Beat the Heat: Free Entry Into Museums This Weekend With the Right Cards

Aug 2, 2019

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It’s August — take a look at this weekend’s national weather forecast and you’ll find that much of the country will experience scorching temperatures. Some of you in the heartland will get a break, but the rest of us — especially anyone without tip-top air-conditioning at home — will scramble to find some relief.

Heading to the movies or the pool may be your go-to play in situations like this. But we have another idea. This is the first full weekend of the month, which means that anyone with a Bank of America, Merrill Lynch or US Trust credit or debit card can take advantage of the Bank of America Museums on Us program that grants free weekend access to a variety of museums, art galleries and cultural centers across the US. Keep in mind that each person needs a card with their name on it to get in free, so if only the adults in the group have cards, be ready to potentially pay for the kiddos.

If you don’t yet have a Bank of America card, here’s a round-up of some of the best to consider for next time, including the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card, which has no annual fee.

TPG combed through the 225 participating institutions and selected seven of the most interesting (and cool) spots to spend the day. (Find a museum near you where you can visit for free this weekend.)

In This Post

1. Children’s Museum of Houston

It’s going to feel like it’s around 100 degrees in Houston this weekend, so instead of melting, your family can spend the entire day exploring the 90,000 square feet of indoor interactive exhibits at the Children’s Museum of Houston. And, when we say family, we mean it. Your group must include a child. Adults-only groups are not be admitted to the museum.

The museum was designed with a variety of exhibits that appeal to children from birth through about 12 years old, though older kids often still enjoy The Challenge Course (ropes course for kids 5–15). If your children need to let off some steam, make sure they visit the Power Tower, a three-story climbing structure or get a fast pass upon arrival to the museum for Kidtropolis. This is a “city” where kids make the rules by playing the parts of city leaders, workers, voters, shoppers and business owners. Finally, this weekend on August 3, take part in a special Harry Potter Birthday Bash.

Hours: Saturday 10am–6pm and Sunday noon–6pm

2. Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation

If you’re close to Dearborn, Michigan, check out the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. The exhibits does a tremendous job of capturing America’s spirit of innovation. You can learn about everything from race cars to microprocessors to modular homes. AVGeeks will especially enjoy the Heroes of the Sky exhibit that includes a replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer, a 1939 Sikorsky VS-300A helicopter, a 1925 Fokker F. VII tri-motor airplane and more.

TPG Tip: If you are making the trip into town, there’s a nearby Marriott Category 4 hotel in the Autograph Collection property you can book for 25k Marriott points.

Hours: Saturday and Sunday 9:30am–5pm

3. Great Lakes Science Center

Whether you’re encouraging your kids to take an interest in STEM or science, technology, engineering and math are your own passions, spend part of this weekend at Cleveland’s Great Lakes Science Center. The hands-on exhibits — there are hundreds of them on-site — especially appeal to children. Adults and kids enjoy the NASA Glenn Visitor Center where you can see what it’s like to live in space and view the Apollo Command Module that was used in the Skylab 3 space mission.

Hours: Saturday and Sunday noon–5pm

4. Liberty Science Center

Right in Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey’s Liberty Science Center, across the river from Manhattan, is a fun place to visit whether you plan to enjoy the climbing play space that’s suspended 35 feet in the air or crawl through an 80-foot pitch-black “touch” tunnel that illustrates how much humans rely on sight. The learning center spans 300,000 square feet and features the biggest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere (the planetarium costs extra). Visit this weekend to see the Sean Kenney’s Art Made with LEGO Bricks, or dig through the sand like a paleontologist in Jack Horner’s Dino Dig.

Hours: Saturday and Sunday from 9am–5:30pm

5. Portland Art Museum

What’s nice about the Portland Art Museum in Oregon is that the galleries appeal to all types of art lovers. You can peruse art made in America, Asia and Europe. The modern and contemporary art gallery is quite strong, as is the Native American and Northwest art collections. You’ll find plenty of photography and an exceptional silver collection. Be sure to stop by the coffee shop before or after your visit. The espresso, coffee and tea are excellent and there’s a nice array of goodies from local bakeries and donut shops.

Hours: Saturday and Sunday 10am–5pm

6. The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Complex — NYC

A favorite of TPG, the Intrepid in NYC isn’t all indoors, but it is a really cool place to visit. Instead of spending the regular $33 per adult price, flash your Bank of America card this weekend and explore the Apollo 11 exhibit, see aircraft from all branches of service, the space shuttle Enterprise and more without spending a penny.

The TPG Awards on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018 in New York City. Photo by Patrick T. Fallon for The Points Guy
The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Complex. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon / The Points Guy)

If it’s too hot on deck, head down below where you’ll find more to see without all the sun (hopefully it won’t be as busy as when TPG-ers took over for the TPG Awards).

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 04: A view of the crowd at The Points Guy Awards on December 4, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Gonzalo Marroquin/Getty Images for The Points Guy)
TPG Awards inside the Intrepid (Photo by Gonzalo Marroquin/Getty Images for The Points Guy)

7. Philadelphia Museum of Art

You’ve seen the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art every time you watch the movie “Rocky.” Now’s your chance to visit the facility, one of America’s oldest public art museums, for free. Kids get a kick out of the arms and armor gallery while adults appreciate a tour of architectural settings from around the world recreated on-site. You can see a Gilded Age drawing room, French medieval cloister, Japanese teahouse and more. The European art galleries — in particular the Impressionist section — are also especially strong with works by Cézanne, Degas, Monet, Renoir and others.

Hours: Saturday and Sunday 10am–5pm

How to Get in for Free

More than 200 museums, science centers and art galleries participate in the Bank of America Museums on Us program. To get in for free, simply visit on the first full weekend of each month and flash a Bank of America, Merrill Lynch or US Trust credit or debit card, along with a photo ID. With those bank cards, you’re eligible to receive one general admission ticket. If you and your partner both have one of these cards, you’ll each need to present one to gain free entry. Note that most ticketed shows, special exhibits or fundraising events are excluded.

If you do have to shell out for additional tickets for other members of your group, be sure to use a credit card that rewards you for entertainment spending.

Related: The Best Credit Cards for Entertainment Spending

Bottom Line

Even if you’re not trying to escape the heat this weekend, Bank of America’s Museums on Us program is a solid way to get some free entertainment either at home or while on the road. Mark your calendars for the first full weekend of each month and visit a new-to-you art gallery, science museum or cultural center.

Have you taken advantage of this deal before? Which museums do you recommend? Tell us in the comments.

Featured image by Cristiano Zuin/Getty Images

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