Free Museum Days in Boston (and More Ways to Save!) 2022

Boston may be a small city, but it has many world class museums! Visitors expect to see American history when they come to Boston, and yes, we have plenty of that, but visitors might not know that we have incredible art galleries, science and technology museums, a world-renowned aquarium, and architectural treasures. But museums can be expensive, especially if you’re visiting with a family or large group. Fortunately, if you plan your time well, you can take advantage of free museum days in Boston, attractions that have no admission fee, and other opportunities for discounted admission.

Free Admission or discounted admission at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Photo by Herry Sutanto on Unsplash

PRO TIP – Massachusetts residents can get discounts to many of the top museums in Boston AND in their own communities through their local library. Visit your library (or check the website) to find what museum passes they carry and what is available the day you plan on attending.
Library cards are free with proof of residency. The Boston Public Library will also issue a free library card to Massachusetts residents.

If you’re a first-time visitor to Boston, you can enjoy a lot of the city without any fees. Just walking the city, enjoying the Boston Public Garden, Beacon Hill and Quincy Market will give you a taste for Boston. Follow the red bricks of the Freedom Trail to see many sites from early American history and the American revolution. But if you’re here for more than one day, make a plan to visit one of our great museums.

Free Museum Days and Options for Reduced Admissions at Boston’s Top Museums

Boston Athenæum

The Boston Athenæum, founded in 1807, is one of the oldest independent libraries in the United States. The collection includes over 100,000 rare books, works of art, sculptures, etc., all housed in a landmark building on Beacon Hill (just off Boston Common). This is a membership-based library but you can get a day pass for $40 or visit on Free Second Saturday.

Free or Discounted:

  • 🆓 Free Second Saturdays – first floor admission free on the second Saturday of each month

10 1/2 Beacon Street, Boston
Check the website for more details: Boston Athenæum


Boston Children's Museum in the seaport is a great place for kids of all ages. Free days at Boston museums
Boston Children’s Museum

Boston Children’s Museum

Located on Children’s Wharf in the Seaport District of Boston, this multi-floor museum focuses on hands-on experiences for children. Their website emphasizes the power of play:

Play is the work of children. Critical to healthy development and stimulating children’s natural curiosity and creativity, play nurtures confidence, emotional wellbeing, and cognitive development.

The Boston Children’s Museum is the second oldest children’s museum in the world, and continues to develop programs for interactive play and discovery.

This is a great place for a rainy or chilly day in Boston. The children will be actively engaged for hours. If the weather cooperates, include a visit to Fan Pier Park at the end of the wharf. The kids will love this playground and you’ll have a chance to sit a bit.

Free or Discounted:

  • Free admission for children under 1.
  • $1 admission between 1:30 – 4:30 pm Sunday afternoon. Online Reservations Required.
  • 🎖 Free to active duty military and veterans with valid ID
  • 🚌 50% Discount to MTA (Massachusetts Teachers Association) members w/valid ID
  • 📚 Library museum pass program participant
  • 🎫 admission included with the GO Boston card

308 Congress St. Boston (look for the giant milk bottle!)
Check the website for more details: Boston Children’s Museum


Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum

Just across the channel from the Boston Children’s Museum is the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum. Voted #1 Best Patriotic Attraction by USA Today, this is another fun spot for the family. Join in reenacting the famous Boston Tea Party on Griffin’s Wharf.

306 Congress St., Boston
Check the website for more details: Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum


Bunker Hill Monument is a highlight of any visit to Boston.

Boston National Historical Park

Boston is a small city but chock full of history. Most visitors to Boston will want to walk the Freedom Trail through downtown Boston stopping at many of the storied spots from early American history. The National Park Service has dedicated many of these sites as parts of the Boston National Historical Park.

