8 Ways to Visit Museums on the Cheap

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.

I’m a culture junkie. Whether it’s an art museum or a history center, I want to check it out, and whenever it houses a new temporary exhibition, it lures me in again. The downside of my addiction: Admission fees add up quickly.

To get my fix without breaking the bank, I use a few tricks to score free and cheap admission to my favorite spots at home and when I travel. Though I’ve yet to find a way to get into every venue for free, with these tips, I’ve cut my expenses by more than half.

Get a free pass at your library

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You can check out more than books at many libraries. Some let you check out a pass to get free admission to state and local historic sites as well as museums. Ask your library before you spend money on a ticket to a museum or other cultural attraction!

Smithsonian Magazine’s Museum Day

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Each September, Smithsonian magazine sponsors a free admission day at 1,000+ museums across the U.S. For 2022, Museum Day will take place on Saturday, Sept. 17.

Blue Star Museums

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With the Blue Star Museums program, active duty military personnel and their families receive free admission to 1,500+ museums across the U.S. The deal is available from Memorial Day through Labor Day each year.

Bank of America’s Museums on Us

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If you’re a Bank of America cardholder, you can get free admission to more than 225 participating cultural institutions on the first full weekend of every month as part of its Museums on Us program. The free admission offer is valid for the cardholder only.

Free days

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Most museums offer a free day. Some, like the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, limit the free admission to residents of a specific city or county, while others allow anyone to enjoy the exhibits for free. Call your local museum or check its website for details.

Some museums are free all the time. The National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., and the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) are two that offer free entrance to exhibits (with the exception of some special exhibits).

Save with special passes

The American Museum of Natural HIstory in New York City
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With programs like CityPASS and Go City, you can save 50% on admission to museums and attractions in major metro areas. You’ll need to visit all of the attractions within a certain period of time (about a week), but it’s a good option if you want to explore a city’s high-price attractions on the cheap.

Use reciprocal membership benefits

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I buy memberships to the attractions I visit frequently and then use the reciprocal membership benefits to get free admission to other art museums and history centers when I travel.

Check social media

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Don’t overlook social media. Find the museum’s Facebook and Twitter pages and keep an eye on them for one-day sales and offers for their fans. Some museums offer discounts when you check in on Foursquare, too.