The Secret to Free Museum Passes in New York (You Could Save Up to $100 per Visit!)

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Here’s a cool new way for folks living in New York (and possibly ANY US state) to save a bunch of money!

If you have a library card affiliated with the Queens Library, Brooklyn Public Library, or the New York Public Library systems, you and up to 3 guests can get into some amazing museums for free!

You’ll Save $18 per Adult When You Use Culture Pass to Reserve Tickets to the Museum of the City of New York

Brand New Culture Pass Program Gets New York Library Cardholders Into Museums for FREE

New York Culture Pass is for residents of New York State looking for an affordable and edifying way to spend their free time.  There are 33 cultural institutions around the state participating in this program, like:

You can reserve 1 pass per cultural institution per year.  And you can have 2 active reservations per library card.

Admission to many of these museums isn’t cheap.  For example, you’ll pay $25 per adult when you visit the Whitney Museum of American Art.  That can add up quickly!

Art Appreciation Seems Like a Fairly Inexpensive Hobby – but Not at The Whitney Museum in Manhattan

Culture Pass will grant you free access to eligible museums for 2 adults or a family of 4r depending on the institution.

Passes are limited in quantity, and a new batch of passes is released 2 months in advance on the first of every month.  So passes for December are released on October 1 and so on.

How to Use Culture Pass

Retrieving your Culture Pass for a museum is pretty simple:

  • Go to the Culture Pass website and select your library system
  • Enter your library card number and PIN to sign into the Culture Pass reservations system
  • Look for available passes by date or museum
  • Reserve the date you plan to visit
  • Print or download your museum pass before you visit

You can NOT cancel your reservation after you’ve clicked on the “Retrieve Pass” button and agreed to the warning that passes cannot be cancelled after viewing or printing.  And remember that you’ll have to present a valid ID at the museum matching the name on your pass.

Do You Qualify?

This perk is meant for library cardholders living in the state of New York.  Official Culture Pass terms state:

Cardholding patrons 13 and older of Queens Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and The New York Public Library are eligible to reserve passes for free admission to participating cultural institutions.  To qualify for a free public library card in New York City, you must be a resident of New York State or work for a company or go to school in New York City.

That said, it’s possible to apply for a temporary New York Public Library card for free if you live anywhere in the US.  The New York Public Library website says:

If your home address is in the United States, but not New York State or City, you qualify as a New York City Visitor from the United States, and you are eligible for a temporary card.

I applied for a card and received an email with a temporary barcode.  The instructions are to bring a valid ID and the temporary barcode to a New York Public Library location, and a librarian will issue a temporary card for you.  The card is valid for 3 months, when you’ll have to renew it again in-person.

Finding a New York Public Library branch shouldn’t be a problem, as there are 200+ around the area.  It’s a minor inconvenience if you’re planning to visit a museum around the city.

I went ahead and tried to log into the Culture Pass website with my temporary barcode, but it was a no-go.

Temporary Barcodes Do NOT Work for Culture Pass

To be clear, I’m not certain that a temporary library card will work with Culture Pass, and I’m not seeing any data points supporting either side.  But it’s certainly worth a shot!

Additionally, folks who don’t live in New York can buy a membership with either the Queens Library or the Brooklyn Public Library for $50 per year.  This will earn you a proper library card.  And though I still can’t be certain it will grant you access to Culture Pass, I’m confident of it.

A New York Library Card Can Be Yours for $50 per Year

Purchasing a $50 library card might sounds a bit mental, but you’ll more than make up for that fee by visiting a few New York museums through Culture Pass.  Especially if you bring guests!

Bottom Line

The new Culture Pass program gives New York residents free access to 33 cultural institutions around the state.

You can reserve 1 pass per cultural institution per year.  And depending on the venue, the pass will get a family of 4 in for free!  That’s pretty fantastic, considering museums can cost $25 per adult!

Even if you don’t live in New York, it’s possible to receive a free temporary library card which expires 3 months after it’s issued.  Or, you can pay $50 per year for a Queens Library or Brooklyn Public Library card.  I’ve not tried myself, but I suspect both of these methods will give non-New Yorkers access to Culture Pass.

In the name of science, someone test this out and comment!

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