Who doesn’t like to save a little money? Well Charlotte has a whole lot of FREE available for learning and entertainment. With tons of museums for children, teens and the whole family, there are a medley of choices to pick on the designated “Free” or deeply discounted day.
There are even some work around details for uptown parking, which truly excited me because parking can be expensive in uptown. Take your time and plan a family event or even take yourself on a stroll to take advantage of the exhibits in your very own city. Enjoy!
Mint Museums: Both locations of the Mint Museum of Art are free on Wednesdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. In addition, sometimes during the event, there will be music, dance, poetry, food or other activities. 2370 Randolph Road. 500 South Tryon Street.
Mint Museum’s Sunday Fun Day: One Sunday a month, one of the Mint Museums holds Sunday Fun Day from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Kids are admitted for free and accompanying adults are admitted for just $5. Special hands-on art activities will be available those days. Visit the above link for a schedule. Also you’ll find Family Days listed on Charlotte on the Cheap’s Free Event List.
Mint Museum’s NexGen program for teens: Teens can visit either Mint Museum for free any day, and also participate in free events just for them, once they sign up for NexGen Mint, which is free to join. Their parking at Mint Museum Uptown is even reimbursed.
2370 Randolph Road and 500 South Tryon Street
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture: Once a month, the Gantt Center presents Gantt After Dark. Guests can enjoy exploring the galleries for free, as well as other entertainment, usually including live music, dance, film, light bites, and hands-on art activities. There’s a cash bar.
551 South Tryon Street
- Sundays: Admission on Sundays is 50% off.
- $2 admission for EBT (electronic benefit transfer) and WIC (Women, Infants and children) recipients, with a maximum cost of $10 per qualifying family
- A maximum admissions fee of $30 for all families of 10 or less
Also here’s a useful hint about parking: Every day you can park at 7th Street Station and bring your parking ticket to the Levine Museum (next door) and get it validated for two hours. But on the weekend you can get it validated for all day. So you can park at 7th Street Station and visit Uptown Charlotte all day. 200 East 7th Street. 🙂
Schiele Museum of Natural History: The Schiele Museum is a natural history museum in Gastonia and well worth the short drive. If you have kids who go to Charlotte schools it’s very likely that they’ve enjoyed a field trip to the Schiele Museum at least once. It’s free on the second Tuesday of the month from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and the fourth Friday of the month from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. 1500 East Garrison Boulevard, Gastonia.
Wells Fargo History Museum: This museum, which focuses on gold mining in North Carolina and the beginning of Wachovia Bank, is always free. Exhibits include a stagecoach you can climb aboard, an interactive telegraph, a recreated underground mine tunnel and gold nuggets and rare coins. It’s open Tuesday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m., except for bank holidays. 401 South Tryon Street.
Bank of America’s Museums on Us: The first weekend of every month, customers of Bank of America and Merrill Lynch can enjoy free admission to many museums around the country. You just need to bring your credit or debit card to get in for free. Admission does not include entry into special events or special exhibits. Right now the participating museums are Mint Museums, Bechtler Museum, Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture and Levine Museum of the New South, but that can change, so follow the above link.
New Gallery of Modern Art: It’s always free to visit. Their hours are Tuesday thru Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and, by appointment on Mondays.
435 South Tryon Street
Uptown Crawl: There’s not a specific day of the week or month that this occurs on, but on occasion, there’s an Uptown Crawl, where a plethora of museums and galleries are open for free. There’s generally a free trolley that will take visitors between them, and there are sometimes special activities or events going on at some of them as well. If a brewery sponsors the event, there might even be free beer.
Art Break: The 3rd Thursday of the month, Mint Museum Uptown, Bechtler Museum, and the Gantt Center for African-American Art + Culture all offer a free 30-minute lunchtime tours from 12 p.m to 12:30 p.m. for the Uptown crowd.
Blue Star Museums: This is a program that provides free admission to over 2,000 museums nationwide to active duty military personnel and their families. It runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The military ID holder can bring five family members with him or her, and those family members can include children, a spouse, aunts, grandparents, etc. If the military member is deployed the spouse can still participate in the program. In Charlotte, participating museums are Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Levine Museum of the New South, Matthews Heritage Museum and the Mint Museums.
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art: The third Friday of every month, Bechtler by Night offers free admission from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., along with special gallery tours, art-making activities and scavenger hunts. Also, on various Saturdays throughout the year, every couple months, the Bechtler Museum holds Family Day. Kids are admitted free and accompanying adults are admitted for just $4. There are always special hands-on art activities on these days. Visit the above link for a schedule. In addition, it’s free all year for active and retired military, National Guard, Reserve, and their families. Also you’ll find Family Days listed on Charlotte on the Cheap’s Free Event List.420 South Tryon Street.
President James K. Polk Historic Site: James Polk’s homesite in Pineville is always free to visit. Learn about our 11th president and life in the 1800’s. There are special living history events regularly scheduled as well. 12031 Lancaster Highway, Pineville.
McColl Center for Art + Innovation: The McColl Center houses artist studios and over 5,000 square feet of gallery space. It’s always free to visit. Make sure to check its website for hours, because it’s not open every day. It also holds special events and Open Studio Saturday once a month, when visits can explore the studios and watch the artists at work. 721 North Tryon Street.
Matthews Heritage Museum: The museum strives to nurture a healthy respect for the forward thinking of the early settlers and help guests reflect on the business environment, lifestyles and cultures of those early Matthews townspeople. It’s normally open Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., although you should check for holiday closures. It’s free the first Saturday of the month. It’s always free for ages 10 and under. 232 North Trade Street, Matthews.
Gaston County Museum: This museum in Dallas, NC is always free. It includes two floors of changing exhibits, on history and/or art, the Daniel Stowe Carriage House, featuring the state’s largest collection of horse-drawn vehicles, and the permanent Carolinas Textile Exhibit, showing the area’s primary commodity from the late 1800’s to mid-1900’s –- cotton mills and the lives that revolved around them. The museum also presents excellent concerts, mainly blues and Americana. The concerts are free too.
Discovery Place: This one is not for everyone and it’s not quite free but it’s important to mention. All Discovery Place museums (Discovery Place Science, Discovery Place Kids Huntersville, Discovery Place Kids Rockingham, and Discovery Place Nature) offer $1/person admission to families showing an EBT or WIC Card, up to six people in a family. This program, which started in 2014, makes Discovery Place’s opportunities available to lower income families.
Museum of the Alphabet: This museum in Waxhaw is always free. It focuses on where writing began and how it came to be what it is today. Trace the history of writing systems, from the ancient world to today. See maps, paintings, and sculptures. Take quizzes. Examine a copy of the Rosetta Stone, a 150-year-old Torah scroll, and a handmade lyre. You can also print your name in Arabic, Assyrian, Hebrew, and Punjabi.Monday–Saturday, 9 a.m.–noon, 1–4 p.m. 6409 Davis Road, Waxhaw.