Admission varies throughout the park:

  • Faneuil Hall – 🆓 free admission
  • Old South Meeting House (NPS partner site with fee – 🎫 admission option included with the Go Boston card
  • Old State House (NPS partner site with fee – 🎫 admission option included with the Go Boston card
  • Paul Revere House (NPS partner site with fee – 🎫 admission option included with the Go Boston card)
  • Old North Church (NPS partner site)
  • Bunker Hill Monument and Museum – 🆓 free admission
  • Charlestown Navy Yard – 🆓 free admission
  • U.S.S. Constitution & Museum – 🆓 free admission (donations encouraged at museum)
  • U.S.S. Cassin Young – a Fletcher-class destroyer of the U.S. Navy – 🆓 free admission

Check the website for more details: Boston National Historical Park


Institute of Contemporary Art

Founded in 1936 as the Boston Museum of Modern Art, this was a sister institution of MoMA in NYC. The museum broke off the affiliation in 1948 and became the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA). In 2006 the museum opened its current spectacular building on Boston’s waterfront.

Free or Discounted:

  • 🆓 Free Thursday Nights 5 pm – 9 pm, timed-entry ticket required
  • 🆓 18 and under always free admission (timed-entry ticket required)
  • 🆓 When accompanied by kids 12 and under, up to 2 adults admitted free the last Saturday of every month except December. Use the promo code PLAYDATE when reserving tickets online for these dates.
  • 📚 Library museum pass program participant
  • 🎫 admission option included with the Go Boston card

25 Harbor Shore Dr, Boston
Check the website for more details: Institute of Contemporary Art


Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston, MA.
Isabella Steward Gardner Museum, Boston. Photo by Hanyang Zhang on Unsplash

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has been a landmark in Boston’s Fenway area since 1903 but sadly became world famous in 1990 when 13 priceless works of art were stolen. Since that time books and movies have conjectured on the theft and the lost art.

Isabella Steward Gardner and her husband Jack Gardner purchased the land in what was the Fens of Boston with the goal of building a home and gallery for the art they had collected on their many travels. When the building was complete Gardner (then a widow) moved into the fourth floor and personally arranged the three floors of galleries below.

Free or Discounted:

  • 🆓 Free First Thursdays (and open late!) 3 pm – 9 pm
  • 🆓 Free for everyone under 18, and for anyone named Isabella (reservations required)
  • 🎖 Free to active duty military and family with valid ID
  • 🚌 50% Discount to MTA (Massachusetts Teachers Association) members w/valid ID
  • 📚 Library museum pass program participant
  • 🎫 admission included with the Go Boston card

25 Evans Way, Boston
Check the website for more details: Isabella Steward Gardner Museum 


John F Kennedy Presidential Library

The presidential library of the 35th president of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The beautiful building on Boston Harbor preserves Kennedy historical materials and family artifacts.

Free or Discounted:

  • 12 and under free
  • 🎖 Free to active duty military with CAC
  • Free admission to members of any presidential libraries
  • $6 admission for Massachusetts college and university students with a valid ID
  • 📚 Library museum pass program participant
  • 🎫 admission option included with the Go Boston card

Columbia Point, Boston
Check the website for more details: John F Kennedy Presidential Library


Museum of African American History

Dedicated to ‘filling the missing pages of American history’, the Museum of African American History preserves original buildings and artifacts from the beginning of the abolitionist movement. Buildings include the African Meeting House (8 Smith Ct), the oldest black church building in the nation, and the Abiel Smith School, the first school dedicated to educating African American children.

The museum has established the Black Heritage Trail, the largest collection of historic sites in the U.S relating to a free African American community prior to the Civil War.

Free or Discounted:
Free for children under 13

46 Joy St, Boston
Check the website for more details: Museum of African American History


Museum of Fine Arts Boston

The Museum of Fine Arts is one of the top art museums in the nation, and is a very popular with both Boston residents and visitors alike.

The museum offers special exhibitions, musical events, and programs for children. Special exhibitions require a specific exhibition ticket with a timed-entry.

Free or Discounted:

  • 🆓 Free museum days for Massachusetts residents -Memorial Day, Juneteenth, MLK Jr. Day
  • Every Wednesday, 3 – 4 pm. – entry with a minimum donation of $5.
  • 🎖 Free to active duty military and veterans and up to 5 guests with a valid ID.
  • 📚 Library museum pass program participant
  • 🎫 admission option included with the Go Boston card

465 Huntington Ave, Boston
Check the website for more details: Museum of Fine Arts Boston


Free days at Boston museums including the Museum of Science, one of our favorite places to visit.

