Here’s How to Score Your Tickets for Free Museum Day

People tour The Dali in St. Petersburg, Fla.
People tour The Dali in St. Petersburg, Fla. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder.

Want to visit your favorite museum or zoo for free? Then mark your calendar for Sept. 17, Smithsonian Magazine’s Free Museum Day.

That’s the day you can get free admission tickets to local museums, zoos and cultural centers. But if you want to snag tickets to your favorite museum, it’s best to make a reservation.

Here’s what you need to know to get your tickets, plus other options for getting free admission to your favorite cultural spots.

How to Get Your Tickets for Free Museum Day

The first step is to claim your free tickets is to create an account on Smithsonian Magazine’s Museum Day page.

You’ll receive a confirmation link, and then you can login to the page. People can get one ticket (which is admission for two) per email address. Once logged in, you can search by your location, name, type or zip code.

The day highlights smaller and specialty museums and cultural centers, though some of the most famous museums in the country are included. Admission to these institutions usually range from $10 to $15, although some can get even pricier.

What to Know Before You Book Your Tickets

Each museum and zoo have their own rules and restrictions for Free Museum Day. Keep in mind these policies when planning your visit:

  • You can only register for one Museum Day ticket per email address.
  • The tickets may not include special exhibitions, IMAX screenings or parking.
  • Some institutions offer free admission for kids, but age restrictions vary.
  • You may be able to download the ticket to your phone, but some places still require you to print your ticket ahead of time. The Smithsonian Magazine has a FAQ section for printing troubleshooting.
  • Some museums may limit entrance if they are at capacity. If you get tickets for a popular destination, consider going earlier in the day.

Who’s Participating?

This is the 18th year for Free Museum Day with museums and cultural centers in 44 states participating (sorry to those living in Alaska, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota or South Dakota). Florida tops the list with the most options — a whopping 41 museums, gardens, history and science centers, and more are free for Museum Day.

You can find the complete list of participating museums at the Smithsonian site.

Getting Into Museums for Free on Other Days

If you can’t make it to your favorite cultural institution on Free Museum Day, there are more ways to snag a free or discounted admission:

  • Some museums are always free, which the Free Museum Day site conveniently indicates.
  • Your local library may allow you to reserve free or discounted passes to local museums, zoos and aquariums.
  • Many museums and other institutions have either free or special low admission times during the month. For example, New York City’s Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum Complex is free on Smithsonian Museum Day, but it also offers free admission on Friday nights from April through September.
  • Active duty military personnel and families can get free admission to many museums through the Blue Star Program.
  • And if you’re ready to get outside, here’s how to visit all the national parks with no entrance fee.

Contributor JoEllen Schilke writes on lifestyle and culture topics. She is the former owner of a coffee shop in St. Petersburg, Florida, and has hosted an arts show on WMNF community radio for nearly 30 years.