Where I Spent $50 in Boston (Not at the MFA)

Had I done my homework, I’d have learned in advance about the Museum of a Fine Arts’ exorbitant admission fee and saved a trip over there.

My husband and I were in Boston for the first time in many years and thought we’d pop in for a brief visit as part of our day’s adventure. Once in the lobby, though, we discovered that our museum visit would cost $50.

I asked the fellow who greeted us if the fee was suggested or mandatory, and he told us to come back on Wednesday at 4:00 pm when we could pay whatever we wanted (this was Friday). I knew he was just a low-level staffer so I said, politely, that we were in town for a few hours and couldn’t commit to a long enough visit to make it worthwhile. He cocked his head and shrugged his shoulders in a way that said, “We’re far too important to care if you stay or go.”

A nice security guard did let us slip in to use the restroom, though, so our trip to the MFA wasn’t a total loss.

With more time to visit old haunts, we ended up having an exceptional day in Boston where we treated ourselves to a lovely lunch with a nice bottle of wine, which we used to toast the museum and its thoughtful security staff.


As a long-time cultural tourism professional, I’ve paid close attention to the chronic decline in museum attendance over the last twenty years, but mostly from an abstract, aggregate perspective. This weekend I came face-to-face with the choices potential museum goers must make when they assess the relative value of their leisure options: Nice lunch out in an appealing destination, or a visit to the local museum.

I can see why more and more of them are choosing lunch.


2 thoughts on “Where I Spent $50 in Boston (Not at the MFA)

  1. So let me get this straight. A top ranked museum has a price they set for admission. You don’t like that price, so your answer is to bitch about it and say that it is an “exorbitant admission fee”?

    For your information, many top museums admissions are priced at $20+. If your real issue is the price, then your article did not address this. However, just because you don’t like the price is no reason to bitch.

    And you asked if the ” fee was suggested or mandatory”? Really? Do you walk into the grocery store and ask if you have to pay for food? And you wonder why this guy “cocked his head and shrugged his shoulders”?

    • Thanks for the feedback, Mike.

      For the time I had to spend, the price didn’t offer value. This combined with the attitude helped me understand why others faced with similar value choices stay away.

      Suggested fees were once common at top ranked museums.

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