How To Get In To Museums For Free

museums on us - her bags were packed

If you’ve been following Her Bags Were Packed for a while, you probably know I am all about finding great deals and doing as much as possible, while traveling, without going into debt.

I have a lot of different strategies for saving money while traveling , which I’ve talked about before, but one strategy is visiting museums on their free admission or donation-only days. I often do this on Friday nights at the New York Historical Society and Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City and at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. But there’s another free museum admission hack that many people don’t know about: Museums on Us.

Museums on Us is a program sponsored by Bank of America that allows cardholders to access over 200 museums across the United States during the first weekend of the month. All you have to do is show your Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, or U.S. Trust credit or debit card (along with a photo ID) at the ticket counter to get free admission. While I am personally not a big fan of Bank of America and this post is not sponsored by them in anyway, I do appreciate the program and have recently been using it to help me with my “Tourists at Home” goal.

For those of you who don’t know about “Tourists at Home,” last summer I set a goal to keep a traveler’s spirit, even at home. I’m intentional about exploring the place I call home: wandering around neighborhoods I haven’t checked out yet, trying new restaurants, going to the park, and visiting museums. Essentially, doing those things I always say I want to do but never get around to. When I’m not traveling, it’s easy to keep putting things off for another day because I’m tired after a long day of work, or I feel busy or overwhelmed. I don’t feel the same “limited time” pressure I do while traveling because I can always do it next weekend or next month.

But I recently realized three of the Philadelphia museums I have been wanting to visit are part of the Museums on Us program, so I decided to be a little more intentional about my plans this year and put visits to all three museums on the calendar.

In January, I visited the National Museum of Jewish History and have plans to visit the African American Museum in Philadelphia next month and the Museum of the American Revolution in May.

I’ve also been scrolling through the list to see what other museums are accessible with the program in other states. Here are five fascinating cultural institutions I discovered that are participating in the program. If you’re in the area, you may want to check them out.

The Living Desert, California

The Living Desert is located just along the eastern edge of the San Bernardino Forest and is a non-profit zoo dedicated to desert conservation. Visitors can feed giraffe, get up close and personal with lorikeets, hike nature trails, and wander the botanical gardens.

Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado

The Denver Botanic Gardens are considered “one of the top botanical gardens in the United States” and offer visitors a unique glimpse of plants from various climates around the world. In addition to the 17 gardens demonstrating plants that thrive in the rocky Colorado earth, deserts, and mountains, there are also nine internationally inspired gardens, including a bonsai pavilion, Japanese tea garden, South African plaza, and Steppe garden.

National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington D.C.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts is the “only museum in the world dedicated to recognizing the achievements of women artists.” I recently heard that around 87% of the art on display in American museums is by white men. This museum is dedicated to introducing visitors to the artistic work and ideas of women throughout history.

The Florida Aquarium, Florida

Located in Tampa, the Florida Aquarium takes visitors on a unique journey to view marine life from the Florida wetlands, freshwater springs, through the bay, into the coral reef and out into the deep, open seas. You’ll see alligators, pythons, river otters, pelicans, sea turtles, sting rays, eels, sharks, and more.

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Georgia

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is located in Atlanta, Georgia and presents visitors with an immersive “experience of sights, sounds and interactive displays depicting the courageous struggles of individuals working to transform the United States” during the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. The museum’s overarching goal is to connect American history with the current struggle for human rights around the world.