Are you looking for entertainment and cultural experiences, but can’t afford the admission prices? Then we have some good news for you! You can still plan fun adventures for the whole family, even when you’re on a budget. Here’s how to get free passes to zoos and museums in your area.
5 Ways to Get Free Passes to Zoos and Museums
Some zoos and museums, such as the 19 institutions that comprise the Smithsonian, always have free admission. However, most charge a fee for you to enjoy their public displays. The average cost is usually around $10, but sometimes ticket prices are closer to $30 per person.
If you are living on a strict budget, even small fees may not be feasible. Whether you are purchasing a single ticket or admission for the whole family, the prices and fees can quickly add up. But, several programs offer low-cost and even free admission. So if you are looking to still have fun with limited funds for entertainment, here are a few ways you can get free passes to zoos and museums near you.
1. Free Admission Days
Many attractions schedule free admission days to help those on a budget. They usually take place in the off-season, but you can also score free tickets around Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparents’ Day, and other annual events.
Offers for Local Residents
Some places set specific days for local residents to enjoy free admission to attractions in their own city. To take advantage of free admission on these days, you will need to provide an ID that verifies a local address. You can easily find this information since they advertise dates on their webpage or social media accounts.
Smithsonian Magazine’s Museum Day
Another event many people look forward to is Museum Day which Smithsonian Magazine sponsors every September. This is an annual event where participating museums, zoos, and cultural centers in nearly every state offer free admission to anyone with a pass.
This year, it will take place on Sunday, September 17. All you need to do is download your ticket, print it, then show it at admission to get free entry for 2 people. Tickets usually become available by mid-August. If you are curious about which institutions and attractions are on the list, visit their site to see the museums that are participating this year.
Blue Star Museums
Another little-known discount is through Blue Star Museums. More than 2,000 museums across the country offer free access to military members and their families. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, active duty service members and up to 5 family members can gain free entrance. This includes spouses, children, and siblings. However, you will need to show identification at the ticket window. So, make sure you have it with your to get your free passes.
Museums on Us by Bank of America
Some financial institutions also offer free admission days. Bank of America has a program called Museums on Us which grants free access to cardholders from Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, and US Trust.
Customers can enjoy the extra perk of free admission on the first weekend of every month. Just be aware that you will need to present your card at the admissions window. Unfortunately, the offer is only valid for cardholders, so you will need to purchase additional tickets for children and other nonmembers.
Wells Fargo Free Museum Days
Wells Fargo has a similar benefit for its members as well. Since it sponsors several museums across the country, it offers free admission to everyone. You can look on their tickets page to see which locations qualify.
2. Passes from the Local Library
The public library is an amazing place that offers free access to books, media, the internet, and other fun activities. But did you know they also offer free passes and discounted tickets?
Libraries often partner with city governments to provide greater access to arts and cultural resources. And all you need is your library card. Next time you visit a local branch, you can ask about the Museum Adventure Pass which offers free admission to attractions on a first-come, first-served basis. This includes free tickets to zoos and museums as well as art and cultural events like theater and orchestra. You can head down to the closest branch and ask your librarian for more details.
3. Reciprocal Memberships
If you have already purchased a membership with a zoo or museum, some memberships offer reciprocal benefits in other cities. Currently, there are over 1,000 institutions that are members of the North American Reciprocal Museum Association and offer free admission to their partner locations when you join.
If you are going on vacation, look to see if they extend these perks to museums or zoos in the city you are visiting. Remember that partnerships can change, so check for the updated list before you travel.
4. Redeem Rewards for Free Tickets
Another option is to check with your loyalty and rewards programs to see if they offer free tickets. Many credit cards, airlines, hotels, retailers, and even specific brands like Coke allow you to trade points for free tickets. So if you have been saving them, you may be able to get free passes to theme parks, zoos, aquariums, and more.
5. Income-Based Programs
Those who are in lower income brackets may also qualify for special discounts. Museums for All offers free or reduced prices to families that receive SNAP benefits. Recipients will gain entrance to over 1,000 museums across the US when they show their EBT card at the admissions counter.
You can also check if your city or county offers supplemental programs to get free passes to zoos and museums. Sometimes these include buy one, get one deals or discounts on family passes. For more information, contact the Parks and Recreation Department in your state.
Planning Ahead Can Save You a Bundle
Planning fun excursions that require admission tickets can get expensive. But if you plan ahead and look for deals, it doesn’t have to be. There are many ways you can still enjoy fun outings without the high price tags. With these programs, you can give your family a new experience and expand their horizons.
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Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.