Harvard Museum of Natural History (photo credit Alex Jaffe and the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism)

We all want to expose our kids to the excitement and education that Boston museums have to offer, but culture can often come with a pretty hefty price tag! The idea of paying a large sum to spend an afternoon at the museum can leave many families experiencing sticker shock, and it often serves as a deterrent for lower-income families.

But, good news! Many Boston-area museums offer free (or extremely discounted) admission on certain days throughout the month! Check out the list below!

Boston Fire Museum (Boston)

Open on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., this museum is always free! A quick walk from the Boston Children’s Museum, it is a great place to stop by and learn about the history of firefighting from volunteer firefighters. You may also get to meet Sparky, the firehouse dog!

Coit Observatory (Boston)

The public open night at the Boston University Observatory is not to be missed! Guests can learn some astronomy while observing the night sky through telescopes and binoculars and see things they otherwise might not get to see. The open nights are held most Wednesday evenings throughout the year, weather permitting. Events begin promptly at 7:30 p.m. during the fall and winter months and at 8:30 p.m. during the spring and summer months. Though free, this popular event sells out quickly, so it is suggested that you reserve your space here ahead of time.

The Commonwealth Museum (Boston)

The Commonwealth Museum brings the story of Massachusetts history to life with state-of-the-art interactive exhibits. Its “treasures gallery” holds an assortment of great historic documents that are fascinating to see! Admission is always free.

deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum (Lincoln)

Ages 12 and under are always admitted for free, as are Trustees Members and Lincoln residents. (There is a limit of five free children per adult.) Visitors with EBT, WIC, and Mass Health, as well as METCO students and their families, are eligible for free admission. Please select the EBT option when you check out and bring any supporting documentation to your visit.

Fuller Craft Museum (Brockton)

Visit the Fuller Craft Museum for free at any time! The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge)

Admission is free for all visitors due to a generous contribution from the Estate of David Rockefeller and support from the Office of the President at Harvard University. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. Closed on major holidays.

Harvard Museum of Natural History (Cambridge)

Admission is free to Massachusetts residents every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 3–5 p.m. (September through May). Admission is also free to Massachusetts teachers (K-12), active military and their families, Massachusetts residents who present an EBT or WIC card (with up to five guests), members of the Harvard Art Museums, and Harvard University students, faculty, and staff (plus one guest).

Institute of Contemporary Art (Boston)

Children 18 and under are invited to sign up for the +1 program. +1 is a free ICA membership program enabling members to visit the ICA for free anytime and also invite a guest (their +1) for free!

Adults may enjoy free admission on Thursdays from 5–9 p.m. and on the last Saturday of the month (except November and December), when admission is free for up to two adults when they are accompanied by children 12 and under during play dates at the ICA.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston)

Admission is always free for visitors ages 18 and under, college students, members of the military and their families, and everyone named Isabella. You also get free admission on your birthday!

JFK Library and Museum (Boston)

Admission for children 12 and under is always free.

The MIT Museum (Cambridge)

Admission is always free for children under 5, Cambridge residents, Massachusetts Teachers Association members, MIT ID holders, and MIT alumni (with one free guest), active duty military personnel with up to five family members, and EBT card holders and three family members.

Museum of Bad Art (Boston)

Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. The Gallery is now open in the Dorchester Brewing Company’s tap room, and open during all tap room operating hours. All are welcome, but no one under 21 is admitted after 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

Museum of African American History (Boston)

Children 12 and under are always admitted free.

Museum of Fine Arts (Boston)

Admission is free for all Massachusetts residents on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Memorial Day, Juneteenth, and Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Youths 0-6 are always free, as are military members and their families.

The Peabody Museum (Cambridge)

This museum is free for Massachusetts residents every Sunday morning (year-round) from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 3–5 p.m. (September through May). Proof of residency is required. This spot is always free for Massachusetts teachers (grades K-12), Harvard students (plus one guest), and active duty military members with their families.

The Plumbing Museum (Watertown)

*TEMPORARILY CLOSED* but hoping to reopen soon.

Have a little one who loves potty humor? Yup, there is a museum for that. And it is right in Watertown. And it’s free.

USS Constitution

Visits to Old Ironsides and its accompanying kid-friendly museum are always free, though donations are requested at the museum entrance.

Waterworks Museum (Boston)

The Waterworks Museum guides you through the creation of one of the country’s first metropolitan water systems! Visit exhibitions and educational programs on engineering, architecture, social history, and public health. Admission is always free.

Programs that Give Free or Discounted Admission to Museums

Looking for even more options for visiting Boston museums on the cheap? There are many programs that offer discounts or free admission!

Bank of America

Through their “Museums on Us” program, Bank of America and Meryll Lynch cardholders can receive one free general admission to participating museums during the first full weekend of every month. For a complete list of participating museums, please click here.

Blue Star Museums

Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and museums across America. Free admission to the nation’s active-duty military personnel and their families, including National Guard and Reserve, is granted from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. For a list of participating museums, please click here. We thank you for your service!

EBT Card to Culture

Department of Transitional Assistance clients are welcome to visit a number of museums for a discounted admission rate, or for free, because of the generosity of the participating organizations. For a complete list of museums, please click here.

Highland Street Foundation August Adventures

31 days, 31 events, 100% FREE! August Adventures provides access and opportunities to new and old partners highlighting the geographical and cultural diversity of the Massachusetts arts and culture community. Please note some organizations are requiring advanced registration.

Library passes

Most Boston area libraries have partnerships with area museums, providing a limited number of free or discounted passes that can be borrowed by library patrons. Any library member can reserve a pass to one of the participating museums. Contact your local library for details!

Adventures in Feeding… and Lessons in Gratitude (15)
Deanna Greenstein
Deanna is a mom of five (yes, five) children, who lives in Brockton with her small circus of kids, her husband, their dog Penny, and a few cats. Her life is loud, energetic, mostly fun, often gross (did she mention four of those kids are boys?), and she wouldn't have it any other way. In between carting kids to school, baseball, gymnastics, guitar, dance, track and field and every other kid activity known to mankind, she works as a school bus driver for the city of Brockton, and is the Director of Religious Education at the Unity Church of North Easton, a Unitarian Universalist congregation. Deanna also holds degrees in Elementary Physical Education and Dance Education, which she plans to put back into use one day. At parties, Deanna can often be found hanging out with family pets. She follows her children around with a camera like the paparazzi, is pretty sure that 97% of her blood stream is made of coffee, and her laundry is never done. You can also find her blogging at https://eighteenmoreyearsofburpsandfarts.wordpress.com