Much of my adult life has been spent traveling nonstop and, when I am home, I rarely take advantage of the tourist attractions in my own backyard. My former home bases have included incredible destinations like Chicago, Illinois, Orlando, Florida and St. Louis, Missouri — I came, went, and missed out on so much that those cities have to offer locals and tourists alike.

Wheelchair user John Morris at Kenya Giraffe Centre.

When traveling to new destinations, I make a point to see as much as possible, stretching my budget to visit even the most obscure and seemingly insignificant museums and attractions that are on offer. There is a certain urgency that compels me to spend money on admissions fees — after all, who knows if I will ever return? Since I may have only one opportunity to see and do it all, I must!

Most of us don’t have that level of urgency in our hometowns. $25 to visit a museum that’s a mile away? Next month, I’ll say — I’d rather use that money on a night out with friends, or to splurge on takeout (I live near Chinatown, so obviously). The museum will still be there next month or next year, right?

John pictured on the deck of the USS Constitution naval ship, known as Old Ironsides.

When I moved to Boston, Massachusetts last year, I vowed not to repeat the mistakes of the past — here, I want to see and experience everything! Boston has so much to offer, from incredible museums like the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library to the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, amazing public parks like Boston Common and the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, and world-class musical and theater performances.

So, how can I afford visiting all of these incredible attractions while still having money for Chinese takeout?

My Library card!

Holders of the Boston Public Library card have access to a slew of free and discounted tickets to popular attractions as part of the city’s Museum Pass program. Here’s a sampling of what my library card unlocks:

  • Boston Children’s Museum — Discounted admission of $11 per person for up to 4 visitors, half off the standard rate of $22 per person.
  • Franklin Park Zoo — Discounted admission of $9 per adult and $6 per child for up to 6 visitors, typically priced at $15.95 to $22.95 per person.
  • Harvard Museums of Science & Culture — FREE admission for up to 4 visitors to the Harvard Museum of Natural History and Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, normally priced at $15 per person per museum.
  • Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum — Discounted admission of $5 per person for up to 4 visitors, 75% off the standard rate of $20 per person.
  • John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum — Discounted admission of $3 per person for up to 4 visitors, more than 80% off the standard rate of $18 per person.
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston — Discounted admission of $10 per person for up to 2 adults, normally priced at $27 per person.
  • Museum of Science — FREE admission for up to 4 visitors, typically priced at $29 per adult and $24 per child.
  • New England Aquarium — FREE admission for up to 4 visitors, typically priced at $34 per adult and $25 per child.

These discounted rates make visiting Boston’s top attractions affordable for me and other residents of Boston and, while this program isn’t open to nonresidents, your own local museum may have a similar program for attractions in your hometown.

Here are a few such programs I found for major cities in the United States:

  • Dallas Culture Pass — Holders of a Dallas library card can get free admission and other great perks to attend the city’s different museums, theaters, dance workshops, music performances, film screenings and more!
  • Chicago Public Library Digital Museum Passes — CPL’s museum passes are now digital and include a wide range of museums, historical societies, zoos and more.
  • Free Library of Philadelphia Experience Pass — From science centers and botanical gardens to art museums and sporting events, the Experience Pass has something for everyone!
  • LA County Library Discover & Go Pass — With your LA County Library card, you can reserve passes to Southern California museums for FREE through Discover & Go, a program that partners with LA County Library to offer free and low-cost passes for museums and other cultural destinations.
  • New York City Culture Pass — If you have a library card from the Brooklyn Public Library, Queens Public Library, or New York Public Library (serving the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island), you can reserve free passes to 80+ cultural institutions across NYC.
  • San Francisco Discover & Go Pass — Library users who are San Francisco residents can access free passes to more than a dozen San Francisco Bay Area museums and attractions with the use of their library card.

Check your local library’s website to see if there is museum pass program in your area — why pay full price to access museums and other attractions if discounts are available for local residents?

Featured image courtesy Boston Public Library.

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