A museum trip is a great way to spend a rainy day with the kids, and you can almost always get in for FREE! One of the best deals around are the free museum passes available from your local libraries. Just check out the passes just like you would check out a book, show up at your museum of choice, and in you go! Here are the options listed by library system. Updated for 2017.
KCLS offers passes to the Bellevue Arts Museum, Kidsquest Children’s Museum (Bellevue), and the Washington State History Museum (Tacoma). Go to the KCLS site, click on the Books and More drop down menu, then select Museum Passes under Services on the far right. You should arrive at the KCLS Museum Passes Page. The check out procedure for King County is completely online. You pick the window of time you want, fill in your info and then print out your admission. Cool, huh?
The PPL has passes to the Tacoma Art Museum, Washington State History Museum (Tacoma), and the Museum of Glass (Tacoma). To check one out, just ask a librarian. You can check availability before you go by searching the catalog.
PCLS has passes to the Washington State History Museum (Tacoma), the Museum of Glass (Tacoma), and the Tacoma Art Museum. Passes are on display in the lucite holders on the end of the stacks when they’re available. To check availability, type “Museum Pass,” into the catalog to search. While you cannot reserve the passes, you can see if they are available at your local branch. Learn all about the program on their Museum Pass page.
TPL has passes available to the Tacoma Art Museum, Washington State History Museum (Tacoma), and the Museum of Glass (Tacoma). You can search the catalog for availability, although you cannot put them on hold.
The TRLS has a Mobile Membership Pass to the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia. You’ll have to pop into the library to get one of the passes, which are very limited in number. Be prepared to put your name on the wait list.
If you live or work in King County, or have a library card with the following libraries, you can get a library card for the Seattle Public Library:
- Kitsap Regional Library
- Pierce County Library System
- Puyallup Public Library
- Sno-Isle Regional Library System
- Timberland Regional Library
The Seattle Public Library offers Museum Passes to a variety of Seattle museums. For some venues, such as the Seattle Aquarium, they can be hard to reserve. Reservations are offered 30 days in advance, so if your schedule is flexible, be sure to check back!
Remember: All these libraries have reciprocal borrowing agreements, so if you have a card from one library, you should be able to score a card from any other library on the list. Just limit your book borrowing to one location, or you’ll be giving yourself a headache (trust me on this)!
Note: The new Children’s Museum of Tacoma is pay-as-you-will every day, thanks to a very generous, 5 year grant from Key Bank. No special pass or coupon needed! Just show up and donate as you’re able!
Other Ideas for Museums on the Cheap
Museum Free Days: Can’t get a pass from the library, or just don’t want to hassle with it? Here are other optins:
- First Thursdays: Many Seattle area museums, including the excellent Museum of Flight, which has tons for kids, are free on first Thursday evenings. Here is a list of Seattle Museum free days (I haven’t checked these for accuracy, so I’d confirm with any venue before you go).
- First Fridays: The Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia is free every first Friday in the evening from 5-9PM.
- Third Thursdays: The Washington State History Museum, Museum of Glass, and the Tacoma Art Museum are all free on the third Thursday evening of the month.
- Note that these free Thursday times, and the free Friday at the HOCM are in the evening-check the museum you’re interested in for specific hours. All major Tacoma area museums now have extended Thursday hours, but regular admission applies unless it’s a third Thursday evening.
Museum Coupons: Check your Entertainment Book for BOGO admission to some local venues. You can also check your favorite deal site, such as Groupon or Amazon Local.
Membership: You might also consider becoming a member of any museum you frequent often. Besides getting you in the door, members typically receive other discounts, and it’s a great way to support an organization you believe in.
Small Museums: Finally, you might want to consider visiting, smaller, less expensive museums. The White River Valley Museum in Auburn, the Harbor History Museum in Gig Harbor, and the Working Waterfront Museum on the Foss Waterway are three reasonably priced options with lots of fun for kids. The Slater Museum at UPS is free, check out our description.
Do you have a favorite low cost outing for your little culture vultures? I’d love to hear about it!
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