Is cabin fever is running rampant in your house? Are you and your kids experiencing a major case of the blahs? Have no fear! When the cold gray days of winter leave you and your family hunting for an activity that fills everyone’s fun-o-meter, museums can offer a great cure for the winter blues. And thankfully, it doesn’t have to break your bank. Check out these tips for spending less at our local & regional cultural hotspots.
Free/Reduced Museum Days
From the Currier Art Museum in Manchester to Boston’s Children Museum, many museums offer deals on specific days of each month.
Currier Art Museum
Free family Saturday’s on the second Saturday of every month from 10am-1pm. Check http://www.currier.org/default.aspx for more information.
The Children’s Museum of NH
First Friday Deal: Thanks to a grant from Citizen’s Bank, the first Friday night of each month is only $1 (October – June, 5:30 – 8pm). http://www.childrens-museum.org
Boston Children’s Museum
Friday Night Deal: Thanks to a grant from Target, Friday nights from 5–9pm are only $1. Visit www.bostonkids.org for more information or visit https://corporate.target.com/corporate-responsibility/community-events for a listing of all Target sponsored community events nationwide.
Boston’s Museum of Fine Art
Voluntary Donation on Wednesdays after 4 pm. Kids under 17 are free on weekdays after 3pm. Select days are totally free. Check www.mfa.org for days and details.
Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine
First Friday Deal: $1 admission from 5-8 pm. Visit www.kitetails.org for more info and be sure to check out their blog for parking and transit tips.
Public Library Museum Passes
Did you know that local libraries offer more than books and free wi-fi? From Kittery to Portsmouth, Rye and beyond, your local libraries offer free and reduced museum passes. Local libraries hold passes to Strawbery Banke, the Seacoast Science Center, Boston’s Museum of Science, Peabody Essex in Salem and many more. The only requirement is that you are a patron of the library. Contact your library for more details and reserve your passes today!
Breathe NH Fun Pass
Savings at over 1,500 local attractions? Yes, please! For $30 you can purchase a Fun Pass through Breathe NH that allows you discounts at museums, ski resorts, zoos and other family attractions. The discount pass is good for one child when accompanied by a paying adult. Discounts are offered at participating attractions in NH, Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont and include these local museums:
- The Children’s Museum of NH
- Albacore Park
- Seacoast Science Center Strawbery Banke
- SEE Science Center
- Aviation History Museum of NH
- Currier Museum of Art
- Portland Museum of Art
- Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine
- Southworth Planetarium
For more info and to find participating attractions, visit http://www.breathenh.org/page.aspx?pid=328.
Free Museum Days
Bank of America
If you are a customer of Bank of America, you are eligible for loads of free visits to museums nationwide including several in New England. Visit http://museums.bankofamerica.com/ for details.
Smithsonian Museum Day (September TBD 2013)
Museum Day is an annual event hosted by Smithsonian Media in which participating museums across the country open their doors for free to anyone presenting a Museum Day Ticket on a TBD Saturday in September 2013. Check here http://www.smithsonianmag.com/museumday/for more details and a list of participating museums.
Purchase a Museum Membership
Is this free? No, but in the long run a family membership will pay for itself if you visit just a few times a year. Plus you know you are supporting a great educational cause.
However, if you are concerned about buying a membership to a singular spot, try buying a membership to a museum with reciprocal affiliation. These museum memberships offer free admission to hundreds of affiliated museums locally and nationwide. Look for: ASTC (Association of Science – Technology Centers), AZA (Associations of Zoos and Aquariums) or ACM (Association of Children’s Museums). Here is a list of local institutions that participate in reciprocal memberships:
- Children’s Museum of NH
- Boston’s Museum of Science
- Zoo New England (including Stone & Franklin Zoos)
- Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine
- Boston’s Children Museum
- Harvard’s Museum of Natural History
Make sure you do your homework!
Programs and details vary. Contact your museum’s membership office regarding their reciprocal programs prior to your purchase.
Museums and Curiosities on a Budget
There are loads of historical, scientific and just plain odd institutions you can visit for a small admission fee.
The Woodman Institute
Dover, NH (Open April – December)
The Woodman is a true turn of the century natural history, local history and art museum that has been around since 1916. Four historic buildings that includes an original 1675 colonial garrison house furnished with period artifacts, the Senator John P. Hale home built in 1813, displays furniture, paintings, fire & police memorabilia, nautical instruments and model ships, a Cocheco Mill exhibit, antique powder horns, tools, toys, dolls, musical instruments, pewter and china. The Woodman House built in 1818, features a fine Civil War exhibit that includes a saddle used by President Lincoln, over 1800 minerals, birds, butterflies, turtles, Indian artifacts, a blue shark and a cougar killed in 1853. The Keefe House built in 1825 preserves historical documents and features special exhibits on loan. Admission is $8 for adults and $3 for ages 6-15. Visit http://woodmaninstitutemuseum.org/for more information.
International Cryptozoology Museum
Make a day trip to Portland with a visit to this wild, weird and wonderful museum of mystery. Curiosities including Big Foot, Chupacabras and sea serpents can be discovered for a low admission rate. Come have your picture taken with the 8ft. tall Big Foot or check out one of the many exhibits featuring creatures from which legends are made. Adults $7, Children under 12 are $5. Through February 6, the museum is offering a deal through Living Social. Buy a family four pack for $14, good for 6 months. Visit http://cryptozoologymuseum.com/ for more information.
For a low admission fee ($12 Adults, $8 kids, under 3 free), you can access both the Harvard Museum of Natural History and the adjacent Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. Both are loaded with kid friendly activities and offer free downloadable resources including kid friendly exhibit activities and gallery “treasure hunts”. Plus you can get an inexpensive campus parking permit by visiting (a short walk to the museums) by visiting: http://www.hmnh.harvard.edu/plan-your-visit/directions-2.html#university
SEE Science Center
This place is all about hands on. You and your kids can experiment with light, electricity, play with sound waves or visit their Millyard Lego Project. Plus they offer a variety of family workshops throughout the winter. Admission is $8 for everyone over 3 years old. Visit http://www.see-sciencecenter.org/ for more information.
Julie Sudderth lives in Kittery, Maine with her husband, two kids and their little dog named Django. When she’s not writing or driving her kids around town, she enjoys concocting family adventures and spending time at the beach. You can follow her family’s escapades at www.raisingcuriosity.com.