Free in Ohio? Oh, yeah. Traveling to Ohio and looking for a little educational fun? Well, you’re in luck in that department, too. From massive art displays to aviation tributes, here are the 11 best free museums in Ohio.
Ahh, Ohio. It has lakes, hills, rivers, big cities – and plenty of freebies! And when it comes to those freebies, its museums make the top of my list. While there are plenty that are worthy of a visit, this list has something for everyone from 1 to 101. While it was tough to narrow down only 11, what was even tougher was choosing which one trumped the other, so they’re in no particular order.
1. Cleveland Museum of Art
Both educational and free, Cleveland Museum of Art is the spot I make a beeline for when visiting the city. Very manageable is size, the amount of art inside its buildings still makes me shake my head. There are exhibits on suits of armor to Egypt, but what’s the most impressive is its Gallery One exhibit.
Made with families in mind, it’s both interactive and educational. Download the official app and you can customize your visit by highlighting important-to-you pieces via the ARTLENS wall and then creating a map to make sure you see them all.
- Location: 11150 East Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44106
- Hours: Tuesday, Thursday, & Saturday 10am-5pm. Wednesday & Friday 10am-9pm. Closed Sunday.
- Admission: Free
2. Ohio Statehouse
Head to Ohio’s capitol, then head to the Ohio Statehouse for a lesson on all-things Buckeye State. Not only will you be schooled in its architecture and attention to details, but the interactive museums are worth checking out. Open in 1839, you’ll learn important lessons on Ohio citizenship, agriculture, and art.
While you can look for a parking meter around the Statehouse, my pick is paid parking in its covered garage.
- Location: 1 Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 43215
- Hours: Monday – Friday, 8am – 5pm. Saturday, 11am – 5pm. Closed Sunday.
- Admission: Free
3. MAPS Air Museum: Free to Active Duty Military and WWII Veterans
What you’ll make a beeline for when you visit MAPS Air Museum in Canton, Ohio, are is military airplanes. The center of aviation history for Northeast Ohio, there are dozens of planes, helicopters, and ground vehicles, many of which you’re able to sit in or walk through.
There’s also a recreated military hospital that’s very eye-opening. I mean, I come from generations of military men (grandfather, father, brother. You get it.) and I still learned so much when I toured. And while these collection pieces may be the standouts at first, it’s the volunteers and retired military folks that can give firsthand experience about what it’s like to serve that you’ll remember.
- Location: 2260 International Pkwy, North Canton, OH 44720
- Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 9am – 4:30-pm, Sunday, 11:30am – 4pm. Closed Monday
- Admission: Adults, $10. Adult Veterans and Seniors over 60, $9. Senior Veterans, $8. WWII Veterans and Active Duty Military, Free. Children 6-12, $6. Children under 6, Free.
Looking for more to-dos in Canton, Ohio? Here are 10 unique things to do in Canton, Ohio!
4. Mansfield Memorial Museum
The oldest museum in Richland County, the Mansfield Memorial Museum is so much more than a trip down memory lane for its residents. It’s here you’ll find Edward Wilkinson’s love of collecting important artifacts and specimens for Smithsonian and Carnegie Natural History museum (hello, Pittsburgh!) turn into his own collection. Pieces from all major wars and natural history findings, it’s also the hot spot for Mansfield, Ohio, and Richland County documents.
And then there’s ELEKTRO. Considered the oldest American robot, it was featured in the 1937-1938 World’s Fair. While it may have been very forward thinking back then, I get a serious Space Mountain in Walt Disney World vibe.
- Location: 34 Park Avenue West, Mansfield, OH 44902
- Hours: Saturdays, 10am – 4pm and Sundays, Noon – 4pm.
- Admission: Donations
5. Riffe Gallery
While the space for Riffe Gallery is much more intimate than Columbus Museum of Art, its art is just as impressive. Its exhibits make you think, and think hard, about what art truly is, and it’s this, combined with free admission and programs (including curator’s tours) that make Riffe Gallery a hidden Columbus gem.