Museum of Science

Our family’s favorite museum! And we’re not alone. The Museum of Science is currently New England’s most attended cultural institutions.

The Museum of Science has something for everyone. For the little ones, there are rooms of interactive hands-on exhibits. For older kids there are movement zones, space information, and DINOSAURS. There’s a planetarium, and IMAX theater and more.

A timed-entry ticket is required unless you have a museum membership.

Free or Discounted:

  • 🎖Free everyday to active military with a valid ID.
  • 🎖Free to all veterans on Veterans Day.
  • 📚 Library museum pass program participant
  • Reciprocal admission with a membership card to a Association of Zoos and Aquariums program (AZA) or Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC)
  • 🎫 admission included with the Boston CityPASS or Go Boston card

Check the website for more details: Museum of Science


New England Aquarium

A world leader in marine conservation and ocean exploration, visiting the New England Aquarium is one of the top things to do in Boston. The aquarium is located in a prime location – Central Wharf on Boston Harbor, just across the street from Quincy Market. Grab a quick meal in the market or get a table at the upscale Chart House on Long Wharf.

The New England Aquarium is a must-see museum in Boston. How to find discounted or FREE tickets to Boston museums.

The aquarium has a large central tank, penguin habitats, and floors of smaller displays. There are educational events daily. Visit the Simons Theatre for nature films shown on a screen six stories high.

The New England Aquarium also offers whale watching trips. If you’ve never been on a whale watch excursion, you’re in for a treat!

Even if you don’t plan on entering the aquarium, take a walk on the wharf to watch the harbor seals play.

Free or Discounted:

1 Central Wharf, Boston
Check the website for more details: New England Aquarium


Unique museums and attractions in Boston

Boston Public Library

The Boston Public Library was the first free municipal library in the United States. It was the first public library to lend books, and the first to have a dedicated Children’s Room.

The Central Library in Copley Square is one of my favorite places, not just because my career was in libraries, but because of the elegance of the landmark building and the collections contained in the library. Visit if you can!

Check the website for more details: Boston Public Library Art and Architecture tours

Boston Symphony Hall

Symphony Hall, home of the Boston Symphony orchestra and the Boston Pops orchestra, is renowned for its acoustics. The hall opened in 1900 and was first auditorium designed in accordance with scientifically derived acoustical principles. If you’re able, attend a concert. But if that’s not possible, take the one hour tour to see this impressive building.

Due to the pandemic, tours are currently suspended.
Check the website for more details: Boston Symphony Hall tours

Ether dome at Massachusetts General Hospital

Site of the first surgery performed with anesthesia in 1846, the Ether Dome at Massachusetts General Hospital has been preserved for its historical value.
Check the website for more details: Ether Dome at Mass General

Fenway Park Tour

Fenway Park is beloved by baseball fans well beyond the New England area. The park, opened in 1912, is the oldest MLB park in the US. The one hour guided tour is a lot of fun for everyone.

Free or Discounted:
🎫 admission option included with the Go Boston card

4 Jersey Street, Boston
Check the website for more details: Fenway Park Tours

The Hatch Shell on the Esplanade

The Esplanade is a greenway along the Charles River. There are miles of walking trails to enjoy, but plan your visit right and you can enjoy a free event at the Hatch Shell! Free concerts, free movies, etc.

Check the website for more details: The Hatch Shell

The Mapparium at Christian Science Plaza

Step inside the Mapparium, a three-story concave reversal of the Earth (from 1935), viewed from within. The Mapparium is located in the Mary Baker Eddy Library on Christian Science Plaza.

Timed ticket required.

Free or Discounted: Free admission for age 17 and under
🎫 admission option included with the Go Boston card

210 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston
Check the website for more details: How Do You See the World? experience

Waterworks Museum

This museum showcases one of the nation’s first metropolitan water systems. The Great Engines Hall features three original steam driven water pumps. The museum is in the Chestnut Hill Waterworks building across from the Chestnut Hill Reservoir.

If you go, take a walk around the recipe. It’s a lovely easy walk.

