Bank of America's Free Museums Deal Returns

Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Tony Rinaldo , Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Bank of America's "Museums on Us" program will be returning for a 14th season this year, allowing B of A and Merrill Lynch debit and credit cardholders free admission for themselves (after presenting their card) to 150 arts and cultural institutions around the United States. The promotion kicks off the weekend of February 5, and is effective on the first full weekend of every month in 2011.
With so many museums, zoos, aquariums, gardens, and other institutions participating this year, AOL Travel has rounded up our top 10 Can't-Miss choices. From the Met to the MIM, here are some wonderful places to explore free of charge on the first weekend of the month – as long as you have the right plastic to grant you free entry.

1. Metropolitan Museum of ArtNew York, NY

The Met is one of the most popular tourist attractions in New York (with more than 5 million visitors annually), and ranks among the top museums in the world. This museum has something for everyone – including the largest collection of impressionist art outside of Paris, collections from ancient Egypt and Greece, as well as permanent installations featuring some of history's most prolific artists. They aren't joking when they say you could spend days exploring all the art in the Metropolitan Museum, so plan accordingly.

2. Shedd AquariumChicago, IL

Positioned right alongside Lake Michigan, the John G. Shedd Aquarium houses nearly 22,000 aquatic animals. Exhibits like Amazon Rising, two different saltwater reef exhibits and the Oceanarium marine mammal pavilion (featuring whales and dolphins) make the Shedd Aquarium a must-see.

3. The Musical Instrument MuseumPhoenix, AZ

The Musical Instrument Museum just opened in the spring of 2010, making it the newest museum in the Phoenix area. What makes MIM part of our Can't-Miss list is its special focus on musical traditions from around the world (the collection houses instruments from over 200 different countries). In addition to the collection, there is also a theater with live performances and an Experience Gallery, which allows visitors to touch and play exotic instruments.

4. The Living DesertPalm Springs, CA

This 1,800 acre zoo and botanical garden aims to preserve, protect and educate about the natural desert environments of North America and Africa. Guests are able to walk or take shuttles between exhibits, which feature animals ranging from coyotes to badgers to giraffes.

5. Museum of Fine ArtsBoston, MA

First opened in 1876, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston houses more than 450,000 works of art. One million visitors each year explore the collections, which normally costs $20 for adults – great savings if you can take advantage of Museums on Us.

6. Liberty Science Center – Jersey City, NJ

Liberty Science Center is one of the leading educational centers on the East Coast. Visitors of all ages are encouraged to interact with their wide range of exhibits (like the famous Touch Tunnel and Our Hudson Home), Live Science programs and IMAX theater programming.

7. Museum of Contemporary Art, MiamiMiami, FL

Located in North Miami, MOCA is among the leaders of modern art museums in the United States. Their robust permanent collection of contemporary artists (like Dennis Oppenheim and Jose Bedia) is augmented by frequent lectures, performances and other events.

8. Bronx ZooNew York, NY

The largest urban zoo in the US is another Can't-Miss highlight of the Museums on Us program. Normally $16 for adult admission, Bank of America and Merrill Lynch cardholders will get free admission on the first full weekend of each month, and a chance to see 4,000 animals, including giraffes, gorillas and sea lions. The Bronx Zoo is also renowned for its Madagascar and Tiger Mountain exhibits.

9. Lan Su Chinese GardenPortland, OR

Portland prides itself on the Lan Su gardens, the most authentic Chinese garden outside of China itself. Lan Su provides visitors a serene perspective into Chinese culture, history and Ming-dynasty architecture. Hundreds of native Chinese plants, a scenic pond with bridges, and a teahouse round out the experience.

10. Country Music Hall of FameNashville, TN

You'll find all things Country in this piano-shaped building, from Jimmie Rodgers' guitar to a sprawling exhibit on the Hank Williams family. The Country Music Hall of Fame and museum seeks to catalogue and honor the tradition of folk and country music that began in the American south. If you're lucky, you might even catch a live performance on the weekend that you stop in for a visit.
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