Museums are educational, entertaining and a great way to spend an unexpectedly rainy day when you are in a new city. When you can get into those museums for free, well, that’s just the cherry on top. Here are seven of the best free museums to check out on your next trip.
21C Museum Hotel
700 W. Main St.
Louisville, KY 40202
This nine-room boutique hotel features contemporary art throughout the lobby and public spaces, as well as ina basement gallery area. Admission is free, and exhibits rotate. Grab a flight of bourbon in the hotel bar on your way out, because why not. 21C also has locations in Cincinnati, Bentonville, Ark., and Durham, N.C.
Chicago Cultural Center
78 E. Washington St.
Chicago, IL 60602
The Cultural Center’s might among the Chicago’s museums is a little unexpected, especially since the city is so famed for its art and museum scene. But nestled along Michigan Avenue, the 1897 building could be an art exhibit of its own with this vaulted ceilings, mosaics and stained glass windows. Rotating art exhibitions incorporate the building’s beautiful spaces into their displays.
Cincinnati Art Museum
953 Eden Park Drive
Cincinnati, OH 45202
Cincinnati’s art museum is to die for. Before you’ve even made it into the main galleries, you will have already a mummy and a couple Van Goghs. It’s variety is reminiscent of London’s National Gallery (another fantastic free museum). Occasionally, a special exhibit will roll through town that costs you a couple bucks, but the rest of the expansive museum is free.
The Museum of Bad Art
55 Davis Square
Somerville, MA 02144
This collection of “offbeat” art is a community-driven effort, accepting both monetary and artistic donations. You can decide whether the art is bad or just, well, artistic. The museum is free daily. There are also locations in nearby Brookline and South Weymouth.
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West and 79th Street
New York, NY 10024
This free museum suggests you pay $22 to get in, but that is considered a donation and is not mandatory. You can donate any amount or nothing. Officials understand that those on a budget like to appreciate art and history as well. Check out millennia of history at this museum just off Central Park. See dinosaur bones and get a picture taken with a life-sized version of Teddy Roosevelt.
National Museum of the United States Air Force
1100 Spaatz St.
Dayton, OH 45431
Near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, this interactive military museum gives visitors a look into Air Force vessels through the ages. Visitors can climb in and out of cockpits and see planes soaring overhead. There’s also a nice tribute to Ohio’s own flight pioneers, the Wright brothers.
All 19 museums and galleries and the National Zoological Park run by the Smithsonian Institution are free and open every day of the year except Christmas. Not sure where to start? Head to the National Museum of Natural History (one of the best free museums on earth) at the corner of 10th St. & Constitution Ave. in Washington D.C. to see dinosaur bones, a solid gold Monopoly set and the famed Hope Diamond.