Sept. 24, 2010 -- This weekend museums all across the country are waiving their admission to let families see exhibits for free. Yes, free.
Welcome to the sixth annual Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day. More than 1,300 institutions across America will welcome guests in what has to be one of the best sightseeing and recession specials out there.
"Here's an opportunity for you to go out with your child, spouse or friend and experience a cultural event for free," said Rosie Walker, an associate publisher at Smithsonian magazine which is organizing the event.
Each household is allowed two free tickets for Saturday's admission and they must be printed out in advance at Smithsonian's website.
The venues run the gamut from large well-known institutions to children's museums to some lesser-known, local cultural centers.
In some cases the savings can be substantial. Boston's Museum of Fine Arts normally charges $20 a ticket to see nearly 450,000 works from around the world and across the ages. Those extra $40 could go a long way for a big family lunch out, a night at the movies or just some extra savings.
Other big-name attractions include the Experience Music Project|Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle. The music project explores the creativity and innovation in popular music, looking at the essence of rock 'n' roll, its roots in jazz, soul, gospel, country and the blues, as well as rock's influence on hip-hop, punk and other recent genres. Tickets there are normally $15 each.
Free Museum Admission
But the free day isn't just about the blockbuster attractions.
"It started as an idea to get consumers and our Smithsonian audience around the country to get out and experience their local museums and cultural venues," Walker said.
She said there are actually very few big museums in the country.
"It's all these mid-size and smaller venues that serve communities and preserve culture and celebrate it every day," Walker said.
For instance, visitors to Wamego, Kansas on Saturday can go for free to the OZ Museum.
The normal entrance fee is $7. The museum houses one of the largest privately owned collections of Oz memorabilia -- 2,000 artifacts that celebrate all things Oz from 1900 to the present. While there's no place like home, this museum is worth getting off the couch.
In Lubbock, Texas, travelers can visit the Buddy Holly Center, which collects, preserves and interprets artifacts relevant to Lubbock's most famous native son, Buddy Holly, as well as to other performing artists and musicians of West Texas. It's normally $5, but free on Saturday.
Last year more than 200,000 people took part in the free museum day. This year, organizers are expecting between 300,000 and 400,000 visitors.
While it's free, just remember to print out the tickets from home in advance.