Most museums offer a day or evening of free admission somewhere within their calendar, but these 7 art museums in major cities are always free to visit. If you're an art lover, but your travel budget is tight, you can still see ancient art in Los Angeles, contemporary art in Houston or Old Masters in New York without needing to pay for a ticket.
If you've enjoyed watching "The Get Down" on Netflix you know that a lot creative people have their roots in the Bronx. Dedicated to contemporary art by New Yorkers of Latin, Asian & African-American descent, this museum is often more on the cutting edge of the arts scene than the downtown galleries.
Bronx Museum of Art
1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10456
Wednesday-Thursday 11am-6pm, Friday 11am-8pm, Saturday-Sunday 11am-6pm, Closed Monday and Tuesday
Cleveland Museum of Art
Probably the best encyclopedic museums in the Midwest, the Cleveland Museum of Art has no admission fee and a robust schedule of family programs. Bring the kids.
Cleveland Museum of Art
11150 East Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44106
Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays 10:00am-5pm
Wednesdays- Fridays 10:00am-9pm
The Getty Center & Villa
A visit to the Getty Center should be mandatory for anyone who visits Los Angeles. Yes, there's a ton of traffic on the 405 and you will need to pay for parking. But the stress starts to wear away as soon as you board the tram that carries you up the mountain to the museum. My husband joked that it felt like we were ascending to "God's house" as we climbed the white travertine steps to the Getty Center.
Fueled by the tremendous endowment established by J. Paul Getty, the museum's collection and special exhibitions are among the best in the world. If you're traveling with kids or friends and family who might be less interested in art, the grounds and gardens will keep everyone engaged and inspired for hours.
The Getty Center
1200 Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90049
Tuesday–Friday and Sunday 10am-5:30 pm. Saturday 10:00am-9:00pm
Further away in Malibu is the Getty Villa. You must make a reservation in advance and you will also have to pay for parking, but the Villa also has free entrance and fees like a visit to Pompeii before Mount Vesuvius destroyed it.
The Getty Villa
17985 Pacific Coast Highway Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
Wednesday–Monday 10:00am.–5:00pm. Closed Tuesdays
Have I not yet convinced you to visit this mind-blowing museum? Bafflingly even die-hard New Yorkers don't seem to know about this jewel box museum stuffed with exceptionally famous paintings from Spain. It's not on the museum mile or downtown near the Chelsea art galleries or the Whitney Museum of American Art, but in northern Harlem on the beautiful Audubon Terrace which was designed to be a cultural campus much like Lincoln Center is today. Trust me, as soon as you walk in, you won't believe your eyes or that you're one of very few visitors there.
Hispanic Society of America
613 W 155th St, New York, NY 10032
Of course Indianapolis would probably contest my statement that Cleveland has the best encyclopedic collection in the midwest so you be the judge. Here you'll find ancient to contemporary art with particular strengths in Neo-Impressionism, textiles and a large number of paintings by J.M.W. Turner. IMA also has great family programs. After a recent renovation and expansion, the museum is poised to be a major leader in contemporary art collections. Go see this museum very much on the rise.
Indianapolis Museum of Art
4000 Michigan Rd, Indianapolis, IN 46208
Tuesday- Wednesday 11am-5pm, Wednesday 11am-5pm, Thursday 11am-9pm, Friday-Sunday 11am-5pm
Unique among art museums, the Menil Collection doesn't believe in using wall labels. Instead, everything about this museum has been designed to give you a one-on-one, entirely personal experience of art. There are two buildings devoted to single artists, Cy Twombly and Dan Flavin as well as works of art from Byzantium, Pacific Northwest Native art and the Ancient Near East.
The Menil Collection
1533 Sul Ross Street Houston, Texas 77006
Federally funded, all the museums that fall under the umbrella of the Smithsonian have free admission. This certainly makes it easier for families and school groups visiting Washington D.C. It's an extraordinary treat for D.C. locals who can pop in to see Julia Child's kitchen anytime they please. Outside of D.C., the Museum of the American Indian and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City are also Smithsonian institutions and also have free admission. These museums are truly American treasures.