Visit Austin Museums and Galleries for Free

 Monday, December 29, 2014

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Bullock Texas State History Museum

It's winter break and the weather is about to take a wintery turn, so you may be thinking about taking the family to a local museum this week.  If so, there are several holiday closures you should be aware of.  We did a bit of research and have updates on when you can visit museums and galleries in and around Austin for free, this week and beyond.


Austin Fire Museum -- The Austin Fire Museum is located in Austin’s Central Fire Station No. 1 in the heart of downtown Austin, Texas. The firehouse is Austin’s busiest station, which includes Quint 1, Engine 1, Engine 13, Austin EMS Medic 6, and the AFD Shift Commander. The station was built in 1938 and is a piece of history in and of itself. The Austin Fire Museum is closed on Monday and Tuesday. It is open Wednesday through Sunday from 12-5 p.m. Read about visiting with kids here. Admission is free. The station and museum are next door to the O. Henry Museum (free) and Susanna Dickinson Museum (free) and one block south of the famous Sixth Street District.  All three museums will be closed on January 1, 2015. (401 East 5th Street)

Austin Science & Nature Center -- Always free, with plenty of fun activities both indoors and out.  Inside, kids can visit the Trade Counter and Naturalist Workshop (the Trade Counter is open Wednesday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).  Before venturing outside, ask at the front desk of the Visitor's Pavilion about renting Eco-Detective Kits. These kits are free to borrow and contain binoculars, a microscope, a ruler, a compass, and a magnifying glass. All in a handy kid-size fanny pack.  You just have to leave a driver's license to check out the Kits. Outside, kids can visit with wildlife and dig for dino bones in the sand pits. Read about visiting with kids. ANSC will be closed Thursday, January 1, 2015(301 Nature Center Dr.)

Blanton Museum of Art -- The museum offers free admission for all visitors on Thursdays, including public tours at 12:30 p.m., excluding this Thursday. The Blanton will be closed Monday, December 29 - Thursday, January 1, 2015. The third Thursday of each month features extended hours and multiple programs and tours. Children 12 and under are always free, along with current UT faculty, staff, and students. If you visit with a child, be sure to ask to borrow a kid's art conservation box. You can check them out for free and take them around the museum. The boxes have laminated cards that explain different things. One asks kids to get their grubby fingerprints all over the mirror in the box, to show them that our fingers have oil and dirt, which is why we shouldn't touch the art. Another one explains the use of texture in modern art and has a tiny canvas (3"x4") that is painted with thick and thin paint. Of course, kids are allowed to touch that canvas.  (200 E MLK at Congress)

Bullock Texas State History Museum -- Everyone is invited to enjoy free exhibition admission from 12-5 p.m. on the first Sunday of every month. Most months, Free First Sundays offer special family programs from 12-3 p.m. that combine art creation, performances, and gallery activities. Check the calendar for details. Here is the listing for Sunday, January 4, 2015. Read about visiting with kids. Closed on January 1, 2015. (1800 N Congress Ave)

Capitol -- Admission and tours are free! Read about exploring the Texas Capitol and Visitors Center with kidsThe Capitol and Visitors Center will be closed January 1, 2015. Texas Capitol, 1100 Congress Avenue; Capitol Visitors Center, 112 East 11th Street) 

The Contemporary Austin -- Both the Laguna Gloria and The Jones Center locations offer free admission on Tuesdays. The museum provides rich environments for a wide range of audiences to investigate and experience excellence in modern and contemporary art. Read about visiting Laguna Gloria with kids.  Visit the website to see hours for both locations. Both locations will be closed on January 1, 2015; The Jones Center will be closed January 12-23; Laguna Gloria will be closed on January 23, 2015. (The Jones Center: 700 Congress Ave; Laguna Gloria: 3809 West 35th St)

Elisabet Ney Museum -- Always free. The house was built by Elisabet Ney and her husband at the end of the 19th century and became the center of the Austin art scene at that time.  Click here to read Katey's review of the museum, with 5 interesting things to look for. Every Saturday in January, you can enjoy a free Drawing Salon at the Museum, from 10 a.m. - noon. Participation is free. The Museum is open Wednesday - Sunday, from 12-5 p.m. Closed on January 1, 2015. (304 East 44th Street)

Emma S Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center -- The Mexican American Cultural Center is dedicated to the preservation, creation, presentation and promotion of Mexican American cultural arts and heritage. Admission is free. Parking is also free, but be sure to ask for a temporary pass in the main office. Read about visiting with kids here. Closed on January 1, 2015. (600 Red River St)

George Washington Carver Museum -- The Carver Museum is dedicated to the collection, preservation, research and exhibition of African-American historical and cultural material. Admission is free. Read about visiting with kidsClosed on January 1, 2015. (1165 Angelina St)

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center -- The Wildflower Center is closed through January 1, 2015. You can visit for free on Saturday, January 24, 2015, from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., which is the annual Tree Talk Winter Walk. If you'll be visiting with kids, check out the self-guided youth activities. Children 4 and under always get in free. (4801 La Crosse Ave)

LBJ Presidential Library -- LBJ Library has started charging admission, but offers several free days throughout the year.  The next free admission day is Martin Luther King Day, which is Monday, January 19, 2015. The museum will be open from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Parking is free. Children 12 and under always get in free. Closed on January 1, 2015. (2313 Red River St.)

