Best Free Museum (2022)


Some of the nation’s most captivating, enriching and enlightening museums have one great thing in common – admission is free. 

  • National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center

    National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center
    Columbus, Georgia

    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 / National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center

  • National Museum of Mexican Art

    National Museum of Mexican Art

    The National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood is home to more than 10,000 objects, and its permanent collection is one of the largest of Mexican art in the country. The accredited museum is dedicated to preserving and facilitating knowledge about Latino life and history. Exhibits focus on Mexican culture as it is represented in the US and in Mexico, and the permanent collection includes folk art, ephemera, sculpture, textiles and drawings.
    Photo courtesy of Graham Chapman / Choose Chicago

  • Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

    Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
    Kansas City

    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. 
    Photo courtesy of Don Ipock / Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

  • Wagner Free Institute of Science

    Wagner Free Institute of Science

    This free Philadelphia museum showcases a collection of natural history specimens housed in a soaring three-story exhibition hall. Much of the collection is laid out much as it would have been during the Victorian era, complete with cherry wood and glass cabinets dating back to the 1880s.
    Photo courtesy of Wagner Free Institute of Science Exhibit Hall. David Graham, photographer

  • The Museum at FIT

    The Museum at FIT
    New York

    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 The Museum at FIT

  • Smithsonian Institution

    Smithsonian Institution
    Washington, DC

    The world’s largest museum complex comprises 19 museums in the greater Washington, DC area, all of them completely free to the public. Highlights include the Air and Space MuseumAmerican Art MuseumNatural History Museum and the Portrait Gallery
    Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institution

  • Baltimore Museum of Art

    Baltimore Museum of Art

    The Baltimore Museum of Art is home to the Cone Collection, the largest Matisse collection in the world. In addition to the works within the walls that span centuries of prints and paintings, the grounds offer a sculpture garden with fountains and 34 sculptures. On Sundays the museum hosts hands-on workshops and tours for families. 
    Photo courtesy of Mitro Hood

  • Cincinnati Art Museum

    Cincinnati Art Museum

    This art museum in Cincinnati’s Eden Park displays works from its collection of 67,000 works spanning 6,000 years of art history. Admission is always free to the two floors of gallery space. 
    Photo courtesy of Phil Armstrong

  • The Walters Art Museum

    The Walters Art Museum

    Open to the public since 1934, the Walters Art Museum houses works from the third millennium BC to the present. Within the walls of this world class art museum, visitors can view works in many mediums, including ceramics and sculpture, in addition to unique pieces such as medieval armor and jeweled Faberge eggs. The Byzantine, Ethiopian and Egyptian sections are particularly striking.
    Photo courtesy of The Walters Art Museum

  • Cleveland Museum of Art

    Cleveland Museum of Art
    Cleveland, Ohio

    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 Destination Cleveland

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

  1. National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center - Columbus, GA
  2. National Museum of Mexican Art - Chicago, IL
  3. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art - Kansas City, MO
  4. Wagner Free Institute of Science - Philadelphia, PA
  5. The Museum at FIT - New York, NY
  6. Smithsonian Institution - Washington, DC
  7. Baltimore Museum of Art - Baltimore, MD
  8. Cincinnati Art Museum - Cincinnati, OH
  9. The Walters Art Museum - Baltimore, MD
  10. Cleveland Museum of Art - Cleveland, OH

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to pick the initial nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote.

Congratulations to all these winning museums!


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10Best Editors

10Best Editors

10Best Editors

Deborah Fallows

Deborah Fallows

Deborah Fallows