Center for Puppetry Arts

A puppet named Cindy practices her balancing skills at an interactive exhibit at a museum in Atlanta. A puppet named Cindy practices her balancing skills at an interactive exhibit at a museum in Atlanta. Center for Puppetry Arts (Center for Puppetry Arts)

Museums needn't be stuffy places full of old bones, and people who don't think there's anything of interest inside may not be looking hard enough.

Coming up is a chance to rectify all that. More than 1,000 museums from coast to coast will offer free admission on Museum Day Live!, an annual open house to be held Sept. 27.

Many participating museums have specific themes, such as bottles (Ballston Spa, N.Y.), canals (Easton, Pa.), petroleum (Midland, Texas), potatoes (Blackfoot, Idaho) and quilts (Paducah, Ky.)

"People of all interest areas can really find something that connects with them," said Elee Wood, associate professor of museum studies at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis. During a recent sabbatical, she visited 54 museums across the country.

"You can go all the way from the sublime to almost the ridiculous," she added. "That's also what makes it fascinating."

Every American is likely to find a participating museum nearby, from classic to obscure. Among them are:

•Center for Puppetry Arts, Atlanta, (404-873-3391, puppet.org). Hands-on workshops and live performances enhance the fun offerings for children and adults alike.

•National Capital Radio & Television Museum, Bowie, Md. (301-390-1020, ncrtv.org). See nearly a century's worth of receivers and enjoy classic programs such as radio's "Can You Top This?" and TV's "$64,000 Question."

•R.E. Olds Transportation Museum, Lansing, Mich. (517-372-0529, reoldsmuseum.org). The production of Oldsmobiles ceased in 2004, but this museum highlights 118 years of history, beginning with an 1886 steam carriage.

"Seek out things that you're curious about," Wood encouraged, "and dive deeper into your knowledge base."

Tickets good for free admission for two guests can be downloaded from the Museum Day Live! website (smithsonianmag.com/museumday). Many museums also will accept tickets loaded onto smartphones.