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Free or 'Pay What You Can' Admission Days at Museums & Zoos

Free -- or "Pay What You Can" -- Admission Days at Museums, Zoos and Planetariums

The price of admission to many museums has become so expensive that many people on a tight budget aren't able to see the many treasures these museums hold.

That's why many museums, zoos and planetariums have a "free admission day" once a week, once a month, or even once a year. Other museums have a day when they will accept any amount a patron wishes to pay.

How to Locate Free Museum Admissions ANYWHERE

We have put together just a few examples of these "free" or "pay what your can" admission days to show you that it's possible to get free or reduced admission to even the largest museums.

However, there are many thousands of museums in the United States... and indeed all over the world... and many of them do have free or 'pay what you can' days.

To locate free or 'pay what you can' admissions in YOUR area or any city you plan to visit, go to and search on "free museum day" or "free museum admision" and the name of your city or town. This is a bit easier than going to the museum's website and hunting around for an often 'hidden' mention of free or pay what you can days.


Free Museum Day Directory offers a way to search for the current months free museum days in the following major US cities:

Los Angeles
New York
San Francisco Bay Area

You can also follow them on Facebook and on Twitter.

Some Examples of Free Museum Admissions

Please note that the days and hours of free museum days can change from time to time, or even be discontinued, so please check with the museum for current information before you plan to visit. Also, the webpage we've referenced can change as well, so if you reach at 'not found', try doing the Google search we've mentioned above as these listings are here primarily for 'examples' as there are so many museums that it's not possible to keep up with all changes.


Los Angeles

Carnegie Art Museum (Oxnard) Free Family Day

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Admission is free for all members AND

  • For kids under 18, plus one accompanying adult, through NexGen membership
  • After 3 pm for LA county residents Mon–Fri
  • On the second Tuesday of each month
  • On select federal holidays, sponsored by Target 
    • Martin Luther King, Jr Day
    • Presidents Day
    • Memorial Day

MOCA The Museum of Contemporary Art

Wells Fargo Free Thursdays: Admission is free for all MOCA venues every Thursday, 5-8pm.

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

"...Most months we offer free admission on the first Tuesday, except In July and August, so that we can avoid overcrowding and maintain a quality visitor experience. In their place, we have expanded the program in the month of September, and now offer 13 Free Tuesdays a year..."

Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pits

"...Free general admission on the first Tuesday of every month, except July and August." Admission is also always free to members and children 5 and under.

Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Chase Free Thursday Evenings 5 – 8 pm

UCLA Hammer Museum

  • Every Thursday for all visitors
  • Hammer and Fowler Museum members
  • Students with ID
  • UC faculty and staff
  • Military personnel, veterans and their families
  • Kids under 17-years-old accompanied by an adult
  • International Council Of Museums (ICOM) members
  • American Alliance of Museums (AAM) members
  • Golden State Advantage EBT card holders
  • Museum employees

L. A. Museums with Ongoing Free Admissions

Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Museum and Galleries

Hollywood Bowl Museum " every night before concerts - and daytime all year round."

The Getty Center "...presents the Getty's collection of Western art from the Middle Ages to the present against a backdrop of dramatic architecture, tranquil gardens, and breathtaking views...." Admission to the Getty Villa is always FREE; an advance, timed-entry ticket is required. Parking is $15.

San Francisco

Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

Free Admission: "First Free Sundays Courtesy of Target, general museum admission is free every first Sunday of the month. Additional entrance fees apply to special exhibitions."

SFUSD students are always free. Reduced Admission: Thursday evenings after 5, price of admission is $5. See "Special Museum Nights" Alternatively, enjoy free admission with the Go San Francisco Card or with a CityPass.

Bay Area Discovery Museum "... free on the first Wednesday of each month for a full day of creative and fun experiences for all."

Berkely Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive "First Impressions: Free First Thursdays at BAM/PFA Free admission to the galleries, public programs, and a 5:30 PFA screening, the first Thursday of every month."

California Academy of the Sciences Free on selected Sundays.

Chinese Historical Society of America "Free to the public on the first Thursday of every month"

Oakland Museum of California "Admission is free the first Sunday of every month.... made possible in part by Wells Fargo."

The Mexican Museum Free family Sundays



Miami Art Museum

  • Admission is FREE every Second Saturday of the month. Explore the museum, learn something new and create art with family during this fun-filled afternoon at the Museum. Second Saturdays are Free for Families is presented by MetLife Foundation.
  • Admission is free to those who present a Miami-Dade Library Museum Pass.
  • Admission is free to Mother's on Mother's Day.

