CWW: Visting Museums for free (or cheap)

Today’s Cheap Worcester Wednesday is about visiting museums on the cheap.

Museum Passes
I’m always surprised at how many people don’t know they can reserve a pass at the library to get free or extremely cheap admission to museums.  The Worcester Public Library has an online site for reserving passes.  You can reserve a pass up to 30 days ahead of time, but you can only reserve one pass at a time.  (As a warning — if there’s a school vacation week coming up, you’d better get your reservation in early!)  What I like about the site is that you can filter on a specific pass (say, the Worcester Art Museum) or on available passes (so, you’ve got Thursday off and want to see where you can go).

The WPL has passes for the following venues (note that you can get some passes at Frances Perkins branch as well): Annual ParksPassChildren’s Museum Boston, Davis’ Farmland & MegaMaze, Discovery Museums, Ecotarium, Higgins Armory Museum, Museum of Science, New England Aquarium, Roger Williams Park Zoo, Tower Hill Botanic Garden, and Worcester Art Museum.

Other Ways to Visit Museums on the Cheap
If you have an Ecotarium membership, you have reciprocal membership to many other museums.  We’ve visited the Berkshire Museum (a very cute natural history museum, with a touch of art, in Pittsfield) and the Peabody Museum of Natural History (a very nice Brontops specimen, and the nicest dinosaur fossils this side of New York City) with our membership card and paid either nothing or less than $5 for a family of four.

The Worcester Art Museum is nearly always free Saturday mornings from 10am-noon, excluding special events like Flora in Winter. 

One of my family’s absolute favorite places to visit is the Amherst College Museum of Natural History in Amherst, which is always free to visitors.  Amherst College is right on Route 9, and there’s usually a decent amount of parking a couple of blocks away from the campus.  They’ve got a great collection of fossils (including some great displays of prehistoric mammals, the largest collection of dinosaur tracks in the world, some nice dinosaur specimens) and the museum has devoted a whole wall to these really great pull-out drawers that showcase the smaller pieces in their collection.  I cannot recommend this museum enough.

The Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge is free for Massachusetts residents every Sunday morning (year-round) from 9:00 am to noon and on Wednesdays from 3:00 to 5:00 pm (September through May).  If you haven’t ever seen the Kronosaurus, you really should.  (I also recommend reading The Frightful Story of Harry Walfish before you visit, because a lot of the interiors of the museum in that book are straight out of HMNH.)

A little off the beaten path…but if you’re in Williamstown, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is beautiful and free from November 1 through May 31.  (Though I don’t recommend taking a one-year-old…and don’t ask me how I know!)

Any other ideas on visiting museums on the cheap?