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Museum Day: Free Entrance to the Nation's Top Museums

Head to a museum on Sept. 25, when about 1,300 cultural institutions around the U.S. will offer free admission. Here are 10 museums with permanent collections that are worth repeat visits.

Get ready to soak up some culture: Smithsonian magazine's annual Museum Day is this Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010. That means participating museums and cultural institutions nationwide -- some 1,300 venues in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico -- will offer free admission.

Find a museum and download the free Museum Day Ticket here at

If you can't make it on Sept. 25, don't despair. Many museums are free all year long. For example, admission is always free at all the Smithsonian museums ( except at the Cooper-Hewitt in NYC. And, if not free, many museums have a free (or pay-what-you-wish) night. In addition, several museums nationwide have a "suggested donation" policy such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC ( and the Museum of the City of New York (

10 Museums With Great Permanent Collections

Among the institutions participating in Museum Day, these 10 museums have great permanent collections:

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum (Pier 86, West 46th St. & 12th Ave., New York, NY; tel. 212/245-0072; The former aircraft carrier USS Intrepid serves as a floating museum. The legendary warship is now a place of learning and discovery. Vintage aircraft is on view on her 900-foot-long flight deck along with historic video footage and fascinating artifacts. Learn all about the history of this 40,000-ton ship whose motto is: "Honor. Educate. Inspire."

Dallas Museum of Art (1717 North Harwood St., Dallas, TX; tel. 214/922-1200; Established in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art features a lovely collection of more than 23,000 international works, from ancient to modern. Beautiful pieces of African and Asian art are on display, along with American paintings and sculpture. There are European favorites -- Cézanne, Degas, Gauguin, van Gogh, and Monet -- as well as contemporary works by American masters such as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Texans Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (465 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA; tel. 617/267-9300; Founded in 1876, the MFA is one of the world's great museums with a magnificent collection of around 450,000 masterpieces. Some of the highlights include: works by famed American painters Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent; Impressionist paintings by Monet (one of the largest collections), Renoir, Pissarro, Manet, and Americans Mary Cassatt and Childe Hassam; outstanding Asian and Egyptian collections; and medieval sculpture and tapestries. A new Art of the Americas wing is scheduled to open in Nov. 2010.

Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum & Hall of Fame (325 5th Ave. North, Seattle, WA; tel. 206/770-2700; Housed in a spectacular Frank Gehry-designed building, the Experience Music Project shows the history of rock 'n' roll through interactive exhibits: listen to musicians talk about their creative process; play instruments, and even experience what it's like to be onstage. In the same complex, the Science Fiction Museum is one of the few museums of its kind in the world. With Steven Spielberg, Ray Bradbury, James Cameron, and George Lucas on the museum's advisory board and memorabilia from Star Trek, Lost in Space, Star Wars, and Silent Running, it's a must-see for sci-fi fans.

Adler Planetarium (1300 South Lake Shore Dr., Chicago, IL; tel. 312/922-7827; Located in a stunning spot on Chicago's lakefront, America's first planetarium, founded in 1930, is totally up-to-date. The exhibit Planet Explorers is a hands-on, modern-day space adventure for kids and Shoot for the Moon highlights the excitement of space exploration with the actual Gemini 12 spacecraft.

Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (250 South Grand Ave., Los Angeles, CA; tel. 213/626-6222; MOCA's fabulous collection -- from abstract expressionism to pop art and recent pieces -- includes works by famed artists Franz Kline, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko and George Segal. Other art on view by: Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin, Elizabeth Murray, Julian Schnabel, Cy Twombly, Alberto Giacometti, and Jackson Pollock. A fantastic visit for lovers of contemporary art.

Tampa Museum of Art (120 W. Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa, FL; tel. 813/274-8130; The new TMA building, in a waterfront park featuring contemporary sculptures, provides access to an impressive collection of classical and contemporary art as well as to events along Tampa's scenic Riverwalk. The museum is known for its outstanding selection of painted Greek and Italian pottery, the largest collection of Greek and Roman antiquities in the Southeast.

National Museum of Crime & Punishment (575 7th St NW, Washington DC; tel. 202/393-1099; Great for older kids and CSI fans, the museum explores everything from bad guys -- pirates, gangsters, bank robbers, and serial killers -- to modern-day forensics. Learn real CSI procedures at a crime lab, view the studio where America's Most Wanted is filmed and play cops-and-robbers: get fingerprinted, escape from jail, or solve a crime and pursue a criminal in a high-speed car chase (simulated, of course).

Minneapolis Institute of Arts (2400 Third Ave. South, Minneapolis, MN; tel. 888/642-2787; The museum features outstanding works of art from diverse cultures, spanning 5,000 years of world history. View ancient artifacts, works by European masters such as Rembrandt, Titian, and Monet; learn about architectural and decorative arts, and check out the comprehensive photography collection.

Cincinnati Art Museum (953 Eden Park Dr., Cincinnati, OH; tel. 513/721-ARTS; In a hilltop building, the museum is one of the oldest arts institutions in America, founded in 1881. Some of the gems in a vast collection include pieces from ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome; Near and Far Eastern artifacts; Africa art and paintings by European masters such as Titian, van Dyck, Hals, Rubens, and Gainsborough, as well as 19th- and 20th-century works by Picasso, Renoir, Braque, Modigliani, Miró, and Chagall.