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You don't have to spend to visit 30 museums in America

The United States is filled with fantastic museums, housing some of the most fascinating collections, that won't cost you a thing to visit. Here we take a look at 30 of the best free museums in America.

Budget-friendly days out in the United States


By Karlina Valeiko, Love Exploring

Often, cultural and educational attractions don't come cheap. Thankfully, though, the US is filled with fantastic museums, housing some of the most fascinating collections, that won't cost you a thing to visit. Come, we take a look at 30 of the best free museums in America.



The Broad, Los Angeles, California


Established in 2015, The Broad is a contemporary art museum that houses the collection of Eli and Edythe Broad – the sponsors and founders. The museum is not only notable for its incredible works, including two of Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirror Rooms currently on display, but also for the building itself, adjacent to Frank Gehry's iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall. You'll have to book a general admission ticket in advance but it's free.



Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas


This shrine to American art has been in Bentonville since 2005. Big draws here include pieces by Georgia O'Keefe and Andy Warhol, and a cavernous library filled with 50,000 reference books about art and design. The building's unique design, with bold concrete blocks and a sloping copper roof, was the brainchild of leading Canadian architect Moshe Safdie.



National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, Florida


Home to 150 restored aircraft, this is the largest naval aviation museum in the world. The complex tells America's history through flight, showcasing planes that were used in the Second World War and the Vietnam War. A moving photography exhibition pays tribute to prisoners of war, while the flight simulator is a family favorite (you'll need to pay for the latter). Make the most of the free guided tours that run daily. Parking is free too.



Heritage Center and State Museum, Bismarck, North Dakota


North Dakota's official history museum is brimming with relics from bygone eras. It pays tribute to early settlers and boasts an interesting exhibition on local women's role in the First World War. Showcased items range from artworks to antique weaponry, all with aim of preserving "the fabric of life in North Dakota".



The Getty Center and The Getty Villa, Los Angeles, California


With an incredible collection of antiquities, ancient Greek and Roman frescoes and sculptures, as well as one of the most impressive collections of pre-20th-century European art split between the two sites, there's a lot to see. Luckily, both the sprawling Getty Center and Getty Villa offer free admission so it's easy to visit as many times as you like.



Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio


The whole family will love the Cleveland Museum of Art which has a collection spanning more than 45,000 pieces. Kids and adults will be in awe of the huge range of galleries with works hailing from all over the world. Admission is free, although some special exhibitions are ticketed.



Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York City, New York


Focusing on contemporary and 20th-century works by American artists, the Bronx Museum of the Arts is one of the few New York City museums that offers free admission. It's famous for its annual The Artist in the Marketplace program that aims to shine a light on emerging talent. The museum is part of the Bronx's Grand Concourse Historic District – a collection of buildings along the Grand Concourse and its side streets.



The Menil Collection, Houston, Texas


A mixed bag of artworks spanning early to mid-20th century, The Menil Collection houses around 17,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs and rare books, including works by Pablo Picasso and an extensive collection of pop art from Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg. It's the private collection of founders John de Menil and Dominique de Menil, and admission is always free. The museum also offers free parking.



Tennessee State Museum, Nashville, Tennessee


This sizeable institution is the best history museum in the state. It covers a broad sweep of Tennessee's past, from its role in the Civil War to the influence of President Andrew Jackson, who hailed from Nashville. Exhibits include archaic modes of transport, military uniforms and weaponry, as well as models of historic buildings.



Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York City, New York


With an impressive permanent collection of more than 50,000 garments and accessories from the 18th century to present day, the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology is often regarded as one of the top free museums in New York City. Showcasing important and historically significant pieces by Balenciaga, Chanel and Dior to name a few, the museum regularly hosts exciting special exhibitions too, which are also free.



Frye Art Museum, Seattle, Washington


A haven for contemporary art, this gallery opened in 1952. It began as a small private collection owned by local businessman Charles Frye and his wife before it was gifted to the city. The founding collection remains and is a great tribute to German art in particular. Today fresh, rotating exhibitions join it, including those celebrating local contemporary artists.



USS Constitution Museum, Boston, Massachusetts


Never defeated in battle, the legendary USS Constitution remains a major draw for history fans. The world's oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat, Old Ironsides, as it's also known, served during the First Barbary War, the War of 1812 against the UK and became a training ship during the American Civil War. The ship is free to visit on a first-come, first-serve basis but you'll have to bring a federal or state photo ID as it's owned and operated by the United States Navy. The adjacent museum has a suggested admission of $10–$15 (£7.60–£11.40) for adults.



Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland


Free to visit year-round, the Baltimore Museum of Art has a vast store of international works. The institution is more than 100 years old and located in the well-heeled Charles Village District. The best bits include a huge collection dedicated to French artist Henri Matisse (there are more than 1,000 pieces), as well as two sculpture gardens dotted with striking works from talents such as Joan MirĂ³.



The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas


This missionary in San Antonio is famous as the site of the 1836 Battle of the Alamo. Here Texans clashed with invading Mexicans during the Texas Revolution, in a conflict that would last almost two weeks. Today it's a preserved historic site-turned-museum with an education center, bringing to life this pivotal battle. It remains one of the most-visited attractions in the state.



The Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City, Utah


This museum is dedicated to the Mormon migrants who hiked across the nation in the 1840s in search of new land to settle. They ended up in Utah and this site is a tribute to their struggle. It's an Aladdin's cave of curios, including medical tools and unusual Victorian art made from hair.



Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, New Jersey


Princeton's art collections are almost as old as the university itself. Artworks and artifacts have been collected since the 1750s and today more than 100,000 items are stored here, from photographs to sculptures. The Art of the Ancient Americas exhibition is particularly interesting – formed in the 1960s, it includes beautiful ceramics and antique jewelry.



Oklahoma Railway Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma


You don't need to be a train aficionado to enjoy this museum. Compact but absorbing, it houses an antique steam engine, model trains and a whole lot of locomotive history. If you've got a few spare dollars, the 40-minute ride on a vintage train is worth the fee.



Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, Minnesota


The Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) houses a diverse collection of everything from paintings and ceramics to sculptures and silk textiles, spanning 5,000 years and almost all continents. Here you'll find an impressive collection of African art, Native American galleries featuring artifacts like a 3,000-year-old Olmec jade mask and a brilliant collection of European and American paintings, including works by Georgia O'Keefe, Edgar Degas and Roy Lichtenstein.



Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, Albuquerque, New Mexico


This insightful museum is part of The University of New Mexico and through fossils, skeletal remains and more, it recounts 2.5 million years of human history. Permanent exhibitions include a detailed look at our ancestors and a display dedicated to the people of the southwest USA. Temporary shows curated by experts in the field are regularly featured here too.



Arizona Capitol Museum, Phoenix, Arizona


For a good grounding in state history, head to the Capitol Museum in Phoenix. Memorabilia and interactive exhibitions come together to chronicle Arizona's political and cultural past. Prized features include the restored house chamber and a display dedicated to USS Arizona, a battleship that was sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.



The Delaware Contemporary, Wilmington, Delaware


This contemporary art museum opened in Wilmington in 2000. Seven galleries and more than 20 working artists' studios are here, and exhibitions are continually changing. Past displays have included those dedicated to outer space and modern politics, while free events pop up every month. Admission is free although there is a suggested donation.



Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, Alabama


This artistic treasure trove in Birmingham holds more than 27,000 items. It was founded in 1951, with pieces ranging from Native American works to those from all over Europe, Asia and Africa. A highlight is the Charles W. Ireland Sculpture Garden in the upper plaza. A permanent exhibition, it spreads over 13,000 square feet – the focus is a towering water feature designed by renowned American sculptor Elyn Zimmerman.



Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio


The Cincinnati Art Museum houses one of the most comprehensive art collections in the Midwest. It occasionally hosts ticketed special exhibitions, but its main focus lies firmly on expanding its permanent collection, which is free to visit.



Museum of Modern Art, New York City, New York


One of the world's top and most influential modern art museums, New York City's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) houses a comprehensive collection of modern and contemporary art – highlights include works by Vincent van Gogh (including The Starry Night), Paul Gauguin and Henri Matisse. Although the museum charges admission, it's free every Friday evening during UNIQLO Free Friday Nights, from 5.30pm to 9pm.



Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, Florida


Focusing on new talent and emerging artists, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Miami is dedicated to promoting contemporary art. Its permanent collection also features world-famous modern artists like Pablo Picasso and Roy Lichtenstein. Equally as important as the collection is the museum building. Finished in 2017, its geometrical exterior surrounds 20,000 square feet of gallery space and a sculpture garden at the back. Admission is free but guests are encouraged to reserve tickets online in advance.



Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska


This hulking Omaha museum has a huge variety of collections. Most notable is its store of European art (from Renaissance to Medieval works) and its large set of ancient antiquities, including Egyptian statues and Grecian urns. You'll need at least an afternoon to look around, but it won't cost you a cent.



National Air and Space Museum, Washington DC


One of 19 free Smithsonian museums in Washington DC, the National Air and Space Museum is a treasure trove that will take hours to explore. Discover how the world's first plane was built, marvel at Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 extravehicular gloves and visor as well as the command module, and step aboard the cockpit of a real Boeing 747 – the first jumbo jet in the world.



National Museum of American History, Washington DC


Focused on the social, political and cultural history of the United States, the National Museum of American History's mission is to collect, care for and study objects that reflect the experience of the American people. The sprawling collection includes everything from Julia Child's kitchen and the Red Slippers worn by Judy Garland in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, to the original Star Spangled Banner Flag and George Washington's uniform that he wore from 1789 until his death a year later.



National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington DC


It’s free to enter and explore this Smithsonian museum, housed in a striking bronze building, but timed tickets book up months in advance. That’s probably because the breadth and depth of its galleries, transporting visitors through US history from an African-American perspective, is so impressive. Allow a full day to absorb exhibits from iron shackles to costumes worn by black icons.



National Museum of Natural History, Washington DC


The National Museum of Natural History is stuffed to the brim with a collection containing more than 126 million specimens of plants, animals, fossils, minerals, meteorites and more. Highlights include one of the most famous jewels in the world, the Hope Diamond, an extensive exhibition on Ancient Egypt and mummification, as well as the last-known passenger pigeon, who died in 1914.

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Travel Magazine: You don't have to spend to visit 30 museums in America
You don't have to spend to visit 30 museums in America
The United States is filled with fantastic museums, housing some of the most fascinating collections, that won't cost you a thing to visit. Here we take a look at 30 of the best free museums in America.
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