Blue Star Museums – Free Admission for Military & Their Families

If you are currently serving in one of America’s Armed Forces; including the National Guard and Reserve, you know  how reintegration and getting quality time with your family is difficult. Blue Star Museums is a collaboration effort to help provide support and resources to do just that. Blue Star Museums is a program that invites actively serving military members and their immediate families to visit participating museums, zoos and nature centers for FREE!

Every year, from Armed Forces Day to Labor Day, the Blue Star Museums program offers free admission to all active-duty military personnel, including the National Guard and Reserves, and their families.

To date, more than 2,000 museums, zoos, nature centers participate participate in this amazing collaborative effort to offer venues where military men and women and their families can enjoy this experience at no cost to them.

So, let’s learn all the details about this amazing military support program.

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Blue Star Museums – Free Admission for Military & Their Families

“Gestures of support and appreciation mean a lot for those Military men and women who are serving and their families.”

What does Blue Star mean?

Military Blue Star Banner in Window

You probably recognize Blue Star banners in windows of homes, stickers on vehicles or a mother wearing Blue Star lapel pins. But what does the blue star mean?

In America, the Blue Star represents a U.S. military member who is currently serving during war.

However, even during peacetime, the Blue Star is authorized by the federal government for families to display for others to recognize their family’s hardships and sacrifices while their loved one is serving our Country.

But that Blue Star is more than recognition. It’s also about support. There are now Blue Star programs that are designed to help our currently serving Military Servicemembers and their families; either through need or support.

What is the Blue Star Museum program about?

Blue Star Museums - Military Woman Soldier

One of those military support programs is the Blue Star Museums collaborative. This important partnership was formed between Blue Star Families along with the the National Endowment for the Arts in collaboration with the Department of Defense and participating museums all across the United States.

This collaborative effort to recruit museums has involved partnerships with the American Alliance of Museums, the Association of Art Museum Directors, the Association of Children’s Museums, the American Association of State and Local History, the Association of Science-Technology Centers, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The purpose of this collaborative effort is to provide free admission to participating museums, nature centers and zoos for America’s Active Duty Servicemembers, National Guardsmen, Active Military Reservists and their immediate families.

The Blue Star Museums program is designed to show appreciation and improve the quality of life for Active Duty and their families. Because of the constant challenges of multiple lengthy deployments, reintegration, limited resources, this support program is a way for military families to bond and enjoy their limited time together.

Are the Blue Star Museums open to eligible members all year?

The Blue Star Museums program runs from Armed Forces Day (traditionally the third Saturday in May) up to Labor Day (early September).

In other words, Servicemembers and their family members may visit any of the participating museums during that time.

Dinosaur Skeleton at Museum

Do all museums in the United States participate in the Blue Star Museum program?

There are over 2,000 participating museums, nature centers and zoos throughout the United States that allow free admission to currently serving Servicemen and Servicewomen. Some are art, science and history museums while others are children’s museums.

Are Gold Star families, parents of children serving in the military or those who have lost a child on Active Duty eligible to participate in the Blue Star Museums?

The Blue Star Museum collaborators truly appreciate and beholden the sacrifices of Gold Star families and those immediate families affected by loss through service. However, the Blue Star Museums collaborative efforts is designed and limited for those military members who are currently serving and their families.

Are Retired Military and Veterans eligible for free museum admission through Blue Star Museums?

The collaborators are grateful and honored for the service and sacrifices bestowed by Military Retirees and Veterans.

However, the Blue Star Museums program is exclusively designed for those currently serving in the United States Military (Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Space Force), Military Reservists and National Guardsmen (regardless of status). But also, the program extends to actively serving U.S. Public Health Commissioned Corps, NOAA Commissioned Corps, and up to five family members.

If you are a military retiree or military veteran, you can always ask if they offer discounts or special rates in appreciation of your military service. You may have to present proof of your service.

Do eligible attendees have to show proof for free admission into a participating Blue Star Museum?

Eligible Armed Forces members must show their military ID card (CAC(Armed Forces of the United States Geneva Conventions Identification); the standard card for Active Duty, Reserve and National Guard personnel in accordance with Geneva Conventions requirements.

Military Dependents of those eligible Servicemembers must present their valid Dependent ID cards (not expired).

Young Military Family

What is a military family member?

According to the Blue Star Museums program, a military family member of active duty military may include a spouse or child, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. But, any of which must be issued a military ID card.

What if a military family has a large family?

To gain free access to any of the Blue Star Museums, the program permits the Servicemember and up to 5 family members. Again, proof of eligibility aforementioned is required before entry.

If an eligible military family exceeds the number specified, either quietly ask for direction from the museum curator or person in charge or be prepared to pay admission for additional members.

This program isn’t designed for military families to bring their friends to take advantage of the free admission.

What if military children under age 10 have not been issued dependent ID cards?

Family at Museum

The Blue Star Museums are aware that young children of eligible participants may not be issued military dependent ID cards.

But, the attending eligible Servicemember will be required to present their valid military ID card or eligible family member will need to present their own military dependent ID card.

Can the spouse or family of a deployed military Servicemember still participate in the Blue Star Museums program?

The participating museums totally understands that an active duty member may be deployed; leaving his/her family behind.

Therefore, the Servicemember does not have to be present for family members to use the program.

But, only eligible dependents are granted free access to those collaborating Blue Star Museums upon presenting aforementioned documentation (current military dependent ID cards).

Can the spouse or family of a non-deployed Servicemember still participate in the Blue Star Museums program?

It’s understandable that there are times when the Active Duty member cannot be present when the family wants to go visit a participating zoo or children’s museum.

Just the same as if the military member were deployed, proper identification for eligible family members will be required at the time of entrance.

Family at Museum Nature Center

What if there are fee-based exhibits?

Some participating museums may have additional programs or events that require a fee. They may not be included in the Blue Star Museums program. Nor should they be assumed to be part of the free admission.

It’s been suggested to discuss this with the museum curator or person in charge before arriving. 

How many Blue Star Museums can an eligible military member or family members visit during one season?

The sky’s the limit! The collaborators and partners of Blue Star Museums encourage eligible Servicemembers and their families to take time to enjoy these museums and zoos.

Can any museum, nature center or zoo  join the Blue Star Museums program?

Museums, nature centers and zoos are highly encouraged to join this amazing collaborative effort to support U.S. troops and their families. If you visit one of those establishments that’s not currently enrolled in the program, direct them to fill out the online Blue Star Museums registration form or email the Blue Star Museums program director.

Wrapping up


Isn’t the Blue Star Museums a great program for our current serving military members and their families? This type of support program is great for morale and helps to strengthen the family bond within the realms of serving their Country. But also, it’s a fantastic way for military Servicemembers and their families to learn together, experience together, BE together.

Blue Star Line Graphic - Always On Liberty

*** For more information on this program, visit the National Endowment for the Arts FAQ page.

The program is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and thousands of museums across the country. ***

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