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Museum fun for families: Blue Star program gives active-duty military free admission

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Military families looking to learn about a variety of subjects, including art, flight, military history and trains, can visit some Texas museums free of charge this summer.

Thanks to the Blue Star Museums program, active-duty military (including National Guard and Reservists) and their families get free admission through Labor Day at participating museums.

The Blue Star effort is comprised of the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Defense Department and more than 2,000 museums across the United States. In Texas, there are more than 100 participating museums, including Temple’s Railroad and Heritage Museum.

Stephanie Long, the railroad museum director, said they offer free admission to service members and their families year-round. “The Railroad and Heritage Museum is proud to continue supporting the Blue Star Museums program,” she said in a statement.

The museum offers permanent exhibits on railroad history, life in Temple and railroad lanterns, as well as temporary exhibits. Through Aug. 2, there will be two of these — “Vaquero: Genesis of the Texas Cowboy,” celebrating in a series of photographs by Bill Wittliff, the daily life of these men in northern Mexico, and “Hell on Wheels: Union Pacific Railroad Towns in Wyoming,” which focuses on the often wild end-of-track towns that were hastily built while the Transcontinental Railroad was being constructed.

In July, the theme is “Beat the Heat.” The museum is a popular summer field trip destination for pre-kindergartners attending the Fort Hood Child Development Centers.

“Kids and trains go together very well,” Long said.

The Thinkery, the New Austin Children’s Museum, is not only renovated and in a new location but new to the Texas Blue Star Museum program. Formally known as the Children’s Museum, it also expanded.

“We are proud to be a part of the Blue Star Museum program and offer free admission to all the hardworking and deserving military members and their families. We want to thank them for all of the sacrifices they have made for our country and we hope military families enjoy their time together in the museum,” said Mike Nellis, executive director of the Thinkery, in a statement.

The Thinkery opened in December at its new location, in the Mueller complex. At 40,000 square-feet, it is twice the size of the old museum.

It offers children the chance to problem-solve, use their creativity and explore a variety of subjects such as science, construction, healthy living and food preparation.

Free admission ends after Labor Day but throughout the rest of the year, the Thinkery gives military families a $2 discount off admission.

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