Museum of Contemporary Art - North Miami

Free admission for:
MOCA Members
Children under 12
North Miami Residents
City Employees
Bank of America cardholders on the first weekend of each month through the Museums on Us program.



Free and Discounted Admission Days  for Chicago Museums, Zoos, Planetariums and Aquariums

Art Institute of Chicago

" Admission to the Art Institute of Chicago is free to Illinois residents every Thursday from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m."

Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art

"Admission is FREE for Illinois residents on Tuesdays year round."

Chicago Childrens Museum

Target Free First Sunday: First Sunday of every month
Free admission all day for ages 15 and under.
Groups of 15 or more must register by calling (312) 464-8249.

Kraft Free Family Night: Thursday evenings, 5 – 8pm
Free admission for everyone.
Groups of 15 or more must register by calling (312) 464-8249.

Museum of Science and Industry Illinois residents receive a number of free scheduled days each year.

Shedd Aquarium Discount days provide free admission to Illinois residents. Member of Bank of America's first weekend "Us" program with an upgradeable mini-pass.

Chicago Museums Which Always Have Free Admission

Lincoln Park Zoo Free 365 days a year.

National Museum of Mexican Art Always free.



Free Corporate-Sponsored Museum Admissions

Bank of America's 'Museums on Us' program offers free general admission to over 150 participating museums, science centers, botanical gardens and more in 31 states on the first full weekend of every month to BofA and Merrill Lynch credit or debit card holders. You can sign up to have BofA text or email you reminders of current offerings.

Target "Free and Reduced Price Events" Programs So far, there are perhaps a couple of dozen major cities in which Target sponsors free museum admission one day a month. Click on the drop down menu to explore the current month's offerings in any of these cities. You can also visit Target's

Wells Fargo " Wells Fargo’s deep and rich history gives us the opportunity and privilege of presenting free history museums to our many communities. Each museum presents Wells Fargo’s unique role in the growth of America and its area. You can see original stagecoaches, banking and express documents, working telegraphs, western art, gold coins, old money, and more.

Educational tours
Free tours are available for all ages, with a special emphasis complementing state primary and secondary American history curriculums. Students learn of and experience the role of gold in U.S. history, banking, communication, and of course, traveling west by stagecoach.

The museums also tailor tours for senior groups, college students and business professionals.

Teachers and tour leaders: please call ahead to schedule your tour and learn specific details.

All of our 11 museums are free to the public. For locations, hours, and contact information, click on a city from the list below.

Anchorage, AK
Charlotte, NC
Los Angeles, CA
Minneapolis, MN
Philadelphia, PA
Phoenix, AZ
Portland, OR
Sacramento, CA
San Diego, CA
San Francisco, CA


New York

New York City

American Museum of the Moving Image

".... Admission to galleries is free on Fridays, 4:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Asia Society

"... Admission is free to all Friday 6pm to 9pm" (Free Fridays suspended July 1st to Mid-September)

International Center of Photography

"Voluntary Contribution Fridays 5–8 pm. Free Friday night programs in the Museum are made possible, in part, by public funds from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs."

Metropolitan Museum of Art Visitors are now asked to pay full price."The Museum participates in several programs that include free admission for students. All New York City public school students, along with students from Bard Graduate Center, Barnard College, Columbia University, and the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, may visit the Museum for free. Please check with your school administrator to see if your student ID allows free admission to the Museum."

Museum of Arts and Design 18 and under with ID (excluding groups): FREE. Thursdays from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm: Pay-What-You-Wish

Museum of Modern Art "...Admission is free for all visitors during UNIQLO Free Friday Nights, held every Friday evening from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. Tickets for UNIQLO Free Friday Nights are not available in advance. Your UNIQLO Free Friday Night ticket permits you to all other Museum galleries, exhibitions, and films."

National Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Heye Center Free at all times.

New Museum Free Admission on Thursday Evenings from 7 p.m.–9 p.m.

Noguchi Museum

NYC public high school students with a valid ID: FREE
Children under 12: FREE
On the first Friday of every month year-round, Museum admission is pay-what-you-wish. 

The Jewish Museum "... Pay What You Wish Thursdays, 5 - 8 pm.." Saturdays: Free

Special Interest Groups who offer free museum admission

Blue Star Museums "... Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and more than 2,000 museums across America to offer free admission to the nation’s active duty military personnel including National Guard and Reserve and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day..."


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