Museums have long been regarded for their ability to educate and inspire the public. But they aren’t always the most accessible or inviting to those with non-conventional backgrounds or incomes. Designated days for free admission were created in the mid-twentieth century to allow greater public access.
Houston is abundant with museums of all sizes and focuses, all united under the mission to serve a large public. Thankfully, you don’t have to wait for an occasion like National Museum Day to enjoy a cost-free visit to one of these institutions. Places like the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and the Menil Collection are free, while the Museum of Fine Arts Houston has free offerings across its sprawling campuses citywide. Of course, a membership to any of these fine institutions grants you free admission all year long and additional perks (in cases of free year-round entry.) Regardless, there’s no reason not to make a visit and get inspired. We’ve compiled a list of 18 places in Houston to see art and more for free and when:
Always free | Open by appointment only
One of the largest parades in Houston history has stayed all these through this permanent exhibition space. Nicknamed “Garage Mahal,” the Art Car Museum was born from a collaborative exhibition in 1984 curated by its late founder Ann Harithas (1941-2021). Today, the museum stands as a representation of Houston’s creative ingenuity and grit.
Always free | Open Monday thru Saturday, 9 a.m–5 p.m
For the past 74 years, ALH has honored artists, collectors, and the achievements of Houston’s art community. The organization has forged partnerships and launched city-wide initiatives to keep the arts alive. In addition to its art school and program offerings, ALH rotates exhibitions in its Montrose gallery.
Always free | Open Wednesday thru Friday, 11 a.m–6 p.m. and Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
The Asia Society’s Museum district location is a feast for lovers of architecture and the Asian diaspora. It’s equipped with a tranquil garden terrace, theater, multiple galleries, and an education center. Pop in to meet with one of its artists in residence or browse one of its exhibitions.
Always free | Open Tuesday thru Friday, 10 a.m–5 p.m and Saturday & Sunday, noon–5 p.m.
Nestled on the University of Houston’s main campus, the Blaffer is one of the city’s leading university museums. The past several years have welcomed major artist collaborations and public programs. And don’t worry, you don’t have to be a student to visit.
Free on Thursdays | 1–5 p.m
What was once a collection of artifacts stored in the home of Captain Paul Matthews and his wife Barbara in 2000 transformed into a full-fledged organization and a museum in one year. The Buffalo Soldiers Museum is dedicated to educating the public on the history of African American soldiers in the U.S. military.
Free on Thursdays | 5–8 p.m.
No matter your age, the Children’s Museum will always be a go-to destination to exercise your imagination. It’s the perfect playground for tiny, curious tots and the kids at heart to enjoy interactive art and activities.
Always free | Open Wednesday thru Sunday, 11 a.m–6 p.m.
Founded by locals in the late 1940s, CAMH is one of the nation’s oldest and more forward-thinking contemporary art institutions. They have been known for producing high-quality exhibitions that rotate in both the main and downstairs galleries throughout the year. Thanks to the generous support of donors, admission is always free.
Free on Thursdays | 2–4 p.m.
Learn about Czech and Slovak culture at the CCMH. Learn languages in one of the interactive workshops, and discover music, art and more. Also, if you’re a student, bring your I.D. for free admission every second Saturday of the month.
Free on Thursdays | 2–7 p.m.
Houston is home to a world-class medical center, so it’s no surprise that health enthusiasts have a dedicated space to be inspired. Learn all you need to know about the human body, from live organ dissections to immersive tours and family-friendly science labs.
Free on Thursdays | 2–5 p.m.
Ranked number four in U.S. museums dedicated to the Holocaust, the HMH was founded in 1981 by survivor and Houston resident Siegi Izakson to fill a necessary education gap. The museum is a living memorial with three stories, classrooms, an amphitheater, a cafe, and more.
Always free | Tuesday thru Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m
Art made with non-conventional materials and methods lives at the heart of the HCCC. It elevates craft as an important medium in visual art through exhibitions, programs and an active artist residency program. At the HCCC, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.
Always free | Open Wednesday thru Thursday, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
Photography is one of the world’s most accessible art forms. And whether it be professionally or a budding hobby, the HCP has made it easy to dive into the medium with its class offerings, residency programs and learning opportunities through rotating exhibitions.
Always free | Open Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.
Located just blocks away from the MFAH in Houston's Museum District, HMAAC is dedicated to bringing thought-provoking exhibitions on the past, present and future of Black history and culture. The museum was proposed to the City of Houston by former Mayor Lee P. Brown as a has been open since 2012. Make a trip to see any of its rotating exhibitions on modern and contemporary, Black artists.
Free on Thursdays | 2–5 p.m.
Science fanatics can enjoy the permanent exhibitions at the HMNS each week. Tour the grounds to find dinosaurs and butterflies or make your way to the planetarium for an out-of-this-world film experience.
Always free | Open Wednesday thru Saturday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
Founded by a group of artists, Lawndale lives in the heart of the Museum District as a site for openness and experimentation. It emphasizes local makers and those from the Gulf Coast and greater Southern region. Both the upstairs, downstairs and window spaces rotate on an ongoing basis.
Always free | Open Wednesday thru Sunday, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
Beloved by patrons and visitors worldwide, the Menil Collection’s permanent holdings are second to none. The campus is nestled quietly in Montrose and comprises its main building, a public park, bookstore, the Drawing Institute, the somber Rothko Chapel, the Cy Twombly Gallery and a Byzantine Fresco Chapel. It’s a great destination for a Sunday reset.
Always free | Open Tuesday thru Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Located on Rice University’s campus, the Moody Center is a site for experimentation. It’s one of the city’s younger institutions but one that has made a big splash with exciting group exhibitions. Enjoy the fresh air on the lawn or make your way to the always-free, Skyspace installation by James Turrell.
Free on Thursdays | 11 a.m.–9 p.m.
The MFAH is Houston’s premiere art institution with a multi-block campus and several satellite locations through the inner loop. Browse work from prehistory to now at this encyclopedic museum. Each week offers free admission, late hours, and free access to Rienzi’s gardens and Bayou Bend’s alternating, free day for families on Sundays.
Always free | Open Wednesday thru Sunday, noon–5 p.m.
Founded by the minds behind the Art Car Museum, the Station Museum is a site for all things politically engaged. Known for its ability to tackle controversial issues, this is a great spot to discover international artists and new perspectives.