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2019 Blue Star Museum season

Free admission this summer for active-duty military personnel and their families

The Maryhill Museum, with a view of Mount Hood in the background -- on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area -- is a Blue Star Museum for 2019. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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The Blue Star Museum Program kicked off for 2019 on Armed Forces Day and runs through Sept. 2, Labor Day. The program offers free admission to active-duty military personnel and their families, including the National Guard and Reserves. The National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and museums throughout the United States have collaborated since 2010 to make this program possible. With many popular Tacoma and Seattle museums, including The Museum of Flight, participating in the program, it is a great opportunity to get out and explore the area.

This year, Lakewold Gardens is offering free admission through the Blue Star Museum Program. This lovely historic garden was designed by Thomas D. Church, a leading landscape architect of the 20th century. Located on Gravelly Lake in Lakewood, it takes about 90 minutes to do a self-guided tour, and you can picnic on the grounds.

Another option is a trip through the Columbia River Gorge, taking advantage of the museums on both the Washington and Oregon side of the Gorge. The Maryhill Museum of Art is on the Washington side. This mansion was originally going to be the home of Sam Hill who decided to turn it into a museum instead. It was dedicated in 1926 by his friend Queen Marie of Romania. Hill was the driving force behind the full-scale Stonehenge replica, a World War I memorial, not far from the museum.

Across the Columbia River in The Dalles you can visit the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum. This beautiful building overlooks the Columbia River and is filled with fascinating artifacts and displays of the natural history of the Gorge. Don't miss the Raptor Program presented twice each day. It is so interesting. Also in the area, is the Columbia Gorge Veterans Museum in the historic district of The Dalles. Continue your trip west towards Portland and visit Hood River and tour The History Museum.

For those of you who are aviation buffs, The Museum of Flight in Seattle is a must-see. This summer is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission with special displays and programs at the museum. A bit further afield, but worth the drive, is the Evergreen Air and Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. It contains Howard Hughes' famed aircraft, the Spruce Goose.

The Blue Star Museums' free admission program is available to any bearer of a Geneva Convention common access card (CAC), a DD Form 1173 ID card (dependent card), or a DD Form 1173-1 ID card, which includes active-duty U.S. military (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, as well as members of the National Guard and Reserve, U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, NOAA Commissioned Corps), along with up to five family members. A complete list of participating museums is available at

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