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How to Enter Museums for Free

Enter More Than 1,000 Museums for Free

Between mandated shutdowns of public spaces, staff layoffs and budget cuts, the pandemic has been tough on museums and cultural attractions in the Pacific Northwest and across the United States. But that won’t stop more than 1,000 museums, zoos and cultural centers around the U.S. from opening their doors for free on Saturday, Sept. 18 as part of the Museum Day 2021, put on by Smithsonian magazine.

Mark Your Calendar

Master Dressing Room at the Polson Museum
Master Dressing Room at the Polson Museum. Photo courtesy of the Polson Museum.

Nearly two dozen museums and attractions in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, including the Tacoma Art Museum, the Idaho State Museum, and the Museum of the Oregon Territory, have signed up to participate in Museum Day this year. Each will offer free admission to guests who present a museum day ticket downloaded from the Museum Day site. Visitors may request one ticket per email and each ticket provides general admission to the ticket holder and one guest.

In addition to offering a savings on admission fees, which can be quite hefty, Museum Day gives guests a chance to revisit a favorite museum or explore a new one.

The Polson Museum (regular admission $5/adults; $15/families) in Hoquiam, Washington has taken part in Museum Day every year since the program began “and this year will be showing off what has been a year and a half of intensive work to restore our 1924 mansion,” says museum director John Larson. “Simply getting our doors back open is our major accomplishment for the year.”

Seattle’s Museum of Flight (regular adult admission: $25) is also a regular Museum Day participant and this year pass holders will be able to enjoy the museum’s new exhibit, Stranger Than Fiction – The Incredible Science of Aerospace Medicine and enjoy family workshops based upon the exhibit.

The Connections Museum (free admission, donations encouraged) is a treasure trove of all types of telecommunications equipment located in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. It has reopened to the public and is joining Museum Day as well. Because the museum is closed Saturday, Museum Day tickets will be honored on Sunday, Sept. 19.

And Museum Day usually brings several hundred visitors to Seattle’s National Nordic Museum (adults: $20). Guests can see the Nordic Journeys permanent exhibit as well as the visiting exhibition through Oct. 17, Among Forests and Lakes: Landscape Masterpieces from the Finnish Gallery. “Also don’t forget to stop by The Fisherman’s Sun Terrace to walk our new Nordic Labyrinth,” says museum spokeswoman Rosemary Jones.

PNW Participating Museums

Fit to Fly Wall Courtesy Museum of Flight
Museum of Flight is participating in Museum Day. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Flight.

Here is the list of museums in Washington, Oregon and Idaho participating in Museum Day as of Sept. 1. Check the Museum Day website for late additions.


  • The Bainbridge Island Museum of Art (Bainbridge Island)
  • Clark County Historical Museum (Vancouver)
  • Connections Museum (Seattle)
  • Edmonds Historical Museum (Edmonds)
  • Historic Fort Steilacoom (Lakewood)
  • Lakewold Gardens (Lakewood)
  • Museum of History & Industry (Seattle)
  • Museum of Flight (Seattle)
  • National Nordic Museum (Seattle)
  • Polson Museum (Hoquiam)
  • Renton History Museum (Renton)
  • Tacoma Art Museum (Tacoma)
  • Whatcom Museum (Bellingham)


  • Idaho State Museum (Boise)
  • Nez Perce County Historical Society & Museum (Lewiston)


  • Coos History Museum (Coos Bay)
  • Douglas County Museum of Cultural and Natural History (Roseburg)
  • Four Rivers Cultural Center & Museum (Ontario)
  • Museum of Natural and Cultural History at the University of Oregon (Eugene)
  • Museum of the Oregon Territory (Oregon City)
  • Tillamook Air Museum (Tillamook)

If you miss Museum Day, don’t worry. Many museums in our region have regular days when they offer free or discounted admission. For example, the Seattle Art Museum, the Burke Museum and MOHAI are among the museums that offer free admission on the first Thursday of each month. Museums that participate in the Museums for All program offer free or reduced admission to visitors with public assistance (EBT) ID cards. And the Blue Star Museums program provides free admission to active, retired and veteran military personnel and their families during the summer months.

–Written by Harriet Baskas

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