You can visit many of Milwaukee's museums, parks and the zoo for free. Milwaukee, Wisconsin's most popular cultural destinations offer free admission on specific days throughout the year. This is good news for those who are on a budget or who lack memberships (members receive free admission with an annual fee).
Milwaukee Public Museum
The Milwaukee Public Museum is a natural and human history museum located in downtown. The museum offers free general admission for all visitors the first Thursday of the month. Additional charges apply for the Dome Theater and special exhibitions. In addition to first Thursday free days, there are additional special free admission days:
- Mother's Day - Free for Mothers
- Father's Day - Free for Fathers
- Veterans Day - Free for Veterans and current members of the military
- Grandparents Day - Free for Grandparents
- Memorial Day - Free for Veterans and current members of the military
The museum has exhibits and events for all ages. You'll want to take several hours to tour the Museum's 150,000 square feet of exhibit space where you can "Visit Africa" and stroll through the bustling "Streets of Old Milwaukee" of a century past through life-size, interactive exhibits.
The Dome Theater and Planetarium offers a free planetarium show plus exciting 3D and large screen programming that requires the purchase of a ticket.
Milwaukee Art Museum
The Milwaukee Art Museum, one of the largest art museums in the United States, is an architectural landmark, comprised of three buildings designed by three famous architects: Eero Saarinen, David Kahler, and Santiago Calatrava. The museum houses 25,000 works of art.
The museum offers free admission to children 12 and under every day and free for everyone the first Thursday of every month. The museum participates in the Blue Star Museum program which, on a year to year basis, offers free museum entry to the nation’s active-duty military personnel and their families, including National Guard and Reserve, from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
Be sure and time your visit to see the massive Burke Brise Soleil (“wings”) on the rooftop of the museum open at 10 a.m., flap at noon, and close when the museum closes (weather permitting). The wings were on hiatus for repairs over the summer of 2019, but should resume their normal schedule soon.
Mitchell Park Domes
The Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory is known as "The Domes." The dome structures are actually the world's only conoidal glass houses and serve as the glass conservatory for the plants and event venue. Located just west of downtown Milwaukee, at The Domes, you can experience a desert oasis, a tropical jungle, and floral gardens.
The Show Dome, included with general admission, is transformed five times a year with a seasonal display. Each Show Dome display has a specific theme and plants on display are selected specifically for that theme. Shows last from six to 14 weeks.
Children under five are always admitted free and on Mondays 9 a.m. to noon Milwaukee County residents are admitted free (with ID).
The domes are showing signs of age and various community groups are working diligently to come up with a plan to ensure that the buildings endure for many years to come.
Milwaukee County Zoo
The Milwaukee County Zoo, houses over 3,100 mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles in specialized habitats across 190 wooded acres.
Children two years of age and younger always are admitted free. Milwaukee County residents with I.D. receive free Zoo admission on Thanksgiving day and Christmas day.
In addition, there are annual sponsored free admission days. In 2019 Free days are:
- January 5
- February 2
- March 2
- October 5
- November 2
- December 7
Parking at $12 per car, is still charged on free admission days.
Betty Brinn Children's Museum
The Betty Brinn Children's Museum is located in O’Donnell Park on the second level of the Miller Pavilion.
At the museum, you can become a maker with hands-on projects, explore science or experience the science of motion. Children can roll and race golf balls on tracks, loops and hills to experiment with momentum, friction, gravity, acceleration, speed, and distance.
Classes and exhibits change but, as a rule, it's all about learning through activity and play.
The museum offers free admission is on the third Thursday of every month from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. during Neighborhood Night. Children under one year of age are always admitted free.