Exterior view of Getty Villa Los Angeles

10 Best Free Museums for Days Out with Kids

Aug 28,2022read

Visiting a museum can be a fun family outing but can sometimes get quite expensive. However, there are many free museums across the United States that families can visit that are fun, interactive, and educational.

Here we will go over some of the top free museums in America that will entertain any kid or adult.

National Museum of American History / Washington D.C.

exterior shot of national American History Museum

Photo by Christian Lucas on Unsplash

The National Museum of American History is one of the many Smithsonian Museums that are free in Washington D.C. This museum focuses on educating families on American social, political, and cultural history. Visitors can walk around Julia Child’s kitchen, admire the red slippers worn by Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, and gaze at George Washington’s 1789 uniform. While the museum is free, it does require guests to get a timed entry ticket.

Oklahoma Railway Museum / Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Railway Museum is heaven for any train enthusiast. Children of all ages will love seeing and learning about antique steam engines, sleeper cars, model trains, and the full history of locomotives. Kids will love the fact that they can explore the insides of sleeper trains from the early 1900s or old depots from across the United States. While the museum is free, for a little extra, families can enjoy a 40-minute train ride on select days. During the holidays the museum even has a Halloween Train and a Polar Express Train Ride.

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences / Raleigh, North Carolina

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh is said to be one of North Carolina’s most visited attractions and is the oldest being established in 1879. The exhibits include everything from dinosaur bones to gemstones to asteroids. Children will love the museum’s interactive exhibits and the Kid’s Discovery Room where kids can touch fossils, play with puppets, find animals, and so much more. General admission is free, but some visiting exhibits do require a small admission fee for older kids.

The Alamo / San Antonio, Texas

Photo by Gower Brown on Unsplash

The Alamo Church in San Antonio is free but does require reserving a timed ticket. This famous structure in history was the site of the 1836 Battle of the Alamo, which lasted for nearly two weeks and eventually led to a victory for the Texans against Mexico. The battle eventually gave Texans their independence. Visitors can enjoy private tours, audio tours, and even after-hour tours. Kids will enjoy the musket firing demonstration which happens every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday twice a day.

Museum of Contemporary Photography / Chicago, Illinois

Photo by Daniel Thomas on Unsplash

The Museum of Contemporary Photography is home to over 16,000 images taken by over 1,500 artists. This museum is all things photography, from nature photographs to candid real-life moments. Some of the collections include Czech photography, the Far East Far West Collection, Changing Chicago, Camera Work, and Dorothea Lange, just to name a few. The museum is free, but it is strongly encouraged to reserve your ticket in advance.

Getty Center and Getty Villa Museum / Los Angeles, California

Exterior shot of Getty Villa Los Angeles

Photo by Hester Qiang on Unsplash

The Getty Center and Getty Villa are two separate locations, one being by the ocean and one in the hills. The Getty Center has everything from European art to displays of modern architecture. It also offers an amazing bird’s eye view of L.A. The Getty Villa, on the other hand, is on the coast and includes Greek and Roman art and beautiful gardens. The center also offers events like the Garden Concerts for Kids, which includes live music for the whole family. Admission to each is free, but the museums do require a timed-entry reservation.

National Museum of Mexican Art / Chicago, Illinois

The National Museum of Mexican Art strives to educate others about Mexican culture by showcasing thousands of artworks at the free museum. The collection includes sculptures, photography, textiles, and even performing arts with music, dance, and film.  Guests can even browse the museum shop which has many authentic gifts made across different regions in Mexico.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art / Kansas City, Kansas

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansans City is home to over 40,000 pieces of artwork that range from ancient times to modern and contemporary. The biggest draw to this art museum is the larger-than-life sculptures of shuttlecocks spread throughout the lawn which stand 19 feet tall. Visitors can make a day at this free museum as it is also home to a café and shop. 

National Museum of African American History and Culture / Washington D.C.

exterior view of National Museum Of African American Heritage

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is another free Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. The outside of the museum itself is made from impressive bronze, and the inside is home to art, artifacts, and a wealth of history. While the museum is free, it does book months in advance, so make sure that you book ahead of time.

Heritage Center and State Museum / Bismark, North Dakota

The Heritage Center and State Museum in Bismark, North Dakota includes four galleries spanning history from 600 million years ago to today. The free museum has artifacts, interactive exhibits, and advanced displays. Kids will love the museum’s life-size T. rex skeleton display, the 1950s soda shop, or the newest Fashion and Function display. The Heritage Center also hosts events throughout the month which include evenings out with live bands and educations talks or classes for kids that get them up close and personal with astronaut suits and have them make their own rocket.

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