The American novelist Theodore Dreiser once remarked, "Art is the stored honey of the human soul, gathered on wings of misery and travail." Well, today, art had certainly better taste as sweet as honey, considering how much money some U.S. museums are charging visitors to enjoy it. At the top of our list of the 20 most expensive museums in the U.S. is a nearly $30 entry ticket into California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, California. Most of the other pricey admissions on our list are located in the nation's largest cities and each of them is at least $15 per adult ticket. Sadly, a museum admission price is no longer a mere $5 (although there still a few moderately-priced options that we cover at the end of this blog).
The most expensive museums
Why so much?
On one side of the equation of high admission prices is the fact that museums are largely tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations with legions of volunteers and wads of corporate and private donations and legacies, thus they should be cheap to enter.
Conversely, according to Blake Gopnik of The Daily Beast, there are also legions of marketing-savvy art-market manipulators - artists, agents and auctioneers - who make the world of art museums very pricey for the average citizen. Some art goes for millions of dollars, and that cost has to be paid for by someone. Additionally, many museums have educated, dedicated art restorers, curators and researchers on staff, too, and they do not come free. Also, government grants to museums, according to USA Today, continually fall in value.
Getting in the door for cheaper
Admission can dramatically go down with annual memberships, but that assumes visitors live for art, rather than just enjoy it. Many museums also have free admission on certain afternoons, evenings and, even, days, but, not surprisingly, these promotions prove very popular; there is also reduced admission for teachers with groups. Free Museum Day lists free nights at museums in eight U.S. cities.
Some museums that always are free include: the J. Paul Getty Center in Los Angeles (although parking costs a staggering $15) and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Others are more reasonable in price, including Dallas' Museum of Art, Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art and San Francisco's de Young Museum all of which charge $10; the Miami Art Museum charges only $8. Most museums charge extra for special exhibits and online booking of admission tickets.