This story was originally published in Art Hive Magazine issue #32, Winter 2019.
by Bea Conrad

Museums offer priceless cultural treasures, from amazing works of art worth millions of dollars to full-size dinosaur skeletons that are millions of years old. Whether you are an avid art lover, a budding archeologist or a history buff, you can find a museum that matches your interests and piques your curiosity.

If you are new to the museum landscape, you will want to make the most of your first visit. The museum experience can be intimidating at first, and knowing what to expect can help a lot. Here are some simple ways to make the most of your first, or next, museum visit.

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Learn About Discounts and Special Offers

Some museums, like the treasures of the Smithsonian, are totally free, while others can put a real dent on your wallet. But even the most expensive museums offer specials and discounts, so cash-strapped visitors can soak up the culture at a more affordable price.

If you want to make the most of your visit, and your money, ask about discounts and special visiting times. Many museums offer significant admission discounts to students and military veterans, while others provide free or low-cost admission on certain nights. Researching these discounts ahead of time will reduce the cost, so you can afford a second visit.

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Check Out Upcoming Exhibitions

When you visit a typical museum, you are really visiting two different sets of exhibits. One set of exhibits is there to stay, which is the aptly-named permanent collection, while other exhibits are viewable only for a short time.

If you want to make the most of your visit, check out the museum website for information about upcoming special exhibits. If you see something you like, you can time your visit to coincide with your chosen special exhibit.


Go Beyond the Highlights

Everyone who visits the Louvre will want to see the Mona Lisa, and visitors to the Vatican will spend plenty of time checking out the iconic ceiling. But there is more to these museums than their highlights, and rushing to those classics does you, and the institution, a real disservice.

You will still want to see those highlights, of course, but there is no rush. Instead of simply following the crowds and fighting for a quick glimpse, linger in the hallways, explore the side galleries and revel in all the amazing works of art. You just might discover your next favorite work in the unlikeliest of places.


Visit During the Off Times

From natural history museums and planetariums to famous art museums and cultural institutions, popular sites can attract millions of visitors a year. So when you go, chances are you will not be alone.

If you want to make the most of your time and get the most from your visit, try to go during the off times. Depending on the institution, that may or may not be during the week; many museums attract dozens of school field trips a week. Knowing when to go is half the battle, and if you choose well you can explore at your leisure.

From the best art in the world to the most iconic artifacts from lost civilizations, museums are treasure troves of culture. These august institutions have something to offer everyone, from curious school kids and vacationing families to lifelong learners and couples on their first dates.

Chances are there is a great museum within easy driving distance of your home, so do yourself a favor and get ready to explore. The tips listed above will help you make the most of your museum trip, so you can get your fill of beauty and culture.