Alas, another Labor Day has come and gone — time to say goodbye to beach reads, blockbuster movies and big, bumbling crowds baked to a crisp by too much summer sun.
It’s time instead to start thinking about fall travel, that stress-reducing shoulder season when crowds shrink, prices drop and more sophisticated pleasures prevail.
If that sounds appealing, you may want to mark your calendar for Saturday, September 29. That’s the day that hundreds of museums across the country will participate in Smithsonian Magazine’s Museum Day by opening their doors for free.
The idea builds on the spirit of the free-admission policy of the Smithsonian Institution’s facilities in Washington, D.C. This year, 637 museums, historic sites and cultural institutions will participate.
To join the festivities, visitors need to present a Museum Day Admission Card, which can be downloaded here. Cards can also be found in the September issue of the magazine.
Each card is good for general admission for two people at one participating museum (although there’s nothing to prevent you from downloading multiple cards). IMAX screenings, select exhibits and other special events are not included.
To find out if a particular institution is participating, click here. Or consider a visit to one of the following cities where multiple museums (those listed and others) set the stage for free fun and cultural travel:
Baseball fans and railroad buffs are both double lucky. For the former, there’s the Babe Ruth Museum and Sports Legend Museum at Camden Yards; for the latter, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum and Ellicott City Station. History also lives on the decks of the USS Constellation Museum and among the interactive exhibits at the Baltimore Museum of Industry.
Just a few blocks apart, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum span thousands of years of art history. Head across the river to Cambridge for dinosaurs and meteorites at the Harvard Museum of Natural History and ethnographic and archeological artifacts at the Peabody Museum.
Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenburg and Andy Warhol are just three of the more than 150 contemporary artists on display at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. (Designed by renowned architect Tadao Ando, the museum itself is a work of art in its own right.) Other participating museums include The Women’s Museum, Frontiers of Flight Museum and The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.
Easily overlooked by the shoppers and sunbathers in Waikiki, the Bishop Museum is part science museum, part archive of Polynesian culture. Visitors can check out the kahili (feather standards) of Hawaiian kings, walk through an interactive volcano or explore the night sky in the on-site planetarium. The museum also operates the Hawaii Maritime Center on Pier 7 in Honolulu Harbor.
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Not surprisingly, Museum Day is a multicultural affair in this melting-pot metropolis. Participating institutions include the Japanese American National Museum in downtown’s Little Tokyo area, the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach and the Skirball Cultural Center, a repository for Jewish culture and heritage in the hills above Santa Monica.
Fashionistas may flock to South Beach, but more lasting beauty abounds at museums throughout the Miami metropolitan area. The Miami Art Museum highlights works by international and contemporary artists; the Boca Raton Museum of Art showcases pre-Columbian and West African artifacts; and the Lowe Art Museum spans the globe and several thousand years of art history.
More than 30 cultural institutions in the five boroughs are participating in this year’s event, so you’re going to have to make some choices. Among the options: The Frick Collection (think Rembrandt, Titian and Vermeer), the American Folk Art Museum (crafts, textiles and other works by self-taught artists) and the South Street Seaport Museum (sailing ships and city history).
From antiquities to the avant-garde, it’s all on display at the University of Pennsylvania. The Penn Museum showcases dozens of ancient cultures, while the Institute of Contemporary Art offers serial exhibitions from today’s emerging artists. For something different, check out the Rosenbach Museum & Library, which Philadelphia magazine recently named “The Best Museum You’ve Never Been To.”
Located near each other in Balboa Park, the San Diego Air & Space Museum and Mingei International Museum couldn’t be more different. The former celebrates the history of flight; the latter, the down-to-earth charm of mingei or “art of the people.” If you like your art a bit edgier, head instead to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.
Celebrating its 75th anniversary, the Seattle Art Museum reopened this spring with almost double the gallery space and nearly new 1,000 artworks donated by patrons and collectors. Several other local landmarks — the Seattle Asian Art Museum, Museum of Flight and Museum of History & Industry — will also be free on the 29th.
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