News & Politics

A Bunch of DC Area Museums Will Offer Free Admission Next Saturday

As part of "Museum Day," private museums that usually charge will be free

Image courtesy of Kristine Foley

Okay, so DC residents are already pretty used to attending area museums for free, thanks to the Smithsonian. But on September 21, a number of museums that usually cost money will also be free—also thanks to the Smithsonian, whose magazine has sponsored “Museum Day” across the country for fifteen years. 

When the event began, as part of the 35th anniversary celebration of Smithsonian Magazine, the idea was to connect with subscribers all across the country, many of whom don’t have the access to free museums enjoyed by DMV types. According to Amy Wilkins, the chief revenue officer at Smithsonian Media, the event has grown from 100 or 150 museums to at least 1,500, including several in the DC area, where numerous private museums face the challenge of luring a public accustomed to not paying for top museums.

Among the DC museums that won’t be charging: Dumbarton House, the National Building Museum, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Newseum and the Museum of the Bible.

It turns out that participating is a bit trickier than just hopping down to the Smithsonian. Patrons sign up for the event on the Smithsonian Mag’s website, where they can download one ticket per email address to a one location of their choosing. The ticket also includes free admission for a guest. Last year, 1.2 million attendees took advantage of the deal.

“What we saw was that it was really about providing access. People could attend a museums in their area that they maybe weren’t attending because they couldn’t afford to go…” Wilkins said. “But you also have all those people who just plain love art, culture, history, science and this day just inspires them to check out a new location, like a hidden gem in their city.”

Certain museums are also taking part in the Smithsonian’s Year of Music, which Wilkins described as 365 days of music at the Smithsonian. Those museums might incorporate things like  playing nature and train noises, adding exhibits on how animals hear, or featuring live music.

Here’s the full list of DMV museums participating in Museum Day:


American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center*

DAR Museum*

Hirshhorn Museums and Sculpture Garden*

Museum of the Bible

National Air and Space Museum*

National Building Museum

National Law Enforcement Museum

National Museum of Women in the Arts

National Museum of the American Indian*

National Portrait Gallery*

Smithsonian Castle*

United States Botanic Garden*



Alexandria Archeology Museum, Alexandria* 

Belle Grove Plantation, Middletown

Ben Lomond Historic Site, Manassas

Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, Alexandria 

George C. Marshall’s Dodana Manor, Leesburg

George Mason’s Gunston Hall, Mason Neck

Lee-Fendall House Museums and Garden, Alexandria

Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum, Sterling

Morven Park, Leesburg

Museum of Culpeper History, Culpeper

National Firearms Museum, Fairfax*

National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum, Alexandria*

National Museum of the Marine Corps, Triangle*

Reston Historic Trust & Museum, Reston*

The Weems-Botts Museum, Dumfries



Annapolis Maritime Museums & Park, Annapolis*

College Park Aviation Museum, College Park

Hogshead, Annapolis*

NASA Goddard Visitor Center, Greenbelt*

National Museum of Health and Medicine, Silver Spring*

Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center, North Brentwood

Riverdale House Museum, Riverdale Park

William Paca House and Gardens, Annapolis


*Indicates a participating museum with daily free admission. 

Michaela Althouse
Editorial Fellow

Michaela Althouse is an editorial fellow for the Washingtonian. Her previous work has been featured in Philadelphia Magazine and