For a long time, Bank of America (BOA) has sponsored free museum days in the US. Currently, select museums throughout the country are free to BOA cardholders on the first full weekend of each month. Here are the 2018 dates:
To enter for free, just show your BOA (including Merrill Lynch) card at the ticket office on those dates. Obviously, the line is usually longer on those days, but that’s true even for paying customers. Here’s the list of participating museums.
In the last few months, I’ve taken advantage of free entries to:
- Shedd Aquarium (Chicago) – normally $40 entry for non-Chicago residents.
- Boston Museum of Fine Arts – normally $25
- Isabella Gardner Museum (Boston) – normally $15
I don’t plan trips around the free museum dates, but the BOA card is on my trip checklist. When they happen to coincide it’s great. I’ll be in Portland on Sunday, July 8, and I see there are 3 free museums, including the famous Japanese garden, which I’m happy to visit if schedule works out.
Museums used to bore me, but The Henry Ford (on the free list) changed that with its thought-provoking showcase of past innovation and their evolution. It wasn’t just super fun but fundamentally challenged my perspective on the future of innovation. That’s what a good museum can do for you. Unfortunately the big American art museums are scarce on Islamic, African, Central Asian and Pacific Island collections (to name a few). When in one of the aforementioned regions (having arrived using travel hacking, of course), going to a good museum with a vast exhibition of local art can be extremely educational. One of my favorites is the Architecture gallery in the Islamic Arts Museum in Kuala Lumpur; unlike the museums in, say, old town Florence which have queues of a million tourists, it only had a few visitors, giving me ample space to take in the galleries and evocative prayer calls.
Nonetheless, with hundreds of museums on the list (6 in Miami alone), there’s plenty to choose from, whatever your interest. So mark your calendar and keep your card close. There are several no annual fee BOA cards, including Merrill+ and the Travel Rewards card.
Tip #1: even if you don’t have an active BOA card, an old card that hasn’t expired should work. The ticket staff has never validated my card beyond a glance. YMMV. Certainly, keep a card open if you can.
Tip #2: even though Merrill cards are eligible, some staff may not be familiar with them, so I always bring a BOA-brand card just in case.