Culture Pass NYC: How to get one, where to use it and what to know

Library card holders have free access to New York gardens, museums and historical societies through the Culture Pass program.
Library card holders have free access to New York gardens, museums and historical societies through the Culture Pass program. Photo Credit: Top Shelf Productions

The city is so expensive that going to the museum or a much-anticipated exhibit can be a bit out of reach for many.

Because of that, three New York City library systems — Brooklyn, Queens and New York public libraries — offer “Culture Pass”, which is an initiative that gives cardholders free access to 50 cultural institutions. And in its first year, it gave out more than 70,000 free tickets. 

But is it really as simple as reserving a ticket with your library card? Well, yes, but there are steps you should know about. To help, we’ve put together a guide on how to access a Culture Pass successfully.

What you’ll need

To get a Culture Pass, you’ll first need your own library card from the New York Public Library (which serves Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island), the Queens Library or the Brooklyn Public Library.

If you don’t have one, you can apply online at all three libraries’ websites, however, Brooklyn and Queens require you to validate the card with a government-issued ID card or proof of residency at a library branch within 30 or 60 days of your application.

Each library system has its own rules about applying, including whether you can have a card mailed to you, so pay attention to the fine points.

When should I get a pass?

Once you have your card in hand, be prepared to wait. New passes are released three months in advance on the first day of every month. December passes will be made available on Sept. 1, for example. So if you want to go to The Met this weekend with a Culture Pass, it’s not possible.

Important note: Check the Culture Pass website on the first of every month to have a higher chance of getting the pass you want.

How many can I reserve?

One pass is usually good for two people (yourself and a guest), but some museums allow a family of four to get in for free. The website will tell you how many people it’s good for.

Once you’ve gotten a pass at a museum or institution, that’s it. You won’t be able to get another pass to that place until next year. And, you can only have two passes active at the same time, so make sure you know what exhibits you want to see.

How to do it

Culturepass.nyc makes it easy to reserve one. You’ll click “reserve a pass” and select the library system your library card belongs to (Brooklyn, Queens or New York).

Then, input your library card number or username and your pin or password.

When you’re in, you can scroll through the 50 institutions offering free admission, such as the Queens Museum.

Once you click on the one you want and you’ve read the rules, you’ll click on “Show offers for this attraction.”

The site will take you to the reservation screen, where you can reserve the nearest date that pops up first, or you can click “reserve different date.”

A small calendar will appear that will let you select the date you’d like to attend.

Hit “reserve.” Once you do that, a confirmation page will come up. Type in your email address and hit “continue.”

Finally, your reservation is ready. Here, you can retrieve your pass, select “print it later” or cancel your reservation.

What if I change my mind?

It’s tricky. It’s a good idea not to print or “retrieve” your pass right away because there is no way to cancel after you’ve accessed it. If you do cancel, it’s recommended that you do it with three day’s notice so someone else can use the pass.

You may want to wait until a day or so before your reservation to print or access the pass just in case something comes up and you can’t go.

Then what?

Sit back and wait for your reserved date to roll around, but don’t miss it — if you don’t use your pass, you’ll be barred from booking another for that institution until the next calendar year.

When you arrive at the museum, both a mobile and a printed pass are acceptable to check in with.

OK, but what’s the difference between this and IDNYC?

While Culture Pass offers a free ticket to one institution for a single day, IDNYC gives New Yorkers free, yearlong memberships to the participating institutions, including the American Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Hall, the Bronx Zoo, the Lincoln Center for the Performing arts and more.

That card acts as government-issued and accepted identification and includes details such as your name, address, date of birth, height, eye color, signature and photo. IDNYC gives you access to city buildings, schools, offices, services and programs.

The Culture Pass provides for a one-time visit to the following participating institutions:


  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden
  • Brooklyn Children’s Museum
  • Brooklyn Historical Society
  • Brooklyn Museum
  • New York Transit Museum

The Bronx

  • New York Botanical Garden
  • Wave Hill


  • The American Museum of Natural History
  • The Asia Society Museum
  • The Bard Graduate Center Gallery
  • The Children’s Museum of the Arts
  • The Children’s Museum of Manhattan
  • China Institute Manhattan
  • The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
  • The Drawing Center
  • The Frick Collection
  • Fraunces Tavern Museum
  • The Frick Collection
  • The International Center of Photography
  • The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
  • The Japan Society
  • The Jewish Museum
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • The Morgan Library & Museum
  • The Museum of Arts and Design
  • The Museum of the City of New York
  • The Museum of Chinese in America
  • The Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust
  • The Museum of Modern Art
  • The New Museum
  • The New-York Historical Society
  • The Rubin Museum of Art
  • Second Stage Theater
  • The Shed
  • Shakespeare in the Park by The Public Theater
  • The Skyscraper Museum
  • The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
  • The Society of Illustrators
  • The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
  • The Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling
  • Swiss Institute
  • The Whitney Museum of American Art


  • The Lewis H. Latimer House Museum
  • The Louis Armstrong House
  • MoMA PS1
  • The Noguchi Museum
  • The Queens Historical Society
  • The Queens Museum
  • The Sculpture Center

Staten Island

  • Historic Richmond Town
  • The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
  • The Noble Maritime Collection