Want to Visit Boston-Area Museums for FREE? Here’s How!

Boston Museums - Boston Moms Blog

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 upwards of a hundred dollars 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.

So, what is a family to do?

There is an answer!

Many 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 5 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)

Are you within biking distance of the deCordova? Admission is free to all cyclists who pedal in! If you’re coming by car, ages 12 and under are always admitted for free, as are Lincoln residents and active duty military personnel and their families. (There is a limit of five free children per adult.)

Fuller Craft Museum (Brockton)

Visit the Fuller Craft Museum for free on Thursdays from 5–9 p.m. The museum is always free for Brockton residents and for children ages 12 and under. 

Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge)

Admission is free for youth under 18, members of the Harvard Art Museums, and Cambridge residents. Harvard University students, faculty, and staff receive free admission for themselves plus one guest. Massachusetts residents receive free admission on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon.

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), members of the Harvard Art Museums, and Harvard University students, faculty, and staff (plus one guest).

Institute of Contemporary Art (Boston)

Admission is always free for children 17 and under. Adults may enjoy free admission on Thursdays from 5–9 p.m. and on the last Saturday of the month (except 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 17 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 free for everyone on the last Sunday of each month, September through June. Bank of America cardholders receive free admission during the first full weekend of every month. Admission is always free for children under 5, MIT ID holders, and MIT alumni (with one free guest).

Museum of Bad Art (Somerville)

Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. Admission is free with admission to any film or theater event in Somerville. Otherwise, tickets are $5.

Museum of African American History (Boston)

Children 12 and under are always admitted free.

Museum of Fine Arts (Boston)

Children ages 7–17 receive free admission on weekends, every weekday after 3 p.m., and on Boston Public Schools holidays. Admission is free for everyone on Wednesday evenings after 4 p.m. and during their open house events. Military members and their families are always free.

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)

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 to continue with the upkeep of the ship.

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

If you aren’t able to take advantage of the times these museums offer free admission, there is no need to fret! There are other 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.

Free Fun Fridays

The Highland Street Foundation created Free Fun Fridays in an attempt to increase access to enrichment opportunities for children throughout the summer. Each year, from June through August, multiple sites are opened free of charge.

Library passes

Most libraries have a partnership 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 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