Free to See: 20 U.S. Museums

These 20 top-notch museums—of art, fashion, dinosaurs, and more—are free to the public some or all of the time. What are you waiting for? Get a sneak peek of the list below, then find all 20 online. Plus, we want to hear from you. Tell us about another free museum in the comments section below.

Smithsonian Institution Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capital is chockablock with free attractions, and most of the Smithsonian Institution’s 19 museums and galleries are among them. National Mall attractions like the Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, and the iconic Smithsonian Castle are must-sees for all visitors to D.C.

Dinosaur Trail Montana

Travel the free Dinosaur Trail to several locations in Montana. Jordan’s Garfield County Museum has a full-size Triceratops replica, a full T. rex skull, and other Cretaceous fossils from the Hell Creek Formation. About 90 minutes away, the Fort Peck Interpretive Center and Museum boasts one of the world’s most complete T. rex skeletons, as well as creatures from the Cretaceous Sea. Three hours farther on, at the Blaine County Museum in Chinook, visitors can actually handle fossils of ancient dinos and sea creatures.

Fairbanks Community Museum and Dog Mushers Museum Fairbanks, Alaska

The free community museum tells the story of Fairbanks, while a second site in the same building pays particular attention to the faithful, four-legged athletes that helped build modern Alaska. From Native Alaskan sleds to the Klondike Gold Rush days and the modern Iditarod, the Dog Mushers Museum may be the world’s foremost museum dedicated to the topic.

Indianapolis Museum of Art Indianapolis, Indiana

This Indianapolis museum boasts outstanding collections of Georges Seurat and the neo-Impressionists; Paul Gauguin and the Pont-Aven school; J.M.W. Turner; Japanese paintings from the Edo period; and Chinese ceramics. Access to Lilly House, an outstanding example of an early-20th-century American country estate, is included with free admission.

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Help us build our list! Tell us about a free museum near you. Leave the details in the comments section below.

Photo: Mike Heller/My Shot

Sponsored by Toyota Venza

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Comments

  1. Geo P.
    United States
    November 14, 2011, 1:25 pm

    (Posted this as a Facebook comment, but I’ll go ahead and copy it here, as well.)

    In LA, along with the Getty Center, there’s also the Getty Villa, which is an amazing homage to Roman and Greek art and architecture (though you do have to pay for parking).

    The Dallas Museum of Art is amazing, and it’s free quite often–always free for DMA members, free every Thursday after 5:00 p.m. for students and staff with any school’s I.D., and free for everyone the first Tuesday of every month. Also, on Thursday evenings they have live Jazz performances, which is always a treat (especially when it’s free!).

    Miami Beach’s ArtCenter South Florida is absolutely free all the time, and is a wonderful museum that houses both amazing works of art as well as the studios of the artists who make them (often times, the artists will be in their studios and you can chat with them even as they work).

    And I’ve never heard of a Holocaust museum that charged money, but it’s always a humbling experience.

  2. Wanda C.
    United States
    November 15, 2011, 4:32 pm

    In NY you will find The Hispanic Society of America Museum to be an influential source to our American culture. Not only is this museum free but you will find epic sources of Spanish culture, Portugal and Latin America.

    Here you will find information on early Spain, Medieval Art, Golden Age and modern art. You will also find the original painting of Goya a 1797 ” The duchess of Alba.

    The hours are Tuesday-Saturday 10:00am – 4:30pm
    and Sunday from 10:00am – 4:00 pm.

  3. Clarissa Cervantes
    California Science Center
    November 17, 2011, 12:16 pm

    California Science Center is one of the top science museums in the country it has interactive exhibits that appeal to both children and adults. Permanent exhibits focused on living things, inventions and aerospace are augmented with temporary exhibits on all manner of scientific subjects. The permanent exhibits are always free to the public. The California Science Center also has an amazing 7-story IMAX Theater for an additional fee for each IMAX movie.

  4. Clarissa Cervantes
    Los Angeles Museums
    November 17, 2011, 12:24 pm

    A great tool and website for finding free museums and exhibitions in L.A:
    http://www.museumsla.org/mindex.asp

  5. Emma
    November 17, 2011, 9:16 pm

    It’s always great to see free museums, I think a lot of people have reservations when they hear “museum” and normally free entry coaxes them into a visit (which they almost always enjoy).
    Outside the US many people don’t realize that the British Museum is free and skip over it on their London trip. DON’T SKIP IT! It’s truly amazing.
    Other great FREE attractions: Free Ways to Enjoy (most) Tourist Cities

  6. the lazy travelers
    new york, new york
    November 18, 2011, 11:07 am

    though it’s not technically free, the cloisters museum up at the top of manhattan is AMAZING. like the met, they offer a “suggested donation” of $25 to enter, but you can give as little as you’re able to enjoy the museum. the surrounding park, fort tyron park, is free and absolutely beautiful–especially at this time of year!

    we just wrote a post about it here: http://thelazytravelers.com/2011/11/18/bucket-list-takedown-the-cloisters/

    can’t recommend enough!

  7. [...] Free to See: 20 U.S. Museums Posted by Intelligent Travel on November 14, 2011 [...]

  8. bmore_bookish
    Baltimore
    April 12, 2012, 1:34 pm

    The Walter’s Art Museum in Baltimore is now free as well as the BMA.

  9. Tiffany Santos
    Las Cruces, NM
    February 28, 2013, 2:20 pm

    The Zuhl Museum on the Campus of New Mexico State University is always free and has one of the finest collections of Petrified Wood in the world! It is truly jaw-dropping! There are also some incredible fossils and minerals at the museum that will leave you speechless! Wold recommend to anyone in the Las Cruces area! http://www.nmsu.edu/zuhl/

  10. Anita Koester
    Toledo, Ohio
    May 2, 2013, 9:53 am

    The Toledo Museum of Art is free 6 days a week (closed on Mondays). It is one of Toledo’s treasures!

  11. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
    Bentonville, Ark.
    December 24, 2013, 1:01 pm

    Located in the heart of the country in Bentonville, Arkansas, Crystal Bridges explores the unfolding history of America by collecting and exhibiting outstanding works of art that illuminate our artistic heritage and enrich our understanding and appreciation of our nation and ourselves.

    Located on 120 acres of native Ozark forest, Crystal Bridges’ grounds invite visitors to enjoy the natural environment as a continuation of their museum experience. The Museum’s distinctive architecture immerses visitors in the landscape, while three miles of nature trails encourage exploration and reflection.

    Through our ever-expanding permanent collection of American art, temporary exhibitions, and a wide variety of entertaining and educational programs, Crystal Bridges has become an invaluable resource for our community, and a must-see attraction for tourists to Northwest Arkansas. In addition, a number of ground-breaking exhibition and education initiatives place Crystal Bridges at the forefront in scholarship and outreach innovation.

    General admission to Crystal Bridges is sponsored by Walmart. There is no cost to view the Museum’s permanent collection, which is on view year-round.