Mexic-Arte Museum -- The museum is free on Sundays from noon - 5 p.m. The current exhibition, Mix 'n' Mash LoterĂ­a, is on display until January 4, 2015. Closed on January 1, 2015(419 Congress Ave)

The Thinkery -- Austin's new children's museum offers Community Nights on Wednesdays, from 4-8 p.m., where admission is by donation (suggested: $1 per person). Please note that The Thinkery will close at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, December 31, 2014, so there will not be a Community Night this week. Join them at Austin's New Year in Butler Park, instead! Closed on January 1, 2015.(1830 Simond Ave)

Texas Military Forces Museum -- Always free, the Military Forces Museum offers 45,000 square feet of uniforms, weapons, tanks, artillery, aircraft, helicopters, and more, showing the history of the Texas Military Forces from 1823 to the present. Closed on Mondays. The museum is open Tuesday - Sunday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Photo ID required for adults to enter Camp Mabry. Be sure to ask at the front desk for the free scavenger hunt! Read about visiting with kids. Closed on January 1, 2015(2200 W 35th Street)

Texas Memorial Museum and Natural Science Center -- Texas Natural Science Center, located on the UT campus, is no longer free, except for children under 2, but admission is only $1 - $4. Exhibits focus on dinosaurs and fossils, Texas wildlife, gems and minerals, and a working Paleontology Lab where visitors can interact with scientists as they prepare fossil finds. You'll also find spectacular specimens found in Texas, including the Texas Pterosaur, with a wingspan of nearly 40 feet, and the 30-foot Mosasaur that swam the shallow sea that once covered most of the state. Admission will be free on Texas Wildlife Day on February 7, 2015 and National Fossil Day which is October 14, 2015. Admission will be optional for Explore UT on March 7, 2015. Closed on December 31, 2014 and January 1, 2015(2400 Trinity St)

Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum -- Stop by the sculpture garden for free Family Days on the first Sunday of each month, from 12-4 p.m. See the schedule for Sunday, January 4, 2015. Admission for Family Day is free. Admission for children 12 and under is always free. Be sure to ask for the scavenger hunt! Read about visiting with kidsClosed on December 31, 2014 and January 1, 2015(605 Robert E. Lee Rd)


The Williamson Museum -- The Williamson Museum offers free hands-on educational programs through innovative exhibits, tours and outreach. The next free Hands On History event will be held on Saturday, January 10, 2015, from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.  You can also enjoy free tours of the Williamson County Courthouse: Fridays & Saturdays at 1:30, 2:30 & 3:30pm. Please visit the website to confirm the tour schedule. The museum is open Wednesday - Friday, noon - 5 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Please note the Museum is closed through January 1, 2015. (716 South Austin Ave, Georgetown)

New Braunfels

New Braunfels Railroad Museum -- Check out a variety of artifacts and historical photographs from the golden age of railroading, restored train cars, and model railroads at the New Braunfels Railroad Museum. Admission to the museum is always free. Hours vary depending on the time of year. Winter hours are Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. and Sunday from 12-4 p.m. Closed on January 1, 2015. On the first and third Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., the museum offers Kids Fun Day, where kids can get a chance to run the trains and become a Junior Engineer. (302 West San Antonio Street, New Braunfels)


Heritage House Museum -- Tour a historic home in Pflugerville. The Heritage House Museum is free and open to the public the first Sunday of each month from 1-4 p.m. See the listing for January 4, 2015. (901 Old Austin Hutto Rd)

Round Rock

Andrew J Palm House -- Visit the historic home of Andrew J Palm, who emmigrated to Texas from Sweden in 1853 with his mother and brothers. The Palm family settled about three miles north of Round Rock at Palm Valley, where Palm built this residence about 1873. The House is located next to the Round Rock Public Library. Call the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce at (512) 255-5805 for current hours, or stop by the next time you visit the library. (208 E Main, Round Rock)

Holiday Train Display in ArtSpace -- The Tinplate Trackers have set up a free Holiday Model Train Exhibit at ArtSpace, located across the street from the Round Rock Public Library. The show runs through Saturday, January 3, 2015. Click here for the schedule. (231 E Main Street)

For details on many more museums in the Austin area, visit the Austin Museum Partnership website. If you are a Bank of America, check out the Museums on Us program, for free admission to participating museums one weekend per month.

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