Memorial Day weekend kicks off the unofficial start of summer, and with that, vacation season.
That also means the Blue Star Museum program begins offering free admission and discounts for active-duty military personnel and their families, including National Guard and Reserve families. The program runs Saturday, May 26 through Labor Day (Sept. 3).
Blue Star Museums include cultural, art, history and children's museums. The project, since 2010, is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense and museums across the country.
In North Carolina, there are 35 museums and attractions participating in the program.
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"We participate every summer," said Ken Howard, director of the North Carolina Museum of History.
Other participating museums in the Triangle include the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in Durham, the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in Chapel Hill and the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh.
Not all special exhibits will be eligible for free admission, according to the Blue Star Museums website.
While the history museum always has free admission, active military personnel and their families will get 10 percent off in the museum shop and 20 percent off on Memorial Day, July Fourth and Labor Day.
Military personnel who want to join the museum will get $10 off individual and family memberships all year long, Howard said.
The N.C. Museum of History has several military-themed exhibits, including "A Thousand Words: Photographs by Vietnam Veterans." The exhibit displays photographs that were taken by North Carolina soldiers in Vietnam. It will run from July 27 through Feb. 24.
Another highlight is the museum's permanent exhibit "A Call to Arms." This shows North Carolina's military legacy with items from the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War and the Iraq War.
In the coming months the Museum will also be hosting some special military events.
On June 16, the museum will celebrate Naval Services Day, which commemorates the Battle of Belleau Wood, which took place during World War I. Then on September 29, the museum will host Military Services Day.
"That is to honor the breaking of the Hindenburg Line," Howard said.
This was a German defense position during World War I.
"American troops, including the North Carolina National Guard, were the first to break through the Hindenburg line," Howard said.
On those days the museum will be having some military reenactors, said Howard.
For a list of participating museums across the country, go to arts.gov/national/blue-star-museums.
Here are the Triangle museums: