Where Will You Go For Free Museum Day?

Cartoon Art Museum - free museum day
Flickr, Kim Smith

Whether you are traveling in the U.S. or having a staycation this Saturday, be sure to include some culture. September 28 is Museum Day Live! (aka Free Museum Day), when museums all over the country open their doors without charging admission.

The annual event is inspired by the Smithsonian museums, which offer free admission every day. You’ll have to register and download your free ticket in advance, which will get two guests in free to participating museums.

A few of our favorite museums participating:

Chicago
Smart Museum of Art
The University of Chicago’s art museum is always free, but this weekend is also the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, and museum-goers can also enjoy free concerts in the sculpture garden.

Dallas/Ft. Worth
American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum
Regular price: $7 adults
Serious airline nerds, frequent flyers and those on a long layover can check out this museum of aviation and American AIrlines history, just a few miles from DFW airport. Exhibits include a rare Douglas DC-3 plane.

Las Vegas
Burlesque Hall of Fame
Regular suggested donation or gift shop purchase: $5)
What’s Sin City without a little strip tease? See costumes, props and photos documenting the history, traditions and stars of burlesque dance.
Los Angeles
Grammy Museum
Regular price: $12.95 adults
Pop music lovers can check out four floors of music exhibits and memorabilia. The current exhibition features the career of Ringo Starr, including an interactive drum lesson with the Beatles‘ rhythm man himself.

New York
Museum of Chinese in America
Regular price: $10 adults
Learn about the immigrant experience in New York’s Chinatown in a building designed by Maya Lin. Current special exhibitions on the glamour of Shanghai women and the role Chinese-American designers in fashion. Follow it up with dim sum in the neighborhood.

San Francisco
Cartoon Art
Regular price: $7 adults
Take your comics seriously? This is the art museum for you, with 6,000 works of cartoon cels, comic strips and book art. Best. Museum. Ever.

Washington, D.C.
Museum of Crime and Punishment
Regular price: $21.95
Value the free admission and your freedom at a museum dedicated to criminals and police work. Fans of police procedural TV shows will enjoy the CSI lab and the filming studio for “America’s Most Wanted.”

10 free things to do in London

british museum While London, United Kingdom, is often thought to be one of the more expensive cities to travel to, it doesn’t have to be. If you plan ahead and add some quality, budget-friendly options to your itinerary, you can actually spend a vacation in London without going bankrupt. To help, here is a list of ten free things to do in London.

Visit a museum

Unlike many other cities, there are many top museums in London that are free to enter. The most popular museum to visit in the country is the British Museum, which was founded in 1753 and was the first national public museum in the world. It is a good idea to visit this museum not only because it will save you money, but also because it will give you comprehensive insight into the history and culture of the region you are visiting. Other noteworthy London museums that offer free entry include:

  • Imperial War Museum - See antique guns, tanks, artillery, and aircraft and trace the history of armed conflict, especially that which pertained to Britain and the Commonwealth.
  • Wellcome Collection- This museum is very unique, and sometimes even a bit disturbing, but is a must-see for those with a curious mind. The exhibits explore the connection between medicine, life, and art in the past, present, and future. Some interesting things you will see include Napoleon’s toothbrush, used guillotine blades, and naturally preserved mummies.
  • V&A Museum of Childhood- For something fun and whimsical, visit this museum and peruse an extensive collection of toys, games, costumes, and exhibits that explore the world of design through childhood.

Take in some art and creativity

As with museums, London also features numerous top-quality art galleries that are free to enter. One of my favorites is the Tate Modern, which features five floors of modern art including abstractions, pop art, cubism, minimalism, and expressionism. If you want to see paintings from the early Renaissance to the Post-Impression periods, the National Gallery features over 2,000 works. And, for the photographers out there (or those who simply like to look at pictures), the Photographers’ Gallery, which opened in 1971 as the first independent gallery in Britain devoted to photography, houses displays of themed photo galleries.

Laugh until you cry at a comedy club

For almost every night of the week you are in London there is a venue that can deliver free laughs. Here is a guide to a week of knee-slapping comedy:

  • Monday- Archangel features new material from established comics as well as up-and-coming comedians working on their first five or ten minutes of jokes.
  • Tuesday- The Source Below features Brooklyn-native Lewis Schaffer every Tuesday (and sometimes more) as he continuously adds new jokes to his already sharp act.
  • Wednesday- Comedy Cafe is one of the best comedy clubs in London and is where many big names in comedy first got started.
  • Thursday and Saturday- Camden Head is a pub, comedy, and music venue that brings in a mix of top-headliners, up-and-coming comedians, and first timers.
  • Sunday- Queen’s Head is a traditional English pub that features a mix of big name and beginner talent in an intimate and friendly setting.

green park london Stroll through beautiful parks

London is home to some of the most beautiful parks in the world. Regent’s Park offers the Queen Mary’s Rose Gardens while Hyde Park is home to the Diana Fountain, a memorial to the Princess of Wales. Green Park is literally right next to Buckingham Palace and has the beautiful Canada Gate while St. James’s Park is the oldest park in London and is surrounded by three palaces. No matter what park you choose, you are sure to be surrounded by beauty on a budget.

Listen to some live music

From Monday-Saturday at 5:45PM and Saturday-Sunday at 1PM you can head over to the National Theatre on the South Bank for free performances of music styles from around the world. Furthermore, on Saturday afternoons at the Notting Hill Arts Club there are free live music concerts hosted from 4PM-8PM. If you’re into a more bar/club type vibe, The Old Blue Last often holds free shows. This is considered by many to be one of the best venues in London and artists like Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse, Florence and the Machine, and Mumford and Sons have all played here.

