Visiting Museums: How to Save on Admission

In Detroit, there’s always someplace to go. It’s great that there’s never a shortage of kid-friendly places to take my son on the weekends. We’re within driving distance of just about any kind of educational attraction you could hope to visit. Even though he’s still pretty young, we find tons of things to do that keep my son engaged and learning.

The downside is that these things cost money. Museum admissions generally aren’t cheap. If you’re taking a whole family, you should plan ahead to try to knock some dollars off the price. Here are some ways to save money on museum admissions, no matter where you live.

Free Admission Days – A lot of museums are non-profits. Check with your local museums to see if and when they have “free” days. Just by Googling the phrase “free admission days,” I came up with a ton of results for places all around the country that offer free admission. For example, the National Park Service offers “Free Entrance Days” for things like Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Get Outdoors Day, and Veterans Day. I also found a page that details all the free museum days throughout Los Angeles. Many museums have free days once a month; while others have weekly times and dates that you won’t have to pay admission. If you don’t mind crowds, and you plan ahead, it’s not too hard to get free admission to a museum.

Reciprocal Admission – If you like to go to a different place every time, it’s probably your cheapest option to buy membership to a museum which offers reciprocal admission. What does this mean? By purchasing a membership to one museum, you’ll get discounted or free tickets to other museums that are on the “reciprocal list.” I currently do this with my zoo membership, because we get half-off admission to pretty much any major zoo and aquarium across the U.S. and Canada. If you choose to buy a membership that offers this benefit, keep in mind that it may be a better bargain to purchase your membership from an out-of-town museum, even if it’s one you don’t visit frequently. For example, if membership at the museum in town is $200, but membership at the museum five hours away is only $75, you’ll save on the purchase price, and still be able to use your reciprocal benefits at your hometown place.

Bank of America – One of the big attractions near me, The Henry Ford, is pretty expensive. (Like over $17 a person expensive!) I’ve been hunting for discount tickets to this museum for some time now so I can take my son there to see the old trains and cars. As I’m typing this, I’m patting myself on the back for finding free admission. Turns out, Bank of America customers get free admission the first weekend of every month to over 150 museums nationwide. It’s called the “Museums on Us” program. All you have to do is present your Bank of America credit or debit card, as well as a valid photo I.D., and you’re in!

Daily Deal Sites – I am a super-Grouponer. While these sites are bad for the impulse buyer, I use Groupon, Living Social, and Half Off Depot to buy tickets to places or events that we’ve been wanting to visit. They sometimes offer discounts to museums, theme parks and zoos, so keep your eyes peeled.

Go Card – I found a pretty cool travel website called Smart Destinations that sells “Go Cards.” How does a Go Card work? You purchase this card before your visit to the city of your choice. The card gets you into every attraction that’s included, at no additional cost. For example, if you purchase a “Go Chicago Card,” you’ll get into 26 different attractions, from the Shedd Aquarium to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Only select major cities are available, and the price varies by how many days you’d like to use it. You can choose from 1, 2, 3, 5 or 7 days, for prices ranging from $71.99 to $179.99 for an adult. This might seem expensive, but think about how much you’d spend on admission to just one of those places. Typical admission prices range from as low as $3 a person to as high as $80. For a one-day card, you’d pay $71.99, but you could go to as many attractions as you could fit in one day. While it’s not worthwhile if you’re just a one-attraction-a-day type family, it can save you big bucks if you want to do and see EVERYTHING.

Ask for discounts – Are you a student? A senior citizen? A teacher? An active military member? You’ll get discounts more places than you think, as long as you’re not afraid to ask. I get a lot of discounts with my AAA card, and you might be eligible for some if you’re a union member as well. Do your homework if you’d like to save some money.

Planning ahead can help you get into most major attractions for very little money. Hopefully this helped you find cheaper ways to get to the places you want to go.

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2 Responses to Visiting Museums: How to Save on Admission

  1. Dakota August 2, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    The Bank of America trick sounds amazing! I may have to open an account just to take advantage of this.

  2. Aly August 12, 2013 at 10:25 pm #

    The local grocery store Meijers sells discount tickets to the Ford Museum $13.50 instead of $17+ for adults they sell discounted student tickets as well.

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