Photo courtesy of Houston Museum of African American Culture
Photo courtesy of Houston Museum of African American Culture

Free Admission Times and Days at Houston's Best Museums, Zoos, and Gardens

Houston offers a culturally diverse selection of museums, art centers, and gardens, but do you know which ones are completely free today, or offer free admission on other days and times? Keep this list nearby when planning your next visit to one of Houston's top family destinations. So many of our family outings have been virtual this past year, but with several of our favorite museums, zoos, and gardens open again, it's worth planning ahead to visit on a free day.

While we are trying to promote safer activities that occur outdoors or with social distancing guidelines in place, please keep your family and others safe by always wearing a mask and maintaining appropriate distance. If you arrive at an event that appears too crowded, try using the “nearby” search feature on our event calendar to find something else to do.

The Health Museum. Photo courtesy of Texas Medical Center

Specific days and times for free museum admission

Buffalo Soldiers National Museum 
Free admission 1pm-4pm Thursdays; Children under 5 are always free
This museum is dedicated to African-American soldiers and features workshops as well as reenactments.

The Health Museum
Free general admission 2pm-7pm Thursdays; DeBakey Cell Lab open until 6pm every Thursday, $3 per person for the cell lab 
With heavy hitters like the Children's Museum and Museum of Natural Science next door, this gem of a museum can often be overlooked. But it is well worth a Thursday afternoon trip with your budding scientist or hands-on tinker to explore the inner workings of the human body, perform real lab experiments, and learn about health and disease. The museum and cell lab are geared toward attendees at least seven years old.

Holocaust Museum Houston
Free admission 2pm-5pm Thursdays and on certain holidays; Kids ages 18 and under are always free.
Dedicated to educating the public about the repercussions of prejudice and hatred, this museum is one that is sure to impact you for a lifetime. While the content may not be as light as other museums in the area, it's definitely one worth visiting to understand the impact of the Holocaust on the past, present, and future.

Houston Museum of Natural Science
Free admission to the permanent exhibit halls 2pm-5pm Thursdays
Discover the dinosaurs and more and save significantly on tickets. With 15 permanent exhibitions, this might be the best deal in the city.     

The Houston Zoo
Free general admission on the first Tuesday of each month, September through May, from noon until closing. June, July, and August do not have free afternoons.
Free admission does not apply to the carousel, giraffe feeding, Zoo Lights or other events/attractions. You will need a free ticket to enter on free afternoons; tickets can be obtained online the Wednesday prior to your visit. Tickets for Free Tuesday are not available at the gate.

The Museum of Fine Arts Houston 
Free general admission all day (11am-9pm) Thursdays; Ages 12 and under are always free
The MFAH accessible and ready to be discovered by art enthusiasts of all ages, and is the perfect place for budding Picasso's to further their appreciation and understanding of both art and the art community. 

Czech Center Museum Houston
Free general admission on the last Thursday of each month; Ages 12 and under are always free
Exhibits at this museum celebrate Czech and Slovak culture and aim to educate the public about people who left their nation in pursuit of freedom, as well as preserve the rich cultural history of the region. 

Related: 10 ways to enjoy the Museum of Fine Arts-Houston with kids

Photo courtesy of The Menil Collection

Houston museums that are always free

Asia Society Texas Center
Admission to the Center, including the Fayez Sarofim Grand Hall exhibition, is always free. Admission to the Sarofim Gallery is free for Asia Society Members and children ages 12 and under and $5 for nonmembers. Visit the center's calendar for monthly kid-friendly art workshops combined with a lesson about the rich and varied cultures of Asia.

Houston Museum of African American Culture
The exhibits, programs, and demonstrations are focused on educating and preserving African-American culture. HMAAC is currently open to visitors by appointment only. Tour appointments can be made here.

Houston Center for Photography
Currently, the Houston Center for Photography is open by appointment only.
Talk about eye-opening. The Center for Photography boasts multiple ways for kids to enjoy and learn about the art of taking photographs. A scavenger hunt guide is available at the front desk, encouraging patrons as young as 4-years-old to look around the galleries and see what they can spy. For the older kids, parents can pick up an exhibition-specific questionnaire and really dig deep with open-ended questions about current and controversial issues. Family days take place several times throughout the year and offer story and snack time as well as opportunities to interact and engage with the exhibits through craft-making.