- Location: 77 S High St, Columbus, OH 43215
- Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, 10am -5pm. Thursday, 10am – 8pm. Saturday, 11am – 4pm.
- Admission: Free
Looking for more fun things to do in Ohio’s capitol? Here are fun indoor activities in Columbus, Ohio.
6. National Veterans Memorial and Museum: Free for Active Duty & Retired Military
I’ve been to several military museums and monuments, and National Veterans Memorial and Museum looks nothing like they do. Here’s what it does look like: bravery. A tribute to all American military veterans, visitors will learn not only the history behind its heroes.
This museum tells the stories of not only famous war veterans but local and state ones as well. There are interactive exhibits for the kiddos that include trying on military uniforms to really give them the feel of suiting up for battle.
- Location: 300 W Broad St, Columbus, OH 43215
- Hours: Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm. Closed Monday & Tuesday
- Admission: Adults 18 -64, $17. Youth 5- 17, $10. Children under 5, free. Seniors 65+, $15. Active Duty, Gold Star, and Military Veterans, Free.
7. Columbus Museum of Art
The first museum to register its charter, Columbus Museum of Art in Downtown Columbus was originally known as Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts. These days it offers guests everything from modern to the Masters.
If you have kiddos, check out the JPMorgan Chase Center for Creativity. With its Creativity Lounge to its Wonder Room (think of it as an art book that came to life), it’s my pick for kids of any age. Want to get in for free? Visit on a Sunday and it’s complimentary admission to all guests.
- Hours: Monday, Closed. Tuesday-Wednesday, 10am– 5pm. Thursday, 10am – 9pm. Friday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm
- Admission: Adults, $18. Seniors (60+), $9. Students (18+), $9 Students (4-17), $9. Children (0-3), FREE. Thursdays (5:00 PM – 9:00 PM), $5
- FREE on Sundays
8. Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum
Love all-things cartoon? Then, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum will be right up your colorful, madcap street. It’s the home of the world’s largest collection of cartoon and comic material. If that wasn’t enough to want to dig right in, you’ll find journals, magazines, books, and even old-school newspaper comic strips.
- Location: 1813 N High St, Columbus, OH 43210 (Ohio State University Campus)
- Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 1pm – 5pm. Closed Monday.
- Admission: FREE
9. Butler Institute of American Art
I’ve been to The Butler a couple of times to check out Autumn De Forest’s exhibition and live workshop and it’s so fascinating to me to see such a young artist with such a keen sense of modern art. But during my visit, moseying around The Butler was very surprising. Yes, it’s technically in my own backyard, but it’s there where I find myself exploring the least. That’s changing, however.
What I found when I visited was four centuries of art acquisitions. John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, and Edward Hopper are just three of the well-known artists you’ll see when you visit.
- Location: 524 Wick Ave, Youngstown, OH 44502
- Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 4pm. Closed Sunday.
- Admission: FREE
10. National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
Throwing in the military brat title again, but it’s worth mentioning. Military life is unique, especially when you’ve lived on an Air Force military base. So, yeah, I love visiting museums dedicated to all-things Air Force. The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is one of those places. Actually, it’s the official museum of the USAF, but it really is so much more than just the title.
You’ll find galleries ranging from Early Years to Space, flight simulators, and the Air Force Museum Theater. Think the kids will be bored? Wrong. If you want to get the feel of the museum before you go, check out its online virtual tour.
- Location: 1100 Spaatz St, Dayton, OH 45431
- Hours: 9am – 5pm Daily
- Admission: FREE
11. Toledo Museum of Art
A privately-endowed, non-profit museum, Toledo Museum of Art has been educating folks on all-things art since 1901. You’ll see exhibits based on glass, decorative arts, paintings, and sculpture. For children, the TMA Family Center gives kids inspiration to create their own works of art.
- Location: 2445 Monroe Street Toledo, OH 43620
- Hours: Closed Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday, 10am – 4pm. Thursday & Friday, 10am – 9pm. Saturday, 10am – 5pm. Sunday, noon – 5pm.
- Admission: FREE