American Nomad Blog
About this blog
American Nomad covers the best of U.S. travel—from vacation deals to festivals, weekend getaways, travel tips, and more. A seasoned traveler and Moon author, Laura is the perfect guide to help discover new gems when traveling domestically.
- A Southern Girl's Wintertime Adventure in Yellowstone
- One Novelist's Odyssey Across America
- Gearing up for a Family Camping Trip
- Mint Juleps and More at Oak Alley Plantation
- Avoiding Identity Theft While on Vacation
- Money-Saving Travel Tips from Nomadic Matt
- Fashion, Fun, and Convenience for the Modern Traveler
- In Search of Irish Museums Across America
- The Inspiring Journey of a Solo Kayaker
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 2
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 1
- Experiencing Yosemite with YExplore
- Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning
- A Word About the TSA's No-No List
- A Reader's Advice About Airport Security
Free Military Admission to Hundreds of American Museums
In honor of this Memorial Day Weekend's unofficial start to the summer travel season, I recently compiled a list of 15 budget-friendly destinations across America. Of course, it's hard to get more budget-friendly than free museum admission, and that's just what active-duty U.S. military personnel in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard, and the Reserve as well as their families will find this summer at more than 700 first-rate museums throughout the United States.
Thanks to the Blue Star Museums Initiative – a partnership between Blue Star Families, the National Endowment for the Arts, and hundreds of participating museums – military personnel and/or up to five immediate family members can enjoy free admission at an assortment of museums throughout the country, including Washington, D.C., and all 50 U.S. states, from today (Memorial Day) through September 6 (Labor Day). In order to qualify for this program, you must be able to show a valid Geneva Conventions CAC Card, a valid DD Form 1173, or a valid DD Form 1173-1 at the museum admissions desk. Just be advised that immediate family members under the age of 10 must be accompanied by an appropriate ID holder.
If you're part of a military family, you should definitely take advantage of this amazing opportunity – a chance to see a wide array of children's museums as well as institutions dedicated to art, science, history, and other aspects of U.S. culture. The enticing selections range from the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) (1300 First Ave., Seattle, WA, 206/654-3100, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed. and Sat.-Sun., 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Thurs.-Fri.) to The Wildlife Experience (10035 S. Peoria, Parker, CO, 720/488-3300, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Sun.) to the American Independence Museum (1 Governors Lane, Exeter, NH, 603/772-2622, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed.-Sat.). Even some of the budget-friendly destinations that I listed a couple weeks ago offer a few choice selections, including the Key West Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters Museum (938 Whitehead St., Key West, FL, 305/295-6616, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily), the New Mexico Museum of Art (107 W. Palace Ave., Santa Fe, NM, 505/476-5072, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily), and the Museum of the American West (4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles, CA, 323/667-2000, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tues.-Fri., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.).
While perusing the impressive list of museums, I was even more tickled to learn that several of the attractions described in my Moon Michigan guide have agreed to take part in this one-of-a-kind program. In fact, military families can explore more than 20 museums in the Great Lakes State, including the Detroit Historical Museum (5401 Woodward Ave., Detroit, 313/833-1805, 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun.), one of America's oldest and largest museums dedicated to metropolitan history; the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House (1100 Lake Shore Rd., Grosse Pointe Shores, 313/884-4222, 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Tues.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun.), which features guided house tours and access to the grounds; the Kingman Museum (175 Limit St., Battle Creek, 269/965-5117, 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tues.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Fri., 1-5 p.m. Sat.), offering paleontology exhibits and planetarium shows; and the Dennos Museum Center (1701 E. Front St., Traverse City, 231/995-1055, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Wed. and Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thurs., 1-5 p.m. Sun.), which houses more than 2,000 pieces of art, from Inuit sculptures to 18th-century Japanese prints to contemporary works by Michigan artists. Other participating museums include the Saginaw Art Museum (1126 N. Michigan Ave., Saginaw, 989/754-2491, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thurs.-Sat., 1-5 p.m. Sun.), the Grand Rapids Art Museum (101 Monroe Center, Grand Rapids, 616/831-1000, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Thurs. and Sat., 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sun.), and the Muskegon Museum of Art (296 W. Webster Ave., Muskegon, 231/720-2570, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Wed. and Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thurs., noon-4:30 p.m. Sun.).
No matter where you live, you're bound to find a free museum not too far away, so do yourself a favor and try to visit as many as you can this summer. If you do choose to participate in this program, you're welcome to share your experiences by emailing bluestarblog [at] arts [dot] gov. Naturally, you should always call each establishment beforehand, just to double-check the admission hours and policies.
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and my Moon travel guides, are my unbiased reflections of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
Photo of the Key West Lighthouse / Text © 2010 Laura Martone