Local troops have the key to more than 2,000 museums across the country this summer through a program that allows free admission to military personnel and their families.

The National Endowment for the Art’s Blue Star Museums program has helped open the doors to fun and educational activities for eight years and, this year, it features participating sites in every state.

The program, which is a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense and thousands of museums, runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year.

The program provides families an opportunity to “enjoy the nation’s cultural heritage and learn more about their community, especially after a military move,” officials said.

“The Blue Star Museums program is a great opportunity for the NEA to team up with local museums in every state in the nation to support our service members and their families,” said NEA Chairwoman Jane Chu. “It means a lot to offer these families access to high-quality, budget-friendly opportunities to spend time together.”

This year’s list of participating museums is available at arts.gov/bluestarmuseums.

Last year, more than 900,000 service members and their families took advantage of the program, visiting museums focused on fine arts, science, music, nature and children’s learning.

“Whether they want to blast off at a science museum, take a walk through nature, or encounter animals at the aquarium, Blue Star Museums will help service members and their families create memories this summer,” said Kathy Roth-Douquet, chief executive officer of Blue Star Families. “This fantastic collaboration with the NEA brings our local military and civilian communities together, and offers families fun and enriching activities in their home towns. We are thrilled with the continued growth of the program and the unparalleled opportunities it offers.”

The program requires service members to present their military identification card for free admission for themselves and up to five family members.

New museums participating this year include the Edgar Allen Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia; the Blues Foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame Museum in Memphis, Tennessee; the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument in Hagerman, Idaho; and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming.

In North Carolina, there are more than 30 participating locations, including the Museum of the Cape Fear in Fayetteville, the Averasboro Battlefield Museum in Dunn, the Cameron Art Museum and Cape Fear Museum in Wilmington and the Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby.

Another 71 locations are participating in Virginia, including the U.S. Army Women’s Museum at Fort Lee. And there are 17 sites in South Carolina, including Cowpens National Battlefield near Gaffney.

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©2017 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.