Smithsonian's Museum Day Takes The Fees Away

22 Sep
September 22, 2011

School has been in session for almost a month and with that, opportunities for parents and kids to participate in educational activities has dwindled.

Saturday presents the best chance for not just families, but everyone, to experience the wonderful museums Washington, D.C. and the surrounding areas have to offer.

September 24th is the Smithsonian’s Annual Museum Day. Everyone from here is familiar with the Smithsonian Institute, the bright red-brick building on Jefferson Avenue, as well as its accompanying numerous exhibits. What people probably also know is that the Smithsonian, forever and always, has been free to visit. And to honor that, this Saturday, Smithsonian Magazine is offering free admission to nearly every museum in the country.

In Washington, D.C., 26 museums are partaking in the event. While a few are Smithsonian affiliates that are always free, some places with steep admission are opening their doors free of charge.

All three of D.C.’s major art galleries are participating. At the Corcoran Gallery, near the White House, art lovers can skip the $10 fee and see their gallery’s collection of American modern art. Up in Dupont Circle, the Phillips Collection, which houses a number of famous Impressionist artists, is waiving an $8 entry fee. Along with those two, the Kreeger Museum, on Foxhall Road in the Palisades, which houses some of D.C.’s only Picassos, Van Goghs and Monets, is free instead of $10.

In lieu of art, in Penn Quarter, The National Museum of Crime & Punishment, $20 to visit on a regular day, is participating as well. Visitors to the three-story museum see an ode to criminal science, where they can view a crime lab, the studios where America’s Most Wanted is filmed and an FBI shooting range.

Civil War aficionados may gladly pay the $12 visit to see President Abraham Lincoln’s cottage but with Museum Day, there’s no need.  On Saturday, seeing where Honest Abe lived for part of his presidency, and where he drafted the Emancipation Proclamation, is completely free.

In D.C.’s sister city to the north, Baltimore, many other American history museums are participating in Museum Day. The Star Spangled Banner House tells the story of Mary Young Pickersgill, who sewed the flag Francis Scott Key saw while drafting our National Anthem. Also in Baltimore is the B&O Railroad Museum, a must for any fan of 19th century America and the Industrial Revolution.

Across the state, in Frederick is the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, which highlights the work of doctors and nurses from one of the bloodiest conflicts this country has ever seen.

To the south, in neighboring Virginia, Revolutionary-era houses are also participation in the event. Gadsby’s Tavern, a house that both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson frequented, is opening its doors. To the west, in Chantilly, the Sully House, home of Robert E. Lee’s father, is free to see. It was built in 1799 and is one of the oldest buildings in Fairfax County.

So how does one participate in the free offering? Simply visit the Smithsonian’s website and enter your address. One ticket is good for two people to visit any of the museums on the participating list. It’s only valid for one museum though, so choose wisely from the numerous choices. And then enjoy a Saturday seeing history or culture free of charge.

-David

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