Exploring museums is the perfect blend of entertainment and education, and a great way to spend some time! Museum admission can be expensive, but some of the best museums in Columbus offer discounted or free museum days.
There are even several great museums that are free all of the time!
Discounted and Free Museum Days in Columbus
Columbus Member Advantage Program
If you’re a member of select Central Ohio attractions, you can save $3 on general admission to other attractions through the Columbus Member Advantage program.
No coupon is necessary. Simply show your valid participating membership card when you visit! Limited to 4 discounts per membership per day; can’t be combined with other discounts.
Member Advantage partners for 2022 include:
- Columbus Museum of Art and Pizzuti Collection (see our article)
- Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (see our article)
- Dawes Arboretum (see our article)
- Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (see our article)
- LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Columbus (see our article)
- National Veterans Memorial and Museum (see our article)
- Ohio History Center & Ohio Village (see our article)
- Wexner Center for the Arts (see our article)
- COSI (advanced tickets required)
- The Works: Ohio Center for History, Art and Technology (also qualifies for ASTC reciprocal admission)
COSI is open 7 days a week, 10 am – 5 pm
Ohio’s dynamic Center of Science and Industry is a must-see in our city! There’s fun for all ages at this giant science center. From classic exhibits, live shows, Planetarium, Giant Screen Theatre, to the traveling exhibits and Little Kidspace, there is enough inspiration and hands-on activity to spend the entire day there.
- Discounts: ASTC & ACM Members, Active, Reserve, and Retired Military, Seniors 60+, and COESRA discount. Certified teacher enjoy FREE admission, and discounted memberships for family.
- Family Friday Night: COSI stays open late on the last Friday of the month from 5-9 pm with reduced admission of $10-$15. Details tba for 2022 – not currently scheduled.
- COSI After Dark: On select Thursdays, COSI stays open late for the adults to have the run of the place. There are themed activities, cash bars, entertainment, as well as food available for purchase.
Columbus Museum of Art
Columbus Museum of Art features a fantastic collection of exhibits and art, as well as interactive and exploratory creativity for all ages.
- FREE Sunday admission for all thanks to a PNC Arts Alive grant. Hours are 10 am – 5 pm
- Free admission for Veterans and active military and their families
- Thursdays: $5 from 5 pm – 9 pm
- Discounts: Seniors 60+, Students 18+
Read more about offerings at Columbus Museum of Art at our link.
11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday
632 North Park Street, Columbus.
The Pizzuti Collection of Columbus Musuem of Art is located on the border of Goodale Park in the Short North and features exhibitions drawn from a collection of paintings, sculpture, film, photography, drawings, and prints that has been ranked as one of the top in the world. They also host educational programs, lectures, artist talks, and special events throughout the year.
Regular admission is Adults: $5, Seniors: $5, Children: $5.
- FREE admission for members of Columbus Museum of Art and Veterans and active duty and their families
- FREE Community Days throughout the year offer free admission to the public, plus exhibition tours and family-friendly activities.
- Short North discount: Spend $5 or more in the Short North Arts District within 24 hours and show your receipt for complimentary admission!
Wexner Center for the Arts
Ohio State University campus
Wexner Center for the Arts is a multidisciplinary research laboratory for the arts with programming featuring performing arts, exhibitions, and media arts.
- FREE admission Thursdays for everyone from 4 -8 p.m.
- FREE admission every Sunday
- Always FREE for Wexner Center members, college students with ID, anyone under 18, and active military and veterans.
Read more about Wexner Center at our link.
National Veterans Memorial and Museum
300 West Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215
The National Veterans Memorial and Museum (NVMM) is neither a war memorial nor a military branch of service museum. NVMM will take visitors on a narrative journey telling individual stories and shared experiences of veterans throughout history. It will pay tribute to the sacrifices of servicemen and women and their families. History will be presented in a dynamic, participatory experience with photos, letters and personal effects, multi-media presentations, and interactive exhibits.” Brand new museum opened on October 27, 2018.
