I enjoy going to museums. Art, history, science — if it is in a museum, I am going to enjoy it. Of course, if I were to buy a ticket to every museum that I encountered, I could run up quite a bill. My family of four could easily cost $50 to $60 if I were to purchase admission on an ad hoc basis. Fortunately, I have discovered ways that I can minimize the costs of admission and thus enjoy more regularly visits to a lot of different museums without suffering the sting of huge admission fees.
Free Admission Days: Museums are usually non-profit institutions. Accordingly, they very often (and perhaps always) have to offer at least one day during the year in which they allow free admission to guests. Growing up in Boston, I believe that the Boston Museum of Fine Arts allowed us to visit for free on Thursday mornings. I don’t know whether that is still the case but it is always worth calling museums well before you plan your visit to determine whether the museum might offer a free admission day.
Institutional Admission: If you are a student, contact local museums to determine whether they give students free admission (always or on certain days). Many colleges have relationships with local museums that ensure that students can soak in all that the museum has to offer without dipping into student wallets.
Corporate Admission: If you work for a corporation, especially one that supports or sponsors cultural institutions in your community, check with your human resources department to determine whether corporate employees can obtain free passes to visit any local cultural centers.
Reciprocal Admission: Many museums offer reciprocal admission with membership. For the cost of a $55 membership at the Orlando Museum of Art, members also enjoy reciprocal admission benefits at more than sixty other museums in the Southeast. Interestingly enough, when I looked more close at the reciprocal benefits that membership offers, I learned that it may be more advantageous to purchase a membership at a museum that is not located in your hometown, just to use the benefits in your hometown. For example, a membership (at the membership level that comes with reciprocal benefits) at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston costs $350 per year. One of the museums that has a reciprocal relationship with the Boston Museum of Fine Arts is The Art Institute of Chicago, where it only costs $175 to get a membership that offers reciprocal admission benefits. Based on that, Bostonians who are joining the Museum of Fine Arts just for admission benefits would be better served joining the Art Institute of Chicago!
Become a Museum Volunteer: Many museums allow volunteers to visit the museum free of charge. If you have the time and the inclination, consider volunteering as a docent or in some other way. Moreover, your museum experience will be more enriching if you are part of the museum community.
How often do you visit museums? Do you plan your vacations around the cultural opportunities at your destination? Do you enjoy art? History? Something else?