I learned about Culture Pass years ago, but I was reminded of it again through a Facebook parents group I belong to. It’s a New York City program for library card-holding patrons 13 and older of Brooklyn Public Library, New York Public Library, and Queens Public Library. With your library card, you can reserve a pass to get free admission to dozens of museums, historical societies, heritage centers, public gardens, and the like. Major museums like the Natural History Museum, the Met, and the MOMA participate; the Bronx Zoo, New York Botanical Gardens, and Wave Hill participate. And slightly lesser known historical societies and mansions such as The Japan Society and the J.P Morgan Library and Museum are included. Even the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and the Children’s Museum of Manhattan are included. Each cultural institution has its own rules: some require timed entries that you have to pre-book in advance, on top of securing a Culture Pass reservation for a specific day; others are more generous and allow you to take up to 3-4 people with you (the average seems to be you plus one other person). They typically allow you to do one booking per calendar year, so it’s not something you can take advantage of repeatedly in a short span of time. So this would not serve as a substitute for say, an annual membership to the Children’s Museum unfortunately.
After taking a look at the open passes available over the last couple of weeks, I also noticed that the breadth is pretty wide of what’s included: Second Stage Theater shows are occasionally added, as well as concerts held at Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center. I thought this was pretty generous. Even if the seats are balcony/nose-bleed seats, this would be high quality arts for literally the cost of your time to sign up for a library card! Of course, taking full advantage of the Culture Pass means being diligent on checking for openings regularly, especially at the beginning of each month when things open up and new events like concerts are added, but that seems like a small inconvenience given admission to any of these places would be free.
I’ve already reserved tickets for next month to visit The Japan Society, as it’s not only supposed to be interesting from an obvious cultural perspective, but the building itself is supposed to be architecturally quite unique.