
The Rubin Museum of Art is another art museum in NYC that’s offering free admission. You can get into the museum for free every Friday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The Noguchi Museum was founded and designed by Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi. It features 27,000 square feet of gallery space on two floors and a serene outdoor sculpture garden. The museum features a collection of Noguchi’s work, so it’s a great place to visit for those who love art.
On the first Friday of every month, admission to the Museum is free.
The Frick Collection is a museum and research center, which features old master paintings and European sculptures and decorative arts. The first Friday evening of the month, called First Fridays, are free from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., except in September and January.
Also, on Wednesdays, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. admission is pay what you wish.
The Jewish Museum is one of the oldest Jewish museums in the world. It features nearly 30,000 works of art, ceremonial objects and media.
On Saturdays, entry to the museum is free and on Thursdays from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. admission is pay what you wish.
38. Brooklyn Museum
The Brooklyn Museum is a 560,000 square feet museum, making it the second largest museum in NYC. It features an art collection with more than 1.5 million works.
Admission to the Museum is free from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on the first Saturday of every month, except for in September, and from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursdays.
The Brooklyn Children’s Museum features educational exhibits that teach children about world cultures, history, science and nature. The exhibits include live animals and a collection of 30,000 historical artifacts.
On Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., admission is pay as you wish.
The Museum at Eldridge Street Synagogue is an arts and education center at the restored historic Eldridge Street Synagogue. The synagogue is a 19th century landmark with striking architecture.
Admission is pay what you wish on Monday. Every Monday, pay what you wish tours are offered from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
41. New Museum
The New Museum is focused on contemporary art.
On Thursday evenings, admission is pay what you wish from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m.
The International Center of Photography is dedicated to photography and visual culture. On Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. admission to the museum is pay what you wish.
The New-York Historical Society is the oldest museum in New York City. It offers four centuries of history! The collection is huge, and there are changing exhibits on offer as well. On Fridays, from 6 to 8 p.m. admission is pay as you wish.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is filled with pieces from renowned artists, like Picasso, and Kandinsky.
On every Saturday, from 5 to 7.45 p.m., admission to the museum is pay what you wish – cash only.
Free Museums in Philadelphia
Home to 67 National Historic Landmarks, the World Heritage Site of Independence Hall and more outdoor sculptures and murals than any other American city, there’s plenty to see an do in Philadelphia.
What’s great about the city is that it features so many museums, and many of them are free!
The Science History Institute is a great place for science lovers to visit. The museum is totally free to the public.
Independence Hall is where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were both debated and signed. So if you’re a U.S. History buff, then you’ll likely enjoy a visit to Independence Hall!
Admission is free, but you need to get free timed entry tickets. You can get your tickets on the morning of your visit at the Independence Visitor Center, or you can reserve them online or by phone
If you’re a fan of Edgar Allan Poe’s work, then you’ll want to visit the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site. Admission is free.
The Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia is a museum that’s dedicated to contemporary art. Admission is free.
The TUSPM Shoe Museum has a collection of more than 900 pairs of shoes – 250 of which are on display! It’s free to visit the museum, but you’ll need to schedule visits in advance.
Learn about Polish history and culture at the Polish American Cultural Center Museum. Admission is free.
The Ryerss Museum & Library features a collection of family heirlooms, sculptures, paintings, decorative art and Asian art and artifacts. It’s another museum that’s always free to enter.
The Fireman’s Hall Museum Philadelphia is a fire museum that’s focused on the preservation of Philadelphia fire history and promoting fire safety. Admission is free on the first Friday of every month until 9 p.m.
The Liberty Bell is one of Philadelphia’s most iconic sites.
You can learn about it in the Liberty Bell Center. Admission is free.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is another good museum for those who love art. On the first Sunday of every month, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and every Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 8.45 p.m. admission is pay what you wish.
Free Museums in Chicago, Illinois
Chicago was voted at the best city in the world, ahead of NYC and Melbourne by Time Out Magazine. It’s not hard to see why, with great food, tons of landmarks, and plenty of galleries, and, of course, museums to visit, there’s plenty to see and do in Chicago.
Many of the city’s museums are free to enter.
Below, we’ve listed some of the best free museums in Chicago.
Learn about Edgewater history, at the Edgewater Historical Society. It offers free admission.
The Museum of Contemporary Photography is another great place to visit if you’re a photography fan.
The National Museum of Mexican Art is free to enter. If you’re an art fan, it’s another good museum to visit.
The Museum of Science and Industry is the largest science center in the Western Hemisphere. Illinois residents can enter the museum for free 52 days per year.
