8 Amazing Free Museums in the United States

By Stephanie Yoder,

The United States has some of the top art, science and history museums in the world. While some have high entrance-fees, there are quite a few really excellent free museums all over the country. Here are 8 of the most impressive FREE museums in the United States!

The World’s Largest Museum Complex

 Free museums in Washington DC
Photo by Eric B. Walker

The nation’s most famous museum complex, the Smithsonian is actually the world’s largest. It consists of 19 museums in total, including the National Zoo, all of which can be visited by anyone, totally free of charge. It would be impossible to explore everything on offer here, but the most popular museums on the National Mall include the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History and the National American History Museum, where you can find important artifacts like Lincoln’s top hat and the original star-spangled banner.

Classic to Contemporary

National Gallery Napoleon Photo by NCinDC 

Adjacent to, but not part of the Smithsonian is the National Gallery of Art and its playful Sculpture Garden. The East Building is dedicated to modern and contemporary art, including works by Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol and more. An underground walkway connects it to the West Building, which focuses primarily on European Masters including everyone from Rembrandt to Monet and even Leonardo Da Vinci.

Battle for Texan Independence

Alamo Texas
Photo by tyle_r

Texas will always remember the Alamo, site of the most famous battle of Texan independence. Now the former Catholic Mission and fortress is one of the most visited historical attractions in the US. Visitors can check out a museum dedicated to the battle and tour the old mission. The museum is free and funded completely by gift shop purchases, so be sure to pick up a postcard.

Courtyards, Gardens and Art in LA

Getty Museum Los Angeles
Photo by Rictor Norton & David Allen

The Getty is one of the most beautiful museums in the United States and it is completely free to visit. Its centerpiece is the Getty Museum that features western art from the Middle Ages onward including famous Titian’s, Van Goghs and Rembrandts. The museum is surrounded by a beautiful campus of courtyards and gardens that shouldn’t be skipped.

The most famous outfits in history

Fashion Institute of Technology New York City
Photo by Milo Baumgartner 

The Fashion Institute of Technology operates this museum, which is dedicated totally to preserving and exploring trends in fashion. Their rotating exhibits present just a sliver of their constantly evolving collection that includes notable and famous outfits from history. They also run temporary exhibitions (also free to the public) on topics like Japanese fashion, shoes or the history of lingerie.

A rather untypical bastion of culture

Indianapolis Museum of Art
Photo by Rob Slaven

Indianapolis may not typically be known as a bastion of culture, but it has one of the most extensive free art museums in the country. With a permanent collection of over 54,000 works that span 5,000 years of art history, you are sure to find something of interest at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The museum is surrounded by a 100-acre art and nature park, which features art installations, walking trails and gardens.

Ole Ironsides needs no introduction

USS Constitution Boston
Photo by Rob Shenk 

Old Ironsides is an iconic American symbol. She was named by George Washington and played a pivotal role in the War of 1812. Today the USS Constitution is the world’s oldest commissioned Navy ship that is still afloat. Now parked permanently at Pier 1 in Boston Harbor, she is open to the public, free to visit with tours occurring every 30 minutes during the day. There is a nearby USS Constitution museum that operates on donations.

A vintage Penny Arcade

Musee Mecanique San Francisco
Photo by Michael Dunn

This is definitely one of the most unique museums in America. Located just a short walk from the tourist hordes on Fisherman’s Wharf, the Musee Mecanique features over 300 antique penny arcade games. From old-fashioned fortune tellers to vintage peep shows and shoot ‘em up games, the collection is amazing. The museum is free to enter, although you may want to bring a supply of quarters to try out the many unique games and displays.

What other free museums do you love?

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