The Menil Collection
The Menil Collection is still free to visit, however timed entry ticket reservations are required prior to visiting.
In addition to the current exhibitions, visit the Menil for concerts and poetry readings, or just relax on the campus' green spaces.  

Houston Arboretum and Nature Center
This gem offers hiking trails and activities for kids of all ages. It's a great spot to visit on any day, as long as it isn't raining! Make sure to check the calendar before you go.

Temporary Museum Closures

Galveston Children's Museum
The Galveston Children's Museum is open, however Free Family Nights are currently on hold. The Museum is committed to reinstating Free Family Nights in the future.
Kids love exploring all that the Galveston Children's Museum has to offer including plenty of hands-on exhibits and free play areas. 

Lawndale Art Center
Lawndale Art Center galleries are temporarily closed for installation until February 6, 2021. 
Not just a destination for gram-worthy photos, the Lawndale Art Center plays hosts to contemporary art from emerging and local artists.  

Contemporary Art Museum Houston
CAMH is temporarily closed until February 18, 2021. 
For an interactive experience, pick up an art guide from the front desk for kid-friendly activities to do throughout the museum. Guests are also invited to celebrate creativity by visiting the current exhibitions on Family Days when food trucks abound and team members are available to chat about the artwork.  

Houston Fire Museum
The Houston Fire Museum is currently closed for renovations. Upon reopening, the Museum should resume its free admission for children on the second Saturday of each month
Guests learn about the history of the Houston Fire Department, and there is a children's play area with a kid-sized firehouse and fire truck. Note that access to the children's play area is typically limited on weekends due to birthday party rentals, but is open for all to play on second Saturdays from noon-4 p.m.

Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
HCCC is temporarily closed until further notice.
Head over to the center's Hands-On Houston event, a free, craft-making activity led by local guilds and artists on the first Saturday of every month. Families and kids of all ages can learn a craft technique, material, or form that is related to the current exhibits.  

DiverseWorks is temporarily closed until further notice.
DiverseWorks, a gallery space for performance and visual art, is located within the Houston Museum District at MATCH (Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston). Check out their calendar for details about current performances. 

The Jung Center
The Jung Center is temporarily closed until further notice.
Although patrons of the Jung Center tend to be older, children are always welcome and the bookstore has a curated collection of unique children's picture books.  

Art Car Museum
The Art Car Museum is temporarily closed until further notice.
Your kids will marvel at the fantastic works of art found within the gates of the Art Car Museum. Kids and family-centric events are held often, so be sure to check out their event calendar before you go. 

Houston Police Department Museum
The Houston Police Department Museum is temporarily closed until further notice.
For kids interested in police work, the Houston Police Department Museum located in the HPD headquarters lobby offers historic exhibits and displays to explore. 

Children's Museum of Houston
The Children's Museum of Houston is temporarily closed until further notice. Free Family Thursdays should be back once the Museum reopens.
Rest assured that your tykes will sleep soundly after an evening at the Children's Museum. Let them run, jump, and explore through all of the exhibits during Free Family Night. Garage parking on Free Family Night is $3

You can also check out more detailed posts on the Houston ZooChildren's MuseumFire Museum, and dinosaur exhibit and butterfly center at the Museum of Natural Science.  

This post originally published in 2016.

Places featured in this article:

Buffalo Soldiers National Museum

Holocaust Museum Houston

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Houston Museum of African American Culture

Contemporary Art Museum of Houston

Houston Center for Contemporary Craft

Houston Center for Photography

Houston Arboretum & Nature Center

Houston Police Department Museum

Children's Museum of Houston
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The Houston Zoo - 9:00 AM Pick
Tyke Hike at the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center
Houston Arboretum & Nature Center - various times Pick
Old MacDonald's Pumpkin Patch
Old MacDonald's Farm - 10:00 AM
Color Over the Border
Czech Center Museum Houston - 10:00 AM
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