Peruse the street markets

While it costs money to make purchases at a market, it doesn’t cost anything to browse. Budget-travelers will especially love Borough Market, an enormous open-air food market that has everything you could possible crave: breads, soups, sandwiches, meats, cheeses, spreads, sauces, cookies, candy, granola, pate, polenta, and more. The best part of all is almost every stall gives out free samples, so you can literally have a free lunch. There is also the famous Portobello Road Market that features an expansive collection of antiques, and the Old Spitalfields Market which sells everything from arts and crafts to clothing to antiques. If you’re looking for a more funkier market in an alternative setting, head over the numerous Camden Markets in Camden Town.

See the changing of the guard

No trip to London is complete without visiting Buckingham Palace and seeing the changing of the guard. This is when a new guard replaces an old guard, kind of like switching shifts, but is a lot more complicated and involves a formal ceremony that must be performed. Click here for a schedule of dates and times.

covent garden Take in a street performance

When in London, there are a few places you can go to see the talented street performers of the area. In the West Piazza of the Covent Garden Market, right outside St. Paul’s Church, you can see acts that are just as good as if you went to the theater. In fact, the street performers actually have to audition before performing, and there have been some really well-known acts, such as “Beautiful Stu” Goldsmith, the Scottish National Busking Champion, the world-renowned comedic stuntman Sean Bridges, and Cirque du Soleil-style performer, Courtney Orange (pictured right). If you’re more in the mood to see a debate or live discussion, head over to Speakers’ Corner in the north-east corner of Hyde Park, which mostly takes place on Sundays.

Learn something at the London Public Library

The London Public Library not only offers a wealth of knowledge through their myriad books and publications, but also through workshops and classes. Learn how to research your family tree, practice Tai Chi, work on mixed media art, relax with Yoga, and even play the Ukulele. Click here for a complete schedule.

Take a SANDEMAN’s NEW Europe Walking Tour

SANDEMAN’s NEW Europe Walking Tours are a favorite within the backpacking circuit and can give you a quality tour for a budget-friendly (free) price. I have personally been on a few of their tours throughout different cities in Europe and can vouch that they are exceptionally run. Most, if not all, of the guides have college degrees and have studied and trained to be knowledgeable in what they are talking about. You will get to see major and less-known sites and learn all about the history and culture of the region. All of the guides I have had have also been extremely funny and entertaining.

Hotel death undiscovered for two weeks: do not disturb

Be careful when you hang that “Do Not Disturb” sign from your hotel room doorknob. It may take people forever to find you. This is exactly what happened to Kieran Toman at the Hyde Park Towers Hotel just north of London. On July 9, 2010, he left that instruction on his door.

Unfortunately, the 39-year-old starved to death after doing so. His body, described by The Daily Mail as being in “an ‘emaciated’ state,” wasn’t found until July 23, 2010. The staff was instructed not to enter without his permission, but the awful smell caused a maid to check out the cause.

Toman had booked a five-month stay at the spot, once home to Jimi Hendrix, but after those first two weeks, the remainder of his reservation was moot.

[Via Business Insider, photo by R.B. Boyer via Flickr]

Picture London without the people

If you’ve ever had a chance to visit London, you know what a hive of activity the city can be. Huge red double decker buses rumble past your field of view, pedestrians stroll through Trafalgar Square and the pontificators mass at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park.

Perhaps it’s a surprise then to see photos of these places, completely devoid of any human being. That’s exactly what Flickr user IanVisits has done in his recent photo project titled “Abandoned London.” Ian had the opportunity recently to capture images of London at its most desolate. On Christmas morning, as many Londoners remained curled up in bed or at home opening their holiday presents, Ian was riding his bike through the empty streets, capturing these eerie street scenes, frozen in time.

The normally bustling stairs in front of the National Gallery sit vacant, strangely forlorn. The pulsing neon of Picadilly Circus is dark, the advertisements yelling their goods to nothing but empty air. Hungerford Bridge anxiously awaits the stirrings of foot traffic.

Despite the absence of any Londoners, each image in Ian’s Abandoned London set seems to create its own sense of personality. It raises an interesting question – is a city defined by its people? Or is it an entity of its own, breathing, sleeping and existing as if it was alive? In any case, if you’re looking for a unique view of London you’ve probably never seen, make sure to check out his gallery.

Many thanks to Ian Mansfield for letting us use his photos!

[Via MetaFilter]

Going to see Obama? No photos, please

You just can’t wait for the inauguration to happen. You need your dose of hope, change and belief now. So, you get on a plane for Chicago and navigate your way to Hyde Park. According to the NY Times, you won’t be able to take any pictures of our next president’s Greenwood Avenue home. Fortunately, there’s a bit more to do in Chicago than try to catch a glimpse of the man who will be our 44th president. Skip his place and check out the Robie House, for which Frank Lloyd Wright is responsible. Trek around 10 blocks north, and you can visit another home … belonging to Louis Farrakhan.

While in town, you can live like a future president, spending $21 on a haircut at Hyde Park Hair Salon and picking up breakfast at the Valois Cafeteria (get the scrambled eggs, hash browns and sausage and be just like the future #44!). In fact, drop in on any of these spots starting in February, and you can do what the president can’t: get what you want without crowds creating a scene.

[Via NY Times]