Get Free Attraction Passes From the Library

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Most people have figured out that the library is a valuable resource if you’re looking to save money. The most obvious example is by borrowing books instead of buying them. Many libraries these days have a huge selection of magazines, music, and movies available to all. Not only will you find old classics, there’s also a wide range of new releases available that completely free to borrow.

These days however, libraries are offering much more. Free attraction passes have started to become common in many libraries so it’s about time you started paying attention. An average attraction ticket is anywhere from $20-35 a person; well that means a family of 4 could potentially save $80 – $140 every time. That’s a pretty big savings, and all you need to do is go to the library to check out one of these passes.

I’m featuring major Canadian locations in this list, but if you live somewhere else, it’s totally worth checking with your local branch to see what’s available. Quite often, sponsors get involved with these ticket “giveaways” so you never know what’s going to be available.

Toronto Public Library

The Sun Life Financial Museum + Arts Pass (MAP) and gives you and your family (2 adults & up to 5 children) access to some of the best attractions Toronto has to offer.

The passes are available for a one-time-use, and only one pass may be signed out per week as long as you have a valid Toronto Public Library card. Not all Toronto public libraries carry every pass so check out the Toronto Public Library website to find out what passes are available at your local branch. All tickets are available in limited quantities and they cannot be renewed or reserved.

Participating venues include but are not limited to the following:

  • Aga Khan Museum
  • AGO – Art Gallery of Ontario
  • Black Creek Pioneer Village
  • Gardiner Ceramics Museum
  • Ontario Science Centre
  • ROM – Royal Ontario Museum
  • Toronto Zoo

Sun Life has been supporting the MAP program since 2007. Since that time, the pass has been used by over 1,000,000 individuals, families and children.

“We are extremely proud of our long-standing commitment to arts and culture and believe the arts should be available to everyone, regardless of their means.” says Paul Joliat, Assistant Vice-President, Philanthropy & Sponsorship, Sun Life Financial.

The passes are non-transferable since you’ll need your MAP pass, due date receipt,  library card, and ID to get access to the attractions. Since the passes are physical tickets, you surrender them at the venue– no late fees apply.

free attraction passes

Vancouver Public Library

The Vancouver Inspiration Pass gives Vancouver residents (up to a group of 4) an opportunity to explore some of the city’s greatest attractions for free.

The pass is available to residents aged 14 years and older as long as they have a valid Vancouver Public Library card. While you hold the pass, you can visit as many attractions as you want, however you can only visit each venue once.

Participating venues include but are not limited to the following:

  • Beaty Biodiversity Museum
  • ChineseCanadian Military Museum
  • H.R. MacMillan Space Centre
  • Science World
  • UBC Museum of Anthropology
  • Vancouver Aquarium
  • Vancouver Art Gallery

140 passes are made available for loan every two weeks. 20 can be checked out at the downtown Central Library, while 6 passes are available at other VPL branches. The Vancouver Inspiration Pass can be placed on hold and is valid for two weeks from the date of availability, so be sure to pick up your pass as soon as possible.

free attraction passes Vancouver

Ottawa Public Library

The Ottawa Public Library offers various access passes to library card holders which gets them free access to a just about every major attraction in Ottawa.

Passes are broken down into the following categories:

  • Museum Privilege Card (Canadian Museum of Civilization, Canadian War Museum, Canadian Postal Museum, Canadian Children’s Museum)
  • Nature Card (Canadian Museum of Nature)
  • Artpass (National Gallery of Canada)
  • Family Pass, Canada Agriculture Museum
  • Family Pass, Canadian Aviation And Space Museum
  • Museum Pass (The Ottawa Museum Network includes 10 local museums)

You can pick up the passes on the express shelves at any library branch. You’re limited to just 2 passes per library card on a 7-day loan period. The cards can’t be put on hold, nor are there renewals, and you will be charged $2 for everyday you’re late returning the passes.

Final thoughts

A lot of these programs have been around for years, yet so many people fail to take advantage of them. I suppose it’s not too surprising, when I grew up the library just had books and maybe 3-4 computers, now they’re practically digital media zones.

Don’t forget libraries also regularly hold events and mini-camps for the public, so it’s a great destination to keep the kids entertained for a few hours. For adults, many libraries host classes and workshops where you can learn how to improve your computer skills, write, or even make art. If you haven’t stepped into your local branch recently, now’s the time to do it.

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

8 Comments

  1. Tonya@ Budget and the Beach on July 22, 2015 at 10:35 AM

    I wonder if it’s the same thing here in the states? I know I recently dissevered that there TONS of free online classes you can take through the LA public library system. I love free education!

    • Barry Choi on July 22, 2015 at 2:28 PM

      Tonya,

      Yes definitely worth investigating. I really need to get to the library more.

  2. Tawcan on July 22, 2015 at 10:45 AM

    My wife signed up for the pass in Vancouver last year and the wait time for these passes are something like 2 years. I guess I lot of people know about this free pass.

    • Barry Choi on July 22, 2015 at 2:28 PM

      Tawcan,

      Woah that’s one heck of a wait. In Toronto it’s first come, first serve or a lottery so it’s not too bad.

  3. seattlegirluw on July 23, 2015 at 4:40 PM

    I’m embarrassed to say that we still haven’t taken advantage of the passes. We always mean to — the science center especially looks cool — but we just never get around to it.

    • Barry Choi on July 23, 2015 at 4:46 PM

      Seattlegirluw,

      Apparently these passes are super popular here, some libraries have lineups on Saturday mornings to get them.

  4. Max on October 23, 2015 at 6:08 PM

    Was very excited to learn about the Vancouver pass. The amount of money you can save is incredible, and really I probably wouldn’t go to all these facilities if I had to pay. The idea of 2 weeks cramming in as much culture for free sounds awesome BUT the wait list is huge! I calculate my wait will be around 2 and a half years. Oh well, it’s easy to place a hold on the VPL website, so you can just set it and forget it. The library notifies you when your turn is up (I’m sure I will have forgotten about it by then!) so it will be a pleasant surprise.

    • Barry Choi on October 23, 2015 at 6:15 PM

      Max,

      Yes these free passes are very popular. In Toronto I’ve heard of people lining up at 5am to get a free pass.

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