Most people think of Memorial Day as the beginning of summer, time to hit the pool or a day off from work. But the federal holiday was created after the Civil War to honor fallen American soldiers. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, city museums pay homage to U.S. troops by letting active duty military personnel and their families visit their collections for free.
The program, now in its second summer, is sponsored by Blue Star Families, an organization that offers military families resources and support, and the National Endowment for the Arts. It coincides with Fleet Week — the U.S. Navy comes into the harbor on Wednesday morning — and marks the 100th anniversary of the Naval Aviation Foundation.
Military representatives contacted in the New York area were unaware of the program's existence. Yet, free admission will be offered at over 1,300 museums across all 50 states and in Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and American Samoa. New York City has 43 participating institutions, ranging from fine art museums to nature centers to children’s museums to Jewish heritage museums. This year's initiative was announced in San Diego, Calif., which has 17 museums offering free admission.
There are, however, restrictions to the program, including who qualifies as a family member — a child or spouse under the current program — and how many family members can gain free entrance at once (five). Qualifying military personnel must be actively serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, or Reserves.
The program does not currently extend free admission to war veterans.
Below is a full list of New York City museums offering free admission to active duty soldiers and their families: