Update, March 12, 2020: Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day 2020 will no longer take place on April 4, due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. “As a public health precaution, the Smithsonian is postponing or canceling all public events, programming and gatherings through May 5. We appreciate your understanding,” Smithsonian said in a statement.
Original story, March 5, 2020: One of the best parts about visiting Washington, D.C., is the year-round free access to the Smithsonian Institute museums in the city. To spread that spirit throughout the 50 states, Smithsonian magazine is hosting its 16th annual Museum Day in partnership with Lexus. That means this Saturday, April 4, 2020, more than 1,200 museums across the United States will open their doors for free.
To find a participating museum near you, visit smithsonianmag.com/museumday and search by zip code. But for more inspiration (and to save you time from digging through all the listings), here are nine institutions that AFAR editors have been to and loved—or have at the top of our must-visit lists. Here’s what we picked:
Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum
New York City
I did this two years ago on the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum and loved it. It was always one of those museums on my “I’ll do that eventually” list and the free ticket really gave the boost I needed to go. I’ve never been to a museum on an actual ship before, so the five-year-old in me was geeking out. It was quite busy though, so I recommend going to any of these museums early on that day. —Ciera Velarde, newsletter engagement editor
Museum of Russian Art
Minneapolis has no shortage of awesome museums. As someone who went to college there, and who returns regularly to visit friends and family, I’ve spent what must be weeks, in total, at the Walker, the Bell Museum, the American Swedish Institute, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. But in all my time there, I’ve never made it to the Museum of Russian Art, which is housed in a renovated, historic former church off 35W near Diamond Lake. As the only major institute in North America devoted entirely to Russian art and culture, its exhibits span from Muscovite Russia to post-Soviet Russia. Bonus: There’s also a gift shop that sells matryoshka nesting dolls and Russian chocolate. —Katherine LaGrave, digital features editor
Museum of Glass
During Museum Day, you can visit the Museum of Glass’s Transparency: An LGBTQ+ Glass Art Exhibition. It is the first museum exhibition in the country of studio glassworks produced exclusively by artists in the LGBTQ+ community. —Sarah Buder, assistant digital editor
Museum of Chinese in America
New York City
A few weeks ago, a fire tore through the archives and storage building of the Museum of Chinese in America, a few blocks from my apartment. I’ve been looking forward to visiting the museum building, both to see the collection and to provide some support for their recovery, so I will swing by there on Museum Day. —Ann Shields, managing editor, guides
California Museum of Surf
I find that visiting small museums focused on niche topics always tends to be a really rich experience. Usually the information is nerd-level detailed, which I love, and yet it’s all fairly digestible too—you don’t have to spend five hours there to feel like you got to everything, which, for someone like me who suffers from severe FOMO, is excellent. I now have my eye on the California Museum of Surf in Oceanside for their current feature exhibit on adaptive surfing. —Maggie Fuller, associate digital editor
Colored Musicians Club Jazz Museum
Buffalo, New York
When I was working on the Buffalo guide, I was really intrigued by the Colored Musicians Club. It was founded in 1917 as a club for Buffalo’s African American musicians and eventually turned into a performance venue for major names like Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, and Dizzy Gillespie. Today, it’s mostly a museum devoted to the preservation of jazz history in Buffalo, but it also hosts concerts and jam sessions every Sunday. Looks so fun! —Natalie Beauregard, travel guides editor
Asian Art Museum
I’d love to check out the newly redone Asian Art Museum in Seattle. It’s a gorgeous 1930s art deco building in Volunteer Park that’s expanded its coverage to go beyond China, Japan, and India galleries (think Vietnamese and Iranian art). —Laura Dannen Redman, digital content director
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
New York City
This year, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum has a “Contemporary Muslim Fashions” exhibit on view during Museum Day that’s worth seeing. It also has a cool interactive-looking “Immersion Room,” where guests can sketch designs and project them on the museum’s walls. —S.B.
Lawrence Hall of Science
I got tickets to Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley even though it looks kid focused. Always enjoy a planetarium. One of those places I’ve long meant to visit someday. . . —Pat Tompkins, copy editor
To get a free set of tickets, you’ll have to visit Smithsonianmag.com/museumday to download them before you go on April 4. Each ticket allows you and a guest to enter the museum for free and you’ll be able to download one set of tickets per email address.