Don’t underestimate the savings potential of a modest library card.
You don’t have to be a bookworm to take advantage of your local library’s offerings. Some library systems allow you to reserve free or discounted passes to local museums, zoos, aquariums, and other arts and cultural organizations like theaters and orchestras.
Often, museum pass programs are offered in partnership with city-level governance and are designed to provide free or discounted entry to vital artistic and cultural resources. Think of the programs as an extension of public libraries’ mission to provide public access to information.
Not only are the free passes a great option for families with children, but also for people of all ages who love the visual and performing arts and animals. Some pass programs, however, are only open to families with children.
We’ve highlighted a few programs below.
Check with your local library to see if they operate something similar. Instead of free tickets, some library systems offer discounts on merchandise or parking.
Museum passes are just an unconventional thing that libraries lend out. There are many more. You could borrow everything from from video games to scientific equipment.
New York City
Public libraries in Brooklyn, Queens and New York offer the Culture Pass museum program to access a long list of cultural institutions. We lost count at 30.
The impressive list of museums includes the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Jewish Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Any ordinary cardholder, ages 13 and up, can reserve passes, but Ecard and Educator cardholders are not eligible. Passes are available on the first of each month for the following month and the number of people admitted for each pass varies by property.
Available at all Boston Public Library System locations are six-museum pass, as well as the New England Aquarium. Passes to other museums and attractions are available at select locations.
To reserve a pass, you must show proof of Massachusetts residency and have a physical library card, not an e-pass. Some passes are disposable and some must be returned. Returnable passes include fines if not returned in time, so be sure to read the rules.
The Fulton County Library System offers a ticket to the city to cardholders through the partnership pass program.
Participating Atlanta attractions include the Alliance Theater, Center for Puppetry Arts, State Parks, Museum of Arts and Sciences, and Georgia Aquarium. Zoo Atlanta passes are available for a family of three after viewing the Zoo Atlanta DVD.
Tampa Bay Area
With more than 30 museums in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, the Tampa Bay area public library systems support pass programs that can get you into some of the most popular museums and venues. of the region. All you need is a library card.
Hillsborough County Discovery pass offers access to 13 museums and attractions, including the Glazer Children’s Museum, Stageworks Theater and the Florida Orchestra. The number of admissions varies by location and some have waiting lists. You can check availability online, but passes must be picked up at a Hillsborough Library branch.
Pinellas County Library System museum pass program features 11 museums, including the family-favorite Great Explorations children’s museum, as well as the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art and the Museum of Fine Arts. Passes can be checked in person on a first-come, first-served basis and are valid for a seven-day loan period.
The Miami-Dade Public Library System museum pass program allows library card holders to get free passes to 18 local attractions, including the Coral Gables Museum, Miami Children’s Museum and Pérez Art Museum Miami. Although not technically a museum, Zoo Miami is also part of the museum pass program.
Library users can borrow one pass per seven-day period. Passes provide one day free admission for a family of four, with age requirements for children at Deering Estate, Fruit & Spice Park and Zoo Miami.
Customers cannot renew passes or reserve them for a specific date. Passes are first come, first served.
The Chicago Public Library has a Kids Museum Passport Program which offers free passes to a dozen local attractions, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago History Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry. Library card holders can even get free admission to places that aren’t museums, like the Brookfield Zoo and the Shedd Aquarium.
Family passes are available for up to four people. Families must include at least one child under 18 and no more than two adults.
Families can purchase one museum pass per week for a single visit per reservation. There is a 24-hour waiting period before library card holders are allowed to borrow another pass for the museum they have just visited.
But wait, there’s more. Your library card can also give you free access to streaming apps to help you save money on movies, music and more.
Those who have library cards with the Denver Public Library can get free admission to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the History Colorado Center, the Molly Brown House Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.
A group of seven people can visit the Museum of Nature and Science with just one museum pass. The Colorado History Center and Molly Brown House only allow groups of four people per museum pass. The Museum of Contemporary Art pass covers admission for four adults.
Museum passes can be reserved up to 30 days in advance.
The Dallas Public Library System partners with the City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture to provide the Dallas Culture Pass Program, allowing customers with a library card to access museums, theaters and other artistic venues. With a catalog of 34 cultural institutions, the Culture Pass Dallas program is one of the most robust on our list.
Library card holders can have up to five reservations at a time and as soon as one reservation date has passed, another can be added. There is no limit to the amount of pass reservations you can do in a year.
The Los Angeles County Public Library and the city’s public library system share Discover & Go, a museum pass program which gives library card holders free admission to 12 museums, including the Craft Contemporary Museum, the Chinese American Museum and the Los Angeles Zoo.
Library patrons can make reservations up to three months in advance, but can only have two active reservations at a time. Some passes will admit up to four museum visitors. However, the number of free tickets per pass varies by attraction.
The San Francisco Public Library System also offers the Discover & Go museum pass program, which allows library patrons access to 29 museums and other attractions in the Bay Area.
Passes can include the Conservatory of Flowers, Exploratorium, Haas-Lilienthal House, and African Diaspora Museum.
Online reservations are available and passes are valid for use over a period of seven days. Passes are only available for families with children.
Holders of a Seattle Public Library card can visit 11 local attractions, including the Museum of Flight, the Seattle Art Museum and the National Nordic Museum. The museum pass program even includes attractions that aren’t museums, like the Seattle Aquarium and the Woodland Park Zoo.
Library users can reserve one pass per week. However, they cannot book a pass for the same museum twice within 30 days. Passes can be reserved up to 30 days before the scheduled date.
Museum passes offer free admission for at least two adults.
Contributor Veronica Leone Matthews is a North Carolina-based freelance writer with 11 years of experience writing for nonprofits and higher education. She covers lifestyle topics for The Penny Hoarder.
Nicole Dow, former editor of The Penny Hoarder, also contributed.