Active duty U.S. military and their families receive free admission to more than 2,000 museums and other attractions throughout the United States through the Blue Star Museums program.
The 2023 Blue Star Museums program begins on Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 20, and ends on Labor Day, Monday, September 4.
When it launched in 2010, there were 700 participating museums.
By 2023, the list has grown to more than 2,000, with participating museums in all 50 states, including historic homes, science centers, history museums, zoos, aquariums, gardens, children’s museums, and more.
So there is truly something for everyone, no matter who you are or where you are.
Participating museums and cultural attractions offering free admission include Adler Planetarium and Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, the Getty Center in Los Angeles, and the American Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Search the Blue Star Museums list by region or attraction type.
Who is eligible for free museum admission
The free admission program is available for those currently serving in the United States Military—Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard as well as members of the Reserves, National Guard, U.S. Public Health Commissioned Corps, NOAA Commissioned Corps, and up to five family members.
Family members are identified as a spouse or child, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles of the qualifying military personnel.
The military ID holder can be either active duty service member or other dependent family member with the appropriate ID card.
Qualified members must show a Geneva Convention common access card (CAC), DD Form 1173 ID card (dependent ID), or a DD Form 1173-1 ID card for entrance into a participating Blue Star Museum.
The active duty member does not have to be present for family members to use the program.
Spouses and family members of deployed military are eligible for Blue Star Museums.
Just bring your DD Form 1173 ID Card, or DD Form 1173-1 ID Card, for active duty military family members.
Retirees and veterans should reach out to the museum you plan to visit directly. Many offer reduced rates.
Military discounts at non-participating attractions
Even attractions, such as theme parks, which do not participate in the Blue Star free admission program, offer discounts for active military and their families.
Through the SeaWorld “Waves of Honor” program, active duty military and their guests receive one-day free admission year-round at SeaWorld parks in Orlando, San Antonio, or San Diego.
Veterans can register for this offer through May 14th and have until July 9th to visit the parks with free tickets. The offer also applies to National Guard reservists
The free admission offer no longer extends to other SeaWorld company theme parks, including Busch Gardens, Sesame Place, and Discovery Cove, as it has for the past several years.
Historic Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia gives free admission to veterans and active-duty military and up to three direct dependents on Memorial Day and Veterans Day weekends, and free admission on any other one day of the year for guests with military ID and up to three direct dependents.
About Blue Star Museums
Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and more than 2,000 museums across America. Blue Star Families is a national, nonprofit network of military families from all ranks and services, including guard and reserve, dedicated to supporting, connecting, and empowering military families.
The effort to recruit museums has involved partnerships with the American Alliance of Museums, the Association of Art Museum Directors, the Association of Children’s Museums, the American Association of State and Local History, the Association of Science-Technology Centers, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
This article was published originally in 2019 and is updated and republished annually, including for 2023. Thank you for your service.
ecoXplorer Evelyn Kanter is a journalist with 20+ years of experience as a newspaper and magazine writer, radio & TV news producer & reporter, and author of guidebooks and smartphone apps – all focusing on travel, automotive, the environment and your rights as a consumer.
ecoXplorer Evelyn Kanter currently serves as President of the International Motor Press Assn. (IMPA) and is a former Board Member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW)
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