- Veterans, Active Duty Military, and Gold Star Families get free admission.
- The Memorial Grove, a place of respectful reflection, is free and open from dawn to dusk
- Membership starts at just $35/yr for one person
Currently only open Wednesday – Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except special events or holidays.
See details about current and upcoming events and exhibits here.
“Always Free” Museums in Columbus
Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, The Ohio State University campus
Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum holds the world’s largest collection of materials related to comics and cartoons. Open to the public and admission is free. Hours are: Thursday – Sunday: 1:00-4:00 pm, reservations required. Please see website regarding closures for exhibition installations, parking, and more.
Wagner-Jaybird Auto Collection, near German Village
The Wagner-Jaybird Auto Museum is a car lovers dream come true! Located in a nondescript garage, this private collection features classic cars from 2 collectors. The collection on display changes periodically and often includes cars from (but not limited to) the 1950’s and 1960’s, including a Ford Edsel, 1956 Chrysler Imperial, 1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II, and many more. Admission to the museum is free, donations accepted.
Appointments may be made by calling Steve Wagner at 614-271-0888. Most tours will be held on weekends or evenings. The museum typically opens from 10 am – 5 pm on Father’s Day for open tours. This museum is formerly known as the Wagner-Hagans Auto Museum.
Packard Columbus: The Hagans Auto Museum, near Polaris
Owner Mark Hagans used to be a part of the Wagner-Hagans Auto Museum, and has moved his private collection to Marengo, Ohio – just 20 minutes north of Polaris. This private/public museum is open to the public by appointment only. The museum showcases a collection of cars, most pre-WW2 and many are Packards from years 1928 to1956.
They also have Auburn, Pierce Arrow, LaSalle, Studebaker, Nash, Buicks, and Chrysler Imperial, plus dozens of signs, toys, and vintage newspapers on display. Call to schedule an appointment at 614 554 5879.
Ohio Craft Museum, Columbus near Grandview
The Ohio Craft Museum is a program of Ohio Designer Craftsmen, presenting five major exhibitions each year, plus exhibits and a rotating display of the permanent collection. The museum offers educational workshops and events for all ages and levels of experience, as well as occasional free family workshops.
Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Saturday and Sundays 1 – 4 p.m. Admission to the Ohio Craft Museum is free; most programming requires registration fees.
Columbus Historical Society, Downtown Columbus
The Columbus Historical Society’s mission is Preserving, protecting, and promoting the history of Central Ohio. Admission is free, but advanced, online timed reservations are required for admission into our exhibits to better protect the health of visitors, volunteers, and staff.
Reservations may be made through Eventbrite or over the phone Tuesdays & Fridays 10 am – 2 pm at 614-224-0822. Open, Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Find details about current exhibits and events on the website.
Cultural Arts Center, Downtown Columbus
The Cultural Arts Center is Central Ohio’s premier visual arts center featuring contemporary art and emphasizing emerging artists. They offer hands-on instruction, a learning hub and creative space. Free tours, workshops, and other programming is available, while some require registration fees. HOURS: Mon, 1pm-4pm & 7pm-10pm, Tue-Thu 9am-4pm & 7pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 9am-4pm, Sun Closed
To visit, register for a time online, or call 614.645.7047 to select a time. Classes plan to resume on Monday, March 1st, 2021, with registration set to take place Saturday, February 20th, 2021 at 8:30AM.
King Arts Complex, Downtown Columbus
The King Arts Complex offers performing, cultural and educational programs that provide high artistic merit, varied and diverse experiences, and which increase and disseminate knowledge regarding the vast and significant contributions of African-Americans to the culture and history of America and the world. See what’s happening here.
Ohio Statehouse, Downtown Columbus
Capitol Square includes the Ohio Statehouse, Senate Building and Atrium. The buildings are not only working government offices but magnificent monuments to the people and the period during which Ohio’s democracy was founded and formed. Guided tours are currently suspended. Self-guided and audio tours are available.
