10 Tips to Make Museums More Affordable (so you can go more often)

March 22, 2010 MuseumChick

I know many people would like to visit museums more often but feel that the cost can be an obstacle, especially in tough economic times. Many museums rely on admission fees and donations to sustain themselves, so supporting museums with money is important, but if you can’t afford admission prices there are many ways to enjoy museums on a budget.

My goal here is not to say that the cost of admission is not worth it, but instead to get you to be able to get more involved and attend museums more often regardless of cost.

(I made that picture above. Yes, I live in beautiful Paris and spend time inside, making art faced money on Photoshop).

From my experience, here are 10 useful tips to help make museums more affordable:

1. ID Please- Most museums offer a discount to students and/or military, so remember your ID. If you are traveling to a different country, you might need an international student ID. Many countries also require a picture on your ID to be accepted.

2. Online Shopping- Buy tickets online. A museum’s website sometimes offers a discount if you pre-pay and buy tickets online. Another bonus to this is it might help you skip lines.

3. Everyone Loves a Freebie- So, go on a museum’s free day. Most museums have free days or reduced admission days/times. Some have a suggested donation or pay-as-you-wish policy that allows you to pay what you can for that visit. Below is a short list of some:


  • All museums in Paris are free the first Sunday of the month.
  • The Musée de Louvre- Wednesday and Friday nights have a reduced rate (and less crowds).

New York:

    • Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), NYC- Free Fridays from 4-8 pm.
    • Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC- Suggested donation every day.
    • Guggenheim, NYC- Pay-as-you-wish Saturdays 5:45-7:45 pm.
    • Frick Collection, NYC- Pay-as-you-wish Sundays between 11-1 pm.
    • American Museum of Natural History, NYC- Pay-as-you-wish every day.
    • Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, NY- Free Tuesdays.
    • Bronx Zoo, NY- Suggested donation on Wednesday.
    • Whitney Museum of American Art, NY- Pay-as-you-wish Fridays 6-9pm.


      • San Francisco MoMA- Free first Tuesday of each month / Thursday evening half price admission every week.
      • Museo del Prado, Madrid- Free on Tues-Sun from 6-8pm.
      • Guggenheim Berlin- Free admission on Monday

      4. Become a Member- Do you frequent or want to support your local museum? Then it’s probably cheaper to become a member. Most basic memberships will pay for themselves in a few visits, plus you might get some perks like discounts to stores and cafes.

      5. All in the Family- Another perk to memberships is that many museums have affiliated museums that you can visit for free.

      6. The Cheapest Museum is a Free Museum- There are many free museums throughout the world. Check lists online to find them.

      7. Be a Freeloader- Some museums allow members to bring friends free. Does your friend have a membership to a museum? They can get your admission and you can get them a drink and call it even.

      8. One is a Lonely Number- So, buy many tickets at once or a day pass. If you’re on vacation and plan to see many sites, look into city passes or multiple museum tickets. Many places have day/week passes that could save you money when going to multiple attractions in a short time.

      9. Pretend to be a Minor- Many museums have free admission for children.  If you’re planning a day out for the family, then a trip to the museum could cost less then a trip to the movies (and be more educational), unless you are going to see a documentary with the kids, which I doubt.

      10. Get a Credit Card- No, not to charge admission. If you have a Bank of America credit or debit card, they have a program called “Museums on Us” that allows card holders free general admission to more then 100 museums around the US on the first weekend of the month.

      If you have any other museum tips you are welcome to post them in the comments for other readers! Thanks!

      ©2010 Danee Gilmartin All rights reserved

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      6. Ray Betz 12.18.2012

        All the museums in Chicago are free to teachers all the time! It doesn’t matter where you teach. They accepted my insurance card as proof, and I don’t teach in Chicago.

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      8. The Prairie Dog 09.13.2012

        This website http://www.joslyn.org/ will tell you the days that the wonderful Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska is free. Also will give you access to what is going on currently.

      9. David 10.2.2010

        All permanent exhibitions in the municipal museums in England and Scotland are free.

        I am saying this is a very low whisper in case the Coalition Government in England hears my comment and decides to reintroduce entrance fees for museums in these times of supposed austerity…

      10. Serge 09.17.2010

        Every third Wednesday of month in Antwerp museums is free!!!

      11. Olena I. (Ukraine) 09.17.2010

        Alte Pinakothek in Munich sevenfold cheaper on Saturdays!

      12. Barbara Murphy 08.17.2010

        The Art Institute of Chicago is free on Thursday from 5:00-8:00 p.m.

      13. Tricia 07.11.2010

        All of the government owned museums in Washington D.C. are free, but the lines are long.

      14. Jason 04.28.2010

        Hi Museumchick,

        It's another fellow LonelyPlanet blogsherpie…AlpacaSuitcase

        Another tip is to download audio guides for museum tours onto your iPod. We've used Rick Steves audio tour for the Uffizi in Florence last week…it was really good (and free). My daughter and wife are in Paris next week and I've downloaded the D'Orsay and Louvre audio tours as well.

        Thanks – I'll check back again.

        Jason (AlpacaSuitcase)

      15. Kerry 03.30.2010

        several Boston area museums have reduced rates on certain days for Massachusetts residents. I’m sure this is true for museums in other places as well, a good thing to check out.

        also, public libraries in some places have agreements with museums that allow reduced rates or free admission times to library card holders.

      16. Janet 03.28.2010

        The Musee d'Orsay also has reduced rates after 4pm. I went recently on my vacation to Paris and was less crowded in the evening. Thanks for the tips, Museum Chick