After taking a break last year, the Blue Star Museums collaboration between Blue Star Families, the Defense Department, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and museums across the country is back. The program offers free admission to active-duty, National Guard and Reserve military personnel and their families.
In 2021, the program will run from Saturday, May 15, through Monday, Sept. 6.
More than 2,000 museums are participating, including nature centers, zoos and children's museums. Each location will have its own safety protocols, which should be checked while planning your trip. Some locations may have additional opportunities or activities that may cost extra, which won't be included in the free admission.
Who's Eligible for the Program?
National Guard, Reserve and active-duty ID card holders and their dependents who have an ID card are eligible for this program and can bring up to five family members with them. Dependents may use the program without their sponsor, and family members can include siblings, parents, children, aunts or uncles, according to the frequently asked questions on the NEA website.
Veterans and retirees are not included in this list but are encouraged to contact the location they wish to visit and inquire about military discounts.
Children under 10 or without an ID card can enter with their ID card-holding parent.
Ideas on How to Use the Program
Since there are no limits as to how many locations you and your family can visit in a year, you could include several museums on your summer cross country move. And since they're free, if you only end up spending an hour or two at the zoo to break up a long drive, you won't feel bad about it.
If you're staying home this summer, you can visit the same location multiple times, making the most of the local children's museum or nature center in your hometown for midweek adventures.
Consider making a passport for your kids with the local museums, making a bingo sheet for your visit or encouraging them to research more about an event, person or exhibit after a visit to keep those reading and writing skills fresh.
When you're ready to plan your first trip, check out this downloadable parent toolkit designed to make planning a visit easier on parents. And in case you forgot to be creative ahead of time, there's also an activity sheet ready for you to download to keep kids entertained on the way there.
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