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The Best Free Museums Across the United States

Museums are a great source of entertainment, information and culture. What’s better than a museum? Free museums. The good news is that there are free museums in New York City, the District of Columbia and Los Angeles. Check out our guide to the best free museums America has to offer.

Free Museums in NYC

The Big Apple has no shortage of museums that are either always free or sometimes free. Next time you’re in NYC, check out these free museums:

  • The Bronx Museum of the Arts: This museum focuses on contemporary and modern art, in particular art with roots in the borough of The Bronx. Like all the free museums in NYC on this list, it’s free every day of the week, however there are premium exhibitions and tours.  
  • Federal Hall National Museum: Most people don’t know this, but New York City was once the capital of the United States. The Federal Hall National Museum is the old U.S. Customs House. The original capitol building where George Washington was inaugurated was demolished, but the Federal Hall is a tribute to when New York was America’s political center.
  • New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex: The New York Subway is famous around the world. The museum is conveniently located right in Grand Central Terminal. The gallery annex features a revolving set of exhibitions from the main museum, which is not free.

Free Museums in DC

Our nation’s capital is filled with free museums. Whether you’re looking for art or history, be sure to check out these museums:

  • American Art Museum: The American Art Museum occupies the same building as the National Portrait Gallery, the Old Patent Office, allowing you to kill two birds with one stone. A part of the Smithsonian Institute, the American Art Museum has hosted exhibitions of Diane Arbus and art from Burning Man.
  • National Gallery of Art: This is quite possibly the premier collection of art in the United States today. The Gallery hosts work from such world-renowned artists as El Greco, William Blake and Leonardo da Vinci.
  • National Portrait Gallery: Another museum provided by the Smithsonian Institute, the National Portrait gallery boasts portraits of such American luminaries as Bob Hope, Alexander Hamilton and Steve Jobs in a variety of styles.

Free Museums in LA

The east coast isn’t the only place with world-class free museums. The free museums in LA are the equal of anything else on this list:

  • Getty Center: The Getty Center might be the most physically impressive architecture anyone can visit for free. Exhibitions come through all year long; the collection is so big it needs to be periodically rotated. Paintings, photographs, antiquities, drawings, manuscripts and sculptures are all on display at the Getty Center.
  • Hammer Museum: While you’re out on the West Side visiting the Getty, check out the Hammer Museum. Armand Hammer opened this museum primarily as a place to store his own art collection. Sadly, he died several weeks after it opened. His personal collection is still there, but it’s not all the museum has to offer. Don’t miss the outdoor sculpture collection.

  • LACMA: This museum isn’t always free, but it is every second Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (and there are more opportunities to visit for free if you reside in LA County). The free day is worth scheduling a trip around. Stop by to see Picasso’s Weeping Woman With Handkerchief or Manuel de Arellano’s La Virgen de Guadalupe.

When visiting one of America’s three largest cities, you don’t have to have a lot of money to have a good time. These free museums let you get the most out of your visit without breaking the bank.


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