Please note that while the Ohio Statehouse is open to the public on the weekends, the House and Senate Chambers are kept locked, and are only available to be viewed during guided tours. Guided tours may not be available, but self-guided tours are still offered.
The Ohio Statehouse is open to the public, weekdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
See our article with more details on tours, virtual programming, exhibits, and annual events.
Special exhibits, tours and events at Ohio Statehouse and Museum
Orton Geological Museum, Ohio State University School of Earth Sciences
Located on the campus of OSU, the Orton Geological Museum features a fascinating collection of crystals, minerals, bones, fossils, mastodon teeth, meteorites and “Jeffrey,” the skeleton of a 7-foot giant ground sloth. Admission is always free, and open to all.
Open from 8:00 am to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Occasionally, it is also open on Saturdays. If you are planning to visit on a Saturday, please phone ahead (614-292-6896) to determine whether the Gallery will be open to the public that day.
The Din-O-Store, which is located in the Gallery, has natural history- themed gifts for people of all ages. The Din-O-Store does not have posted hours of operation, but is commonly open when the Gallery is open.
Riffe Gallery, Vern Riffe Center in Downtown Columbus
The Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery showcases the work of Ohio’s artists and the collections of the state’s museums and galleries. Admission is always free and exhibitions feature a quarterly rotating feature. All programming is free and open to all, including opening receptions for exhibits, artist talks, and more.
Central Ohio Fire Museum & Learning Center, 260 N. Fourth St., Columbus
The Fire Museum does have an admission fee, but at just Adults $8, Seniors $7, and Children $6, we thought it still deserved a mention because it was fun, educational, and historic.
The restored 1908 Station #16 is full of fire department history, including hand-drawn, horse-drawn & early motorized fire apparatus as well as other exciting displays. Kids will love visiting the play area! They can dress up like firefighters, slide down a fire pole, and ride in a real firetruck cab complete with bells and sirens. There are plenty hands-on activities, and station tours with active and retired firefighters.
The main goal of the museum and the educators is to teach people what to do in the event of a house fire, so you’ll get plenty of safety tips. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Motts Military Museum, 5075 South Hamilton Rd., Groveport, Ohio (614) 836-1500
This museum covers all of our American history from prior to the Revolutionary War to the present with a collection of military and historical artifacts and stories of the men and women who served and are serving in the United States Armed Forces. Each item displayed carries with it a personal story that will help us remember the price paid for freedom.
Tuesday – Saturday: 9am to 5pm, Sunday: 1pm to 5pm
Admission: Adults: $10, Seniors/Veterans with ID: $8, Students: $5, Children 5 and under: FREE
Museum Discount Programs
Bank of America customers can enjoy free museum admission on the first full weekend of every month through the bank’s Museums On Us program. Show your Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card and a photo ID on Saturday or Sunday, and you will get free admission to more than 150 museums and attractions in cities across the United States.
Blue Star Museums. A collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense offers free museum admission to more than 2,000 museums across America for the nation’s service members, including National Guard and Reserve, and their families. The program runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Membership reciprocity discounts. If you are a member of a museum, science center, or Zoo, see whether your membership includes reciprocal membership discounts.
Bonus Tour Option
While not a museum, this candy store is a great option for all ages!
Factory tour at Anthony Thomas Chocolates
Tours must be scheduled. Groups can be scheduled for parties of 4 to 16 people. Available every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
The tour lasts about an hour, where you’ll experience candy making from start to finish from the glass-enclosed suspended “Cat-Walk”. You’ll see 9 lines producing 30,000 pounds of chocolates per shift. Children ages 3 to 11 are $1 per person, and ages 12 and over are $2 per person. Admission fee may be used towards a candy purchase when the tour ends in the 2,500 square-foot retail shoppe.
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