Now that it’s (finally) spring, we can all breath a sigh of relief and start heading to our favorite outdoor places again. But some our favorite places can be pretty darn expensive. The Franklin Park Zoo charges $17.95 per adult and $11.95 per child. And some of our favorite places can be, well, inside. It’s great to take the kids to the Children’s Museum for a day ($14 per person), or the Aquarium ($24.95 per adult, $17.95 per child), or many of the other wonderful Boston attractions, but it can easily run $70 or more in admission fees, let alone parking or any other add-ons.
There are a lot of ways to save at these places (AAA, Senior Citizen discounts, Military discounts, First Friday, etc.), but what I want to write about today are library passes. Pretty much every library system in the greater Boston area has them, and they are a great way to save money whether you are taking your children out somewhere or having a nice date night with your partner.
What is a library pass? A library pass is essentially a coupon good for free or discounted admission to a local attraction. These are often called museum passes even though you can use them for a wide variety of locations besides museums.
How can I get a library pass? Visit the web site of your town’s library( here are the links for Boston, Cambridge, Waltham, Arlington, Lexington, and Belmont). Each town’s site is slightly different, but in general you will be able to click to see a list of passes that the library has and the availability of each one. You can reserve passes up to 30, 60, or 90 days in advance, depending on the town. Click on the pass you want and you’ll be asked to enter your library card number to hold the pass. Most libraries will not let you reserve a museum pass if you have fines over a certain amount (usually ~$5). You should receive a confirmation email. Note that you then have to physically pick up the pass at the library on the day before use (my experience has been that if you need to come a day or two before that, they’ll let you have it, but YMMV).
Where attractions do library passes cover? The attractions at the top of this post are the main ones covered by all of the towns I’ve seen so far (Boston Children’s Museum, Harvard Museum of Natural History, Massachusetts Parks Pass, Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Science, New England Aquarium, etc.), but each town has additional passes as well.
Other attractions that may be covered by your town’s library passes may include Franklin Park Zoo, Isabella Stewart Gardener Musuem, USS Constitution, ICA, Old Sturbridge Village, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Discovery Museum in Acton, Concord Museum, Fruitlands, and more. Visit the your town library’s page above to find out more!
How much do they cost? Nothing – library passes are FREE. Makes you feel bad about all of those late fees, doesn’t it? The passes themselves may or may not get you into the attractions for free. When you book the pass, you should see a description of what the discount is – either “free admission”, “X% off admission”, or “reduced price $Y per person admission”.
How do I use them? Once you’ve reserved your pass in advance, head to the library the day before you’ve reserved it for (see above) to pick it up. The pass will either be a paper coupon or a laminated one. The paper passes are disposable – you do not need to return them to the library. The laminated passes must generally be returned to the library on the next business day. You must return passes when the library is open – do not put them in the drop box!
Take your pass and your child, children, partner, grandparent, dog, whomever to the museum or location it’s reserved for. When you get there, go to the ticket counter and give them the pass. If it’s a paper pass, they will take it and give you the discount. If it’s a laminated pass they will look at it, look at you, and then give you the discount. Library passes are very common so any place you can go with one will be used to it – you’re not going to have to explain or get any strange looks
Are there limits to how many library passes I can reserve? Yes, and these vary by town. For example, the Boston Public Library limits patrons to one pass per museum per 30 day period, with other restrictions during school vacation week. The Lexington Public Library limits patrons to one pass per day, two per week (Sunday through Saturday), and a total of eight passes per month. So there’s a pretty wide range – check out your local site for more details.
There will probably be some attractions on your library’s museum pass list that you haven’t heard of. Generally, these are worth checking out. We’ve discovered two of our favorite attractions, the Discovery Museums in Acton and the Charles River Museum of Industry, through the library. So go explore all of the different places out there, and save some money while doing so!