Free or Discounted: 🆓 FREE museum admission

Open Wednesday – Sunday, 11 am – 4 pm
2450 Beacon Street, Boston
Check the website for more details: Waterworks Museum

Waterworks museum, a unique museum in the Boston area.
Waterworks museum. Photo by Faith Crabtree on Unsplash

Museums just outside Boston

Boston’s close suburbs have more great options for museums and historical sites. These are easily accessible on public transportation. (If you have a car, consider a day trip to other New England destinations.)

Brookline

Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site – a National Park Service site

Frederick Law Olmsted is considered the founder of American landscape design. It was Olmstead who designed New York’s Central Park. In the Boston area, Olmstead designed the Emerald Necklace, a chain of public parks, .the campus of Wellesley College, and the carriage trails at World’s End in Hingham.

Free or Discounted: 🆓 FREE entry

99 Warren St, Brookline
Check the website for more details: Frederick Law Olmstead National Historic Site

John F Kennedy Birthplace

The first home of the 35th president is currently closed for renovations. Should be open soon!

Free or Discounted: 🆓 FREE

83 Beals Street, Brookline, MA NPS
Check the website for more details: John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

Larz Anderson Auto Museum

Home of “America’s Oldest Car Collection.” The cars are housed in the historic Carriage House, designed by Boston’s noted architect, Edmund Wheelwright. This is a great museum for car buffs, but everyone will enjoy the 64 acres of grounds.

During the warm weather months the museum holds free outdoor “Lawn” events.

15 Newton St. Brookline
Check the website for more details: Larz Anderson Auto Museum


Cambridge

Harvard Art Museums

  • 🆓 Free to Cambridge residents with proof of residency
  • 🆓 Free museum days for all visitors on Sundays
  • 🎖 Free to active duty military and their families
  • 🚌 Free to MTA (Massachusetts Teachers Association) members w/valid ID
  • 📚 Library museum pass program participant
  • for more free admission fee options check the website.

32 Quincy Street, Cambridge
Check the website for more details: Harvard Art Museums

Harvard Museum of Natural History

  • 🆓 Free to Massachusetts residents every Sunday morning (year-round) from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm and on Wednesdays from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm (September through May)
  • 🎖 Free to active duty military and their families.
  • 🚌 Free to MTA (Massachusetts Teachers Association) members w/valid ID
  • 📚 Library museum pass program participant
  • 🎫 admission option included with the Boston CityPASS

26 Oxford Street, Cambridge
Check the website for more details: Harvard Museum of Natural History

Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site

This historic Cambridge home served as General George Washington’s headquarters during the Siege of Boston in July 1775 – April 1776. It would later be the home of 19th century poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Free or Discounted: No fees at this time, but a guided tour is required. Check the website.

105 Brattle Street, Cambridge
Check the website for more details: Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters

MIT Museum

  • 🆓 Free to Cambridge residents with proof of residency
  • 🎖 Free to active duty military with valid ID
  • 🚌 Free to MTA (Massachusetts Teachers Association) members with valid ID

314 Main Street, Cambridge
Check the website for more details: MIT Museum


Quincy

Adams National Historical Park NPS

Home of two American presidents, the 2nd John Adams, and the 6th John Quincy Adams. Visitors can tour the Old House where four generations of the Adams family lived.

Free or Discounted:
The site offers occasional Free Days, including on National Public Lands Day in September.
As always, entrance is free with a National Park Pass!

133 Franklin Street, Quincy
Check the website for more details: Adams National Historical Park


Boston Tourist Passes

Another cost saving option for museum hopping in Boston is purchasing a pass. As noted in the descriptions above, many museums and historical sites participate in the Boston City PASS and the Go Boston Card program. Check these out if you think it’d be cost effective. (Traveling Tulls is not affiliated with either pass program.)

Free days at Boston Museums, guide to getting discounted or free admission at Boston's world class museums. #visitBoston #bostonmuseums #museumofscience #museumoffinearts #isabellastewartgardner #ica #mfa #newenglandtravel #boston

4 thoughts on “Free Museum Days in Boston (and More Ways to Save!) 2022

  1. Such an informative guide and great to get free or reduced fee access to museums. Definitely helps with the travel budget.

  2. I had no idea that Boston had so many great museums! I like visiting museums, so it’s great to know how to save money on entry fees

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