The Triangle area of North Carolina is rich with museums but you don’t need riches to visit them because many are free. And some that aren’t free offer free days. Raleigh, especially, as the state capital, has many free museum offerings but you’ll find some in Durham and Chapel Hill as well. Keep in mind that all the free museums welcome donations.
North Carolina Museum of Art
Permanent exhibits include African, Judaic, American, Classical, Contemporary, British, Spanish and French collections, among many more. The museums also features exciting temporary exhibits, acres of park land and frequent programming. Free
2110 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
An incredible resource for anyone interested in learning about the earth and its inhabitants, this museum is popular with kids and adults alike. Free
11 West Jones Street, Raleigh
North Carolina Museum of History
Explore the story of North Carolina and learn about the generations of people who have called it home. Free
5 East Edenton Street, Raleigh
City of Raleigh Museum
The museum collects and cares for artifacts, curates exhibits, and provides educational programming that all highlight and interpret Raleigh’s history and heritage. Free
220 Fayetteville Street, Raleigh
CAM Raleigh seeks to curate the most contemporary works of art and design possible—those still emerging, growing, and living.
Admission is $5. However, there are many opportunities for free admission. It’s free for everyone the first Friday of the month. In addition, it’s free for many groups of people, including college students, active military members, veterans and their families, first responders, teachers, and skaters with their skateboards. Visit the website for details.
409 West Martin Street, Raleigh
Marbles Kids Museum
Marbles’ regular admission price is $7 for those one year old and older. But on the first full weekend of every month, admission is free for adults who are customers of Bank of America or Merrill Lynch. Just show your credit or debit card for admission. Kids are not admitted for free. Another great deal: On Thursdays the museum is open until 7 p.m. and starting at 3 p.m. it’s “Twilight Thursday,” sponsored by Terminix, and admission is just $3. The extended hours and the $3 admission is also in effect the first Friday of the month.
201 East Hargett Street, Raleigh
Raleigh Fire Museum
The Raleigh Fire Museum, located in a modular trailer at the Keeter Training Center, is open the second Saturday of each month, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and is free to visit.
105 Keeter Center Drive, Raleigh
Kidzu Children’s Museum
The first Sunday of the month, admission is free, or “pay what you can.” The museum suggests you “pay it forward.”
201 S. Estes Drive, Chapel Hill, inside University Place (formerly University Mall)
Ackland Art Museum
The University of North Carolina’s art museum’s permanent collection consists of more than 17,000 works of art, featuring North Carolina’s premier collections of Asian art and works of art on paper (drawings, prints, and photographs), as well as significant collections of European masterworks, twentieth-century and contemporary art, and North Carolina pottery. The Ackland organizes more than a dozen special exhibitions a year. Free
101 South Columbia Street, Chapel Hill
Museum of Life + Science
Museum of Life + Science includes a two-story science center, a large butterfly conservatory and habitats for 60 species of animals on its 84 acres just blocks from downtown Durham. On regularly scheduled Durham Community Days, residents of Durham (showing ID) get in for free and can bring up to five kids for free.
433 West Murray Avenue, Durham
Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
The Nasher Museum is celebrating its first decade as a major center for the arts on Duke University’s campus and in the surrounding Research Triangle area. The museum organizes and presents leading-edge exhibitions that travel to institutions worldwide
$7 for adults, $5 for age 65+, $4 for non-Duke students. Free kids 15 and under, and for people affiliated with Duke University. Free for everyone Thursdays 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Also free on select Sundays for Family Days. Follow above link for dates.
2001 Campus Drive, Durham
Duke Basketball Museum and Duke Athletics Hall of Fame
306 Towerview Dr, Schwartz-Butters Athletic Center, Durham
Museum of Durham History
The public venue of Museum of Durham History. You’ll also find the museum’s exhibits throughout Durham.
500 W. Main Street, Durham
21c Museum Hotel Durham
The historic Hill Building has been re-imagined to showcase more than 10,500 square feet of exhibition space where curated exhibitions and site-specific installations reflect the global nature of contemporary culture. Our galleries are open every day and exhibitions rotate, as does our regular cultural programming. Which means there’s never a bad time to visit 21c and see something new. It’s free and open to the public 365 days a year. Free guided docent tours are offered Wednesdays and Fridays at 5 p.m.
111 Corcoran Street, Durham
Orange County Historical Museum
201 N. Churton Street, Hillsborough
Chatham Historical Museum
9 Hillsboro Street, Pittsboro
Opening hours: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
First Sunday of the Month (March-December) 12 p.m. to 4:30.