List of free museums and zoos throughout the United States

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Discover the wonders of the United States without breaking the bank! In this article, we will take you on a journey to explore cultural and natural attractions you can enjoy for free. From museums and zoos to monuments and state parks, there is something for everyone to enjoy without spending a dime.

Next, we will answer the following questions:

  1. What are some of the best free zoos in the US?
  2. Are there any free museums in the US?
  3. Are all exhibits and attractions within these museums and zoos free?
  4. Do I need to register in advance to visit these attractions?
  5. What other attractions offer free entry?
  6. How can I stay updated on free events and activities near me?

What are some of the best free zoos in the US?

Here is a categorized list of the best free zoos in the United States, separated into those that necessitate tickets or reservations and those that do not:

Require tickets or reservations:

  • Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, DC: Timed-Entry Passes are required for all guests, including infants. Click HERE to obtain them. 
  • Lee Richardson Zoo in Garden City, Kansas: Reservations are not required but can be made two weeks in advance by calling the zoo department (620-276-1250).

Do NOT require tickets or reservations:

  • Lincoln Park Zoo – Chicago, Illinois
  • Saint Louis Zoo – Saint Louis, Missouri
  • Como Zoo – Saint Paul, Minnesota
  • Henry Vilas Zoo – Madison, Wisconsin:
  • Cape May Zoo – Cape May Court House, New Jersey
  • Salisbury Zoo – Salisbury, Maryland: Salisbury Zoo.
  • Bear Hollow Zoo – Athens, Georgia
  • Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo – Hilo, Hawaii
  • David Traylor Zoo – Emporia, Kansas

Are there any free museums in the US?

Yes! The United States is home to an impressive array of free museums, offering visitors a chance to explore art, history, science, and culture without spending a dime. Five of the best free museums in the US include:

  1. The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC

It comprises 21 museums and the National Zoo, covering a wide range of subjects, like natural history, art, and science. Most museums no longer require timed-entry passes, except for four attractions. 

  1. The Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California

This renowned art museum attracts culture and art enthusiasts. Timed-entry reservations are required for both locations and can be made online. 

  1. National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, Illinois

As the country’s largest Latino cultural organization, it features exhibits depicting rich Mexican culture. General admission does not require any reservations or tickets.

  1. Baltimore Museum of Art in Baltimore, Maryland

Showcasing a diverse range of art and exhibits, it stands as a prominent cultural institution. General admission is always free, and reservations are no longer required.

  1. The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City

Renowned for its focus on fashion, design, and textiles, it displays an impressive collection highlighting the evolution and impact of fashion throughout history. General admission does not require ticket reservations.

Other notable museums with free admission include:

  • The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas
  • Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, Ohio
  • Frye Art Museum in Seattle, Washington
  • Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, Illinois
  • North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Are all exhibits and attractions within these museums and zoos free?

The listed museums and zoos provide free general admission, letting visitors explore main exhibits and attractions at no cost. However, some places may have special exhibitions or events needing separate tickets or added fees. We recommend checking the museum or zoo’s website or asking the ticket counter attendant for details on any extra charges or ticket needs for specific attractions.

What other attractions offer free entry?

In addition to the mentioned free museums and zoos, various other attractions across the United States offer free entry to visitors. Some notable examples include:

  • National Monuments and Memorials: Iconic landmarks like the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument in Washington, DC, offer free access to the public.
  • State Parks: Numerous state parks throughout the country provide free access for visitors to enjoy hiking, picnicking, and experiencing natural beauty. Click HERE for a list of state parks near you. 
  • Festivals and Events: Many cities host free festivals and events throughout the year, showcasing local culture, food, and entertainment.
  • Beaches: Public beaches along coasts and lakeshores offer free entry, allowing visitors to relax and enjoy the sun and sand without cost. 
  • National Parks: On specific fee-free days each year, all national parks offer free entry, providing an opportunity to explore some of the country’s most breathtaking natural landscapes without any cost. In 2023, these fee-free days are January 16, April 22, August 4, September 23, and November 11.

How can I stay updated on free events and activities near me?

To stay up-to-date on all things free, including free attractions, events, and activities in your area and beyond, follow these strategies:

  1. Online Research: Regularly search for “free events in [your city/area]” or “free things to do in [your city/area]” on search engines to find the latest updates on local free activities.
  2. Social Media: Follow local attractions, museums, parks, and event organizers on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 
  3. Newsletters: Subscribe to newsletters from local event websites, city councils, and tourism boards. 
  4. Event Websites: Check websites like Eventbrite, Meetup, or community groups on Facebook for free events in your area.

By utilizing these methods, you can stay informed about all the free offerings in your community and make the most of the opportunities to explore and enjoy without spending money.

Mitzi Colin Lopez is a Digital Ads Content Creator and Experimenter at Noticias Para Inmigrantes. Her origin as a Mexican immigrant characterizes and drives her to empower the Latinx, Hispanic and immigrant communities. She is a recent graduate of West Chester University, where she obtained her bachelor’s in Political Science and Spanish. Her passions include social justice, advocacy, hiking, traveling, and weightlifting.