Insights for Destination & Leisure Marketers

6 Ways to Make Summer at the Museum a Must. Really.

driving summer museum attendance

Is it a coincidence that Museum Week falls right around the start of summer vacation? I’m not sure. But I do know that driving summer museum attendance can be a tall order when countered by days lazing at the beach, splashing poolside, or just vegging out. But (luckily?) even the beach can get boring. And an update or two to your programming and marketing can change the whole experience – and make your museum a summer-must.

Need a little inspiration? Check out 6 simple ways you can lure summertime visitors:

1. Change Your Media.

Where is your audience in the summer? There’s a good chance they’re outdoors; places where cell reception isn’t always great, or activities (and sun glare) keep them off their screens. Consider something less traditional to catch your crowd with a can’t-miss message. Table-toppers at local restaurants, moving billboards to catch travelers, and even a flyover banner at the beach can be eye-opening to both locals and vacationers.

2. Offer Premium Tours.

Most people DIY their museum experience. While the norm, going it alone can leave the visit feeling lackluster. Premium concierge-style tours, however, like the ones offered at Heritage Museums & Gardens in Cape Cod, cater to specific visitors. Personalized activities, inside information, and behind-the-scenes access create a rewarding interactive experience your visitors will love and pass the word along to others. (And you can charge extra.)

3. Just Add Music.

From family-friendly folk bands to a full-on summer concert series, adding music livens up your space and creates a one-time-only urgency. Hosting summer concerts allows you to use any outdoor space you might want to highlight. But even if you only have indoor space, this is something you can use to draw more visitors.

4. Appeal to the After-Hours Crowd.

Offering extended hours works in a couple of ways. First, it allows nine-to-fivers a chance to see your exhibit on weekdays. Second, it gives vacationers an evening outing. Third, it appeals to visitors who want to avoid the rush of families during daytime hours. Up the ante by adding a wine or craft beer venue and make your museum a true night on the town. Bonus: an after-hours opening can bring out the kid in all of us, making a kid-geared exhibit do double duty. Check out San Francisco’s Exploratorium to see a prime example.

5. If You Make Good Food, They Will Come.

Many museums suffer from a dearth of desirable lunch or dinner options. And experiencing art is difficult if you’re hangry (not a misspelling). Adding another element to savor besides your exhibit adds to your allure and rounds out the museum experience. From food trucks to farm-to-table dining, there’s a myriad of ways to add flavor to your programming.

6. Update Your Photo Policy.

If your museum has a no-pictures rule, it might be time to rethink that. Younger demographics love to share their experiences socially, and this is the particular audience museums have the most trouble reaching. In other words, a no-photo policy can translate to a no-word-of-mouth result.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to marketing your museum in the summer months, any of the above updates can offer a change from your standard year-round fare. And with the official start of summer upon us, the time to give it a whirl is now.