The Chicago History Museum is another museum that’s free to residents of Illinois. Every Tuesday from 12.30 p.m. to 9 p.m., the museum is free to enter.
The Design Museum of Chicago is a museum dedicated to design. The museum is free and open to the public.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago offers free admission on Tuesdays to residents of Illinois.
The Swedish American Museum is designed to educate visitors about Sweden’s history, present and future. Admission is free on the second Tuesday of every month.
The National Veterans Art Museum, formerly the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum, is dedicated to displaying and studying art that’s produced by veterans from the Vietnam War and other wars and conflicts. This is another museum that’s always free.
The DePaul Art Museum is a museum that features a collection of more than 3,500 objects! It features international modern and contemporary art.
The museum is free to enter.
Free Museums in Los Angeles
Like New York City, Los Angeles is home to tons of museums, ranging from those documenting African American History, to those displaying European artworks.
Whatever your interests, you’re sure to find a museum in the city that suits you!
Fortunately, many of the museums in Los Angeles are free to enter. Some are always free, others are free on certain days of the week or month, and others have a pay what you wish admission policy.
Here are some of the best free museums in Los Angeles.
The Marciano Art Foundation is a contemporary art museum that offers a collection of works from established, mid-career and emerging artists from the 1990s until the present. Tickets to the museum are free, but you’ll need to reserve them online.
The California African American Museum’s offer exhibitions that are designed to enhance public knowledge of African American contributions to society. Exhibitions, programs and events at the museum are always free and open to the public.
Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM) is a museum that’s focused on craft, art and design. On Sundays, admission is pay what you can.
The California Science Center hosts many exhibits. You can view its permanent exhibition galleries for free, but have to pay for IMAX and Special Exhibits.
The Fowler Museum at UCLA offers exhibitions from Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the Americas. Admission is always free.
The Fowler Museum is part of UCLA’s School of the Arts and Architecture.
70. Getty Center
The Getty Center is the campus of the Getty Museum and other programs of the Getty Trust. It’s home to European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts, and photography. Admission to the Getty Center is always free.
71. Getty Villa
The Getty Villa is one of the two locations of the J. Paul Getty Museum. It’s located at the easterly end of the Malibu cost in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.
The villa is home to around 44,000 works of art from the Museum’s collection of Roman, Greek, and Etruscan antiquities of which more than 1,200 are on display. Admission to the villa is free, but you do need to get a timed-entry ticket.
The Hammer Museum includes works by famous artists like Rembrandt, Monet and Van Gogh. Also, it features lectures, symposia, film series, readings and musical performances.
Admission to all exhibitions and public programs is free and open to the public.
The Japanese American National Museum is dedicated to preserving the history and culture of Japanese Americans.
Every Thursday, from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m., admission is free. Also, admission is free all day on the third Thursday of every month.
The Hollywood Bowl Museum is located on the grounds of the iconic Hollywood Bowl venue. The Museum is home to the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame, and also highlights great moments in music, such as classical, Latin, jazz and Rock & Roll. Admission to the museum is free all year round.
75. Homestead Museum
The Homestead Museum is a historic site, which features two homes that date from the 1840s and 1920s, and a private cemetery.
Free guided tours of the historic houses are offered from Wednesday to Sunday
The Annenberg Space for Photography exhibits both digital and print photography. Admission to all exhibits and public programming is free.
The Travel Town Museum is a railway museum in Griffith Park.
Admission is free.
The USC Pacific Asia Museum has 17,000 objects in its collection. Admission to the museum is free on Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on the second Sunday of the month.
The FIDM Museum & Library is a free museum that was founded to serve the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising and the community. Admission is always free to the public.
The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust is a museum that commemorates those who perished and those who survived the Holocaust.
It includes artifacts that have survived the war, the ghettos and the death camps.
It’s free to enter the museum.
The Autry Museum of the American West features galleries that include Native American art and cultural materials, film memorabilia, historic firearms, paintings, and more.
Its collection features more than 500,000 pieces of art and artifacts. Admission to the Museum is free on the second Tuesday of every month.
The Huntington Library features a library, art collections and botanical gardens.
You can visit the museum for free on the first Thursday of the month. But you still need to get a ticket online.
The Kidspace Children’s Museum is a museum for children aged 10 and under. Admission is free on the first Tuesday of the month from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m.
MOLAA is a museum dedicated to Latin American art.
Admission is free every Sunday and on the fourth Thursday of every month between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Free Museums in Portland, Oregon
There are some great museums in Portland and some of them don’t charge for admission.
The Portland Art Museum is an art museum in Portland, Oregon. On the first Thursday of every month, admission at the museum is free from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The Portland Puppet Museum is a museum where you can learn about puppets, and puppetry and its history. Admission to the museum is always free, but you do have to pay for performances and workshops.
The Oregon Historical Society Museum is a museum dedicated to Oregon’s history. Its collection features artifacts, photographs, maps, books, films, oral histories, and manuscript materials. You can visit the Society’s Research Library for free.
The Oregon Rail Heritage Center is a fun place for rail fans to visit. Admission is free!
89. Blue Sky
Blue Sky, the Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts is a research center that’s dedicated to photography. Admission is free.
Free Museums in Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville may be called the music city, but it also has plenty of free museums on offer.
The Tennessee Agricultural Museum is located on the grounds of the Ellington Agricultural Center. It features an extensive collection of home and farming artifacts. The museum is free.
Learn about the history of Tennessee at the Tennessee State Museum. It features plenty of historic artifacts. Admission is always free.
If you’re a fan of the Dukes of Hazzard, then you’ll definitely want to visit Cooter’s Nashville Museum.
The Museum and shop are operated by the actor, Ben Lewis Jones who played Cooter on the show. It features pictures, props, costumes, and memorabilia from the show, as well as vehicles, like Rosco’s Patrol Car. The museum is free to enter.
Free Museums in Atlanta, Georgia
One of the most visited cities in the country, Atlanta has plenty to offer when it comes to museums. And while it may not have as many free museums as cities like New York and Los Angeles, it still has a few great museums you can enter at no cost.
If you’re looking for free museums in Atlanta, then check out these places.
The Georgia Capitol Museum is another historical site that’s totally free to enter.
The Robert C. Williams Museum of Papermaking is focused on the history of paper and paper technology. The museum features more than 2,000 books, and a collection of more than 10,000 watermarks, papers, tools, machines, and manuscripts. Admission to the museum is free.
The David J. Sencer CDC Museum is focused on educating visitors about public health and presents the heritage and accomplishments of the CDC. Admission is always free.
The Fernbank Science Center offers an exhibit hall, an observatory, a planetarium, a library and outdoor gardens. General admission is free.
97. The King Center
Learn about the history of Martin Luther King and the American Civil Rights Movement at the King Center. It’s located in a 23 acre National Historic Site, which brings in a million visitors each year. It features free attractions, like the birth home, the crypt of Dr. and Mrs. King, and exhibits at Freedom Hall, and reflecting pool.
Free Museums in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas
There are plenty of free museums in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The Amon Carter Museum of American Art features a collection of American art, such as paintings, sculptures, and photography. Admission to the museum is free.
The Dallas Museum of Art is a free art museum in Dallas. Admission to the museum is always free.
The Crow Collection of Asian Art is always free to enter.
101. Dallas Contemporary
Dallas Contemporary is a free art museum in Dallas, Texas.
Where Can I Find Free Museums Near Me
Obviously, this list by no means is a comprehensive list of museums that let you in for free in every city or state. This represents a fraction of the list for some of the major cities in the country.
There are tons of other – big and small – museums you can visit for free in your local area.
Here are a few ways to find them
Search on Google
An easy way to find other free museums near you is to search on Google.
Use these phrases to get better results faster:
- “Free museums near me”
- “museums I can visit for free
- “no pay museums near me”
Yes, there are museum directories that list every single museum in every city.
The best ones include:
- Find a Museum: The American Alliance of Museums
- List of museums: Wikipedia
- Museums: Museum Directory
Just enter your zip code or search by state/city and you’ll find museums near me. Obviously not all are free, but you can find out with a simple phone call
Free Museums Day
Wanna visit a museum that is not free normally?
Visit the museum on the annual free museum day!
FMD, sponsored by the Smithsonian magazine, started a few years back. More than 1,400 museums across the country will offer free admission on this day which falls on the fourth Saturday in September. In 2018 it was Saturday, September 22. In 2019, it will fall on Saturday, September 28.
To find a participating museum, check out the Smithsonian magazine’s free museums day directory.
By the way, many museums have their own independent free museum day. For example, a lot of Chicago museums are 100% free on certain days. Ask your local museums if they have anything like that.
For a list of museums and their free days, check out this.
Whether you want to learn about the history of your state, love to see art from around the world, or just looking for something fun and cheap to do this weekend, there’s sure to be a museum on our list that you want to visit.
As you can see there are so many museums that you can visit for free.
So if you’ve been wondering “are there any free museums near me?” then give one of these places a try.
And, don’t forget to leave us a comment below to tell us what your favorite free museum is.