Best Free Museum (2016)


These 10 excellent American museums – nominated by budget travel experts and voted as the best in the nation by our readers – all have something in common: they're free! 

  • National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center

    National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center
    Columbus, Ga.

    Free immersive exhibits at the National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center in Columbus take visitors through 240 years of U.S. history through the lens of what it means to be a U.S. soldier. It's one of the world's top military museums and one of the top rated attractions in Columbus.
    Photo courtesy of Jay Rosenblatt,

  • Cleveland Museum of Art

    Cleveland Museum of Art

    At the center of University Circle, the Cleveland Museum of Art encompasses some 70 galleries with art spanning from Mediterranean antiquity to the modern day. There's a little bit of everything here, including works by Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh and Michelangelo. Even non-art lovers will have something to look at – Egyptian mummies, African masks and a collection of medieval weaponry.
    Photo courtesy of

  • National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

    National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
    Dayton, Ohio

    Dayton's National Museum of the U.S. Air Force presents a broad history of the Air Force, with more than 360 aerospace vehicles and missiles on display. The collection also includes thousands more historical items, all divided among topical galleries, like the Cold War Gallery, Presidential Gallery and Space Gallery.
    Photo courtesy of National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

  • Saint Louis Art Museum

    Saint Louis Art Museum
    St. Louis

    Housed in the "Fine Arts Palace" of the famous 1904 World's Fair, the Saint Louis Art Museum regales visitors with an outstanding collection of Impressionist paintings, Asian works, Renaissance pieces and American art. Visitors enjoying this free collection can spot works by Monet, van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso and Degas.
    Photo courtesy of Bettina Woolbright / Flickr

  • Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

    Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
    Bentonville, Ark.

    The free Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art celebrates the American spirit through its collection of five centuries worth of American art. Pieces span history from the Colonial period to the modern day, and include masterworks by Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol and Georgia O’Keeffe.
    Photo courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

  • Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

    Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
    Kansas City, Mo.

    Established in 1933, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is among America's premier art institutions, boasting a variety of prestigious works dating from antiquity to the present. The Atkins is renowned for its magnificent collection of rare European, American and Asian art, and the 17-acre Sculpture Park features the largest stateside collection of bronzes by British sculptor Henry Moore. The museum's prolific art history research library houses 93,000 volumes.
    Photo courtesy of Alison Young/USA TODAY

  • Frye Art Museum

    Frye Art Museum

    Visitors to Seattle can tour the excellent collection of nineteenth and twentieth century pastoral paintings at the Frye Art Museum free of charge. The largely European permanent collection is complemented by regular special exhibitions (also free), covering an eclectic range of topics.
    Photo courtesy of John Seb Barber / Flickr

  • Minneapolis Institute of Art

    Minneapolis Institute of Art

    The internationally renowned Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) boasts a permanent collection of more than 89,000 items representing prehistoric to contemporary. Highlights include a 2000-year-old mummy, a collection of Impressionist works and one of the most comprehensive Asian Art collections in the US. Period rooms from European homes and from America's early decades are reinvigorated to include other histories. Lectures, tours and special events are offered throughout the year.
    Photo courtesy of Minneapolis Institute of Art

  • The Museum at FIT

    The Museum at FIT
    New York

    While smallish, the museum at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology packs a big punch. The self-proclaimed "most fashionable museum in New York" comprises three galleries displaying garments from the 50,000-piece permanent collection, as well as accessories dating back to the eighteenth century. Exhibits change every six months, making it a great free option for return visitors.
    Photo courtesy of Robert Sheie / Flickr

  • American Computer & Robotics Museum

    American Computer & Robotics Museum
    Bozeman, Mont.

    Not just for computer geeks (though they'll love it too), the American Computer & Robotics Museum in Bozeman offers a fascinating look into the rich history of computing, with exhibits on hacking the German Enigma machine, artificial intelligence and the history of the Apple Computer Company. The museum earns rave reviews with visitors for being both compact and comprehensive.
    Photo courtesy of Sesamehoneytart / Wikimedia Commons

The top 10 winners in the category Best Free Museum are as follows:

  1. National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center - Columbus, Ga.
  2. Cleveland Museum of Art - Cleveland
  3. National Museum of the U.S. Air Force - Dayton, Ohio
  4. Saint Louis Art Museum - St. Louis
  5. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art - Bentonville, Ark.
  6. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art - Kansas City, Mo.
  7. Frye Art Museum - Seattle
  8. Minneapolis Institute of Art - Minneapolis
  9. The Museum at FIT - New York
  10. American Computer & Robotics Museum - Bozeman, Mont.

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Shereen Rayle (Shereen Travels Cheap), Anna Hider (Roadtrippers) and Kim Orlando (TravelingMom) were chosen based on their extensive knowledge of budget travel in the United States.

Other nominated museums included the Baltimore Museum of Art, The Broad, The Getty Center, The Menil Collection, National Museum of Mexican Art, San Francisco Cable Car Museum, Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, USS Constitution Museum and The Walters Art Museum.

Congratulations to all our winning free museums.

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Anna Hider

Anna Hider

Anna Hider

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Kim Orlando

Kim Orlando

Shereen Rayle

Shereen Rayle

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