If you love museums, but the prices make you think twice, you'll love our list of FREE museum days. If you have a large family, those tickets add up fast—which is particularly frustrating if you then need to beat a hasty retreat to avoid a meltdown. SoCal has some great museums that have free general admission every day of the year, including The Getty, California Science Center, and The Broad. As for the rest of them (once kids are old enough to have to pay), many LA and OC museums have monthly or even weekly free days or evenings, and we have collected a list for easy reference. Go ahead, bring the extended family, meet friends, or check out a place you have never been before—all for just the price of parking or Metro tickets. And if there's a meltdown? At least it's free.
We recommend confirming free days/evenings with the museums, especially if the date is near a national or religious holiday. Be aware that free days can sometimes be quite crowded. In addition, check websites as some museums offer free admission every day if you are active Military, credentialed teachers, or museum members.
Los Angeles County Free Museum Days
• The Autry National Center
4700 Western Heritage Way
Los Angeles 90027
Located in Griffith Park, directly across the street from the Los Angeles Zoo, the Autry is free to the general public on the second Tuesday (10am-4pm) of every month. The collections focus on Native American and Western U.S. history.
• Craft and Folk Art Museum
5814 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles 90036
You never know what you might find at this smaller museum that hosts a wide variety of exhibitions. Admission is "pay what you want" on Sundays, from 11am to 6pm.
• Discovery Cube LA
11800 Foothill Blvd.
Los Angeles residents are eligible to receive up to four free admissions per household to Discovery Cube LA when they show their Department of Water and Power statement and matching photo ID on a select Tuesday of most months (most often the first Tuesday of the month). If you are a credentialed, teacher you are free every day.
• Fowler Museum at UCLA
308 Charles E. Young Dr. N.
Los Angeles 90024
The Fowler Museum at UCLA explores global arts and cultures, with an emphasis on works from Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas. Family programs include Story Time, Kids in the Courtyard (hands-on art projects inspired by an artwork on view), and Family Jam, an interactive series featuring musicians, artists, storytellers, and other performers from around the world. Admission is always free.
• Hammer Museum
10899 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles 90024
Admission to all exhibitions and public programs at the Hammer is free and open to the public.
Everyone loves wandering the Huntington Gardens. Photo by Ian D. Keating/CC BY 2.0
• The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino 91108
Admission to the Huntington is free to the general public on the first Thursday of every month. Unlike many museums, however, the Huntington requires that you reserve a free ticket. Yes, you have to plan in advance, but the limited number of tickets prevents overcrowding. Tickets, which go fast, become available at 9am on the first of the month preceding the month you wish to visit, so Sept. 1 for the October free day. Free day hours are 10am-5pm.
• Japanese American National Museum
100 N. Central Ave.
Los Angeles 90012
JANM is the largest museum in the U.S. focusing on the experiences of Japanese Americans. It is free to the public on the third Thursday of every month (noon-8pm), and every Thursday from 5pm-8pm. In addition, the museum holds a number of free family festivals throughout the year. On those days, admission to the museum is free.
• Kidspace Children's Museum
480 N. Arroyo Blvd.
Kidspace hosts a free family night on the first Tuesday of every month (except September) from 4pm-8pm.
• Long Beach Museum of Art
2300 E. Ocean Blvd.
Long Beach 90803
This small museum has a lovely location on a coastal bluff and offers free admission on Thursdays from 3pm-8pm (every Friday is 1/2 price). The collections and exhibits focus on ceramics, early 20th-century European art, and California art.
LACMA's Urban Light installation is a must-do LA photo op. Photo by Mommy Poppins
• Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles 90036
LACMA has several systems in place for free days. The second Tuesday of each month is free for the general public. LA County residents can visit for free after 3pm Mondays through Fridays. Select federal holidays are also free (the museum is closed for Thanksgiving and Christmas and every Wednesday). Children 17 and under are always free and if you sign your children up (for free!) with the NexGen program, each child gets free admission anytime for themselves and one accompanying adult. NexGen and some LACMA free days now include admission to special exhibits. Bank of America debit/credit card holders get the first full weekend of every month free.
• Museum of Contemporary Art
250 S. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles 90012
152 N. Central Ave.
Los Angeles 90012
MOCA's Grand Avenue and Geffen Contemporary locations offer free admission to the public on Thursdays from 5pm-8pm. Have Jury duty downtown, it's free every day with your Juror ID.
• Museum of Latin American Art
628 Alamitos Ave.
Long Beach 90802
MOLAA has free family days every Sunday from 11am-5pm. Some family days also feature music, art workshops, storytelling, dance classes, or other activities. In addition, admission is free from 5pm-9pm on the fourth Thursday of every month. Children 12 and under are always free.
Giddy-up over to the Natural History Museum. Photo by Tomás Del Coro/CC BY 2.0
• Natural History Museum
900 Exposition Blvd.
Los Angeles 90007
The NHM now offers 13 free Tuesdays (9:30am-5pm) each year; most are the first Tuesday. There are none in July and August, but all Tuesdays in September are free. See here for the upcoming schedule. Children 2 and under are always free.
• Norton Simon Museum
411 W. Colorado Blvd.
The Norton Simon is free to the public on the first Friday evening of every month, from 5pm-8pm. This is one of the few museums that is always free to those 18 and under and students with ID.
• USC Pacific Asia Museum
46 N. Los Robles Ave.
The USC Pacific Asia Museum's collections focus on Asia and the Pacific Islands. It opens its doors to all for free on the second Sunday of every month, and on Thursdays from 5pm-8pm. Children 17 and under are always free.
• Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits
5801 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles 90036
The Page Museum offers free admission on the first Tuesday of each month, except in July and August, and every Tuesday in September. LA County residents also receive free admission Mondays through Fridays from 3-5pm (with a valid ID or utility bill). Reservations are recommended for free days because it does get crowded. Remember, the grounds are always open, free of charge, and if your kids like the actual tar, they will love the grounds! Children 2 and under are always free.
Skirball's Noah's Ark exhibit is a great family destination. Photo by Timothy Norris courtesy of Skirball Cultural Center
• Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles 90049
All of the Skirball's exhibitions are free to the public on Thursdays (noon-5pm). The campus grounds and Ruby Gallery are always free, as is parking, and no tickets are required to access the shops or dining areas. Note that the Noah's Ark portion of the museum, while also free on Thursdays, requires a timed ticket to enter, and tickets on free Thursdays are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. This is a change from the old system, which used to allow advance ticket reservations on free days. Children 2 and under are always free.
Orange County Free Museum Days
Bowers' Family Days have demonstrations where kids can get crafty. Photo courtesy of the Bowers Museum
• Bowers Museum
2002 N. Main St.
Santa Ana 92706
On Sundays, the Bowers offers free museum tickets to Santa Ana residents only with proof of residency. In addition, on the first Sunday of each month, a Family Festival is held in the Key Courtyard. The festival is free to all visitors.
• Discovery Cube OC
2500 N. Main St.
Santa Ana 92705
Bank of America cardholders receive free admission on the Sunday of the first full weekend of each month, with photo ID and a valid card (one free general admission limited to cardholder only). Also, Santa Ana residents with proof of residency receive up to four free admissions per address on the first Tuesday of every month.
• Laguna Art Museum
307 Cliff Drive
Laguna Beach 92651
The Laguna Art Museum focuses on California art, and is free to the public the first Thursday evening of every month, from 5pm-9pm. Children 17 and under are always free.
Originally published January 13, 2014