PEACE NOW is spelled out in the second-floor windows of the Cooper Hewitt, one of the museums participating in Museum Day 2022. (photo by Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution; courtesy Cooper Hewitt)

This Saturday, September 17 is Smithsonian Magazine’s Museum Day, an annual event that invites people to visit museums across the nation without worrying about the prohibitive cost of entry. While it’s true that sometimes the obstacle to seeing art in person isn’t the ticket price but an attention economy that makes it harder to focus on anything that doesn’t dance like a monkey for your entertainment, it is true that some of us would like to go to more museums, or tend to stick to old standbys rather than risk the cost of entry to a new institution. If this is the case for you, then Saturday is your day, because hundreds of participating institutions across the United States will offer admission free of charge with online registration for a Museum Day ticket.

Unlike previous years, there appears to be no official theme for Museum Day 2022, but it maintains an overall dedication to “boundless curiosity” which is the best part of cultural exploration. In addition to museums, there are participating zoos, sculpture parks, monuments, and gardens across the country. Florida has a particularly rich offering, with 71 institutions ready to open their doors to Museum Day visitors. Alaska has only one on the roster, but if you were looking for just a little more incentive to check out the Oscar Anderson House Museum in Anchorage, your time has finally come! The easily searchable database of participating institutions makes it simple to find something to do this Saturday at an odd house museum or venerated institution near you. Am I debating driving across the state this Saturday to check out the previously-unknown-to-me Midwest Miniatures Museum? You bet I am! It sounds like a great fall-time adventure.

Installation view of Mirror Image: A Transformation of Chinese Identity at the Asia Society Museum Image (photo © Bruce M White 2022; courtesy the Asia Society Museum)

New York has a respectable 41 participants, though it’s notable that many of these are outside NYC, which has one of the greatest concentrations of cultural institutions in the country. Within city limits, you can warm up for High Holidays at the Jewish Museum or the Museum of Jewish Heritage; pack up your action kids and take ‘em to the Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum; have a wander through a corner of olde New York on a special guided tour at the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum; or get contemporary and traditional visions of Asia at the Asia Society Museum, whose current offerings include Mirror Image: A Transformation of Chinese Identity. Those with niche interests will be delighted at the free opportunity to check out poster art at Poster House, or honor art’s best friend at the AKC Museum of the Dog.

It seems that the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Whitney Museum of American Art would sooner raise a disdainful eyebrow at you than give you free entry, but the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum has you covered if you are craving clean, contemporary sensibilities.

A sign advertising free admission at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, a Smithsonian affiliate (photo by Jeremy Thompson via Flickr)

And obviously, it’s a great excuse to get out of town. You’ve been dying for a weekender, so it’s finally time to check out the All Things Oz Museum in Chittenango, or the Hudson River Valley, or the Antique Wireless Museum in Bloomfield, if for some reason you’re into that. Have you been dying to get to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs? Now’s your chance! You can probably find somewhere to pick apples on the way home! Your Insta will be aspirational as heck.

With this wealth of cultural treasure at your fingertips, this weekend is truly the day to seize, so get out there and show the special, weird museum in your state that you care.

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit — including at the Detroit Institute of Arts....