How to Go to Museums for Free

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What would you do with an overflowing bank account? We would buy a membership to every local museum, garden, and kid-friendly spot we could find. Thanks to the library’s museum pass program, you can explore local attractions for free — Academy of Natural Sciences, Longwood Gardens, Lancaster Hands On House, Elmwood Park Zoo, and more. Your family will want to “check out” this program!

How it Works

Throughout the Chester County Library System, there are passes available to local attractions. Each branch purchases a museum membership, so the selection varies by location. Any CCLS cardholder who is 18 or older and with an account in good standing can reserve a pass. It’s easy!

  1. Select your museum and desired date. 
  2. Select a reservation online (you can book two months out).  
  3. Passes can be picked up at 3 pm the day before your outing. Don’t forget your library card! 
  4. Have an awesome adventure!
  5. Return the pass by 11 am the next day. The late fee for all passes is $20  per day. Passes must be picked up and returned at the front desk.
test drive
Our first chapter in this fabulous program included a much-needed family day at Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown. This 16-acre zoo has more than 100 animals. Highlights of the collection include giraffes, zebras, bald and golden eagles, jaguars, and red pandas

Our first stop was visiting the goats and sheep in the petting zoo. Then, we jammed out at the musical garden, saw animals, played on the playground, before lunch. Unlike other attractions, they had local food vendors instead of overpriced, boring food. I’ve heard amazing things about Zachary’s BBQ, so I was very excited to have a fried chicken sandwich and mac and cheese.

The zoo was big enough to keep my toddler occupied for the day but small enough to make it back to the car before naptime. It is definitely aimed at younger family members. Their walking paths are very flat and wide, something we appreciated navigating a stroller in COVID times.

When we did have to spend money on attractions (feeding the giraffes and the carousel), we used our pass to pay the discounted member prices. Admission varies per pass, ours included two adults and six kids. 

FREE MUSEUM AND ATTRACIONS Passes

Chester County

  • Academy of Natural Sciences
  • Battleship New Jersey
  • Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles
  • Chanticleer – A Pleasure Garden
  • Chester County History Center
  • Eastern State Penitentiary
  • Elmwood Park Zoo
  • Hands-On House Children’s Museum of Lancaster
  • Independence Seaport Museum
  • John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove
  • Lancaster Science Factory
  • Mercer Museum & Fonthill Castle
  • Mt. Cuba Center
  • Museum of the American Revolution
  • Mutter Museum
  • National Constitution Center
  • Penn Museum
  • Pennsbury Manor
  • Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
  • Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
  • Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
  • Reading Public Museum
  • Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum

 

Downingtown Library 

  • Academy of Natural Sciences
  • Chanticleer Gardens
  • Elmwood Park Zoo
  • Lancaster Science Factory
  • Tyler Arboretum 

 

Easttown Library

  • Academy of Natural Sciences
  • Chanticleer – A Pleasure Garden
  • Elmwood Park Zoo 
  • Hands-On House Children’s Museum of Lancaster
  • National Constitution Center 
  • Penn Museum 
  • Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
  • Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum 
  • Tyler Arboretum

 

Henrietta Hankin: 

  • Academy of Natural Sciences
  • Chanticleer – A Pleasure Garden
  • Chester County History Center
  • Eastern State Penitentiary
  • Elmwood Park Zoo
  • Hands-On House Children’s Museum of Lancaster
  • Independence Seaport Museum
  • John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove
  • Lancaster Science Factory
  • Mercer Museum & Fonthill Castle
  • Mt. Cuba Center
  • Museum of the American Revolution
  • Mutter Museum 
  • National Constitution Center
  • Penn Museum
  • Pennsbury Manor
  • Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
  • Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
  • Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
  • Reading Public Museum 
  • Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum


Kennett Square

  • Longwood Gardens
  • Mt. Cuba Center
  • Nemours Estate


Paoli and Tredyffrin

  • The Academy of Natural Sciences
  • Battleship New Jersey
  • Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles
  • Chanticleer – A Pleasure Garden
  • Eastern State Penitentiary
  • Elmwood Park Zoo
  • Fort Mifflin
  • Glencairn Museum
  • Independence Seaport Museum
  • John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove
  • Lancaster Science Factory
  • Mercer Museum & Fonthill Castle
  • Museum of American Revolution
  • National Constitution Center
  • Penn Museum
  • Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
  • Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
  • Reading Public Museum
  • Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center
  • Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum
  • Wharton Esherick Museum
  • Woodmere Art Museum

 

Phoenixville Public Library 

  • The Academy of Natural Sciences
  • Chanticleer – A Pleasure Garden
  • Eastern State Penitentiary
  • Elmwood Park Zoo
  • Hands-On House Children’s Museum of Lancaster
  • Independence Seaport Museum
  • John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove
  • Lancaster Science Factory
  • Mercer Museum & Fonthill Castle
  • Mt. Cuba Center
  • Museum of the American Revolution
  • Mutter Museum
  • National Constitution Center
  • Penn Museum
  • Railroad Museum of PA
  • Reading Public Museum
  • Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum
  • Tyler Arboretum
  • Wharton Esherick Museum


West Chester Public Library

  • Academy of Natural Sciences
  • Chester County History Center
  • Longwood Gardens 

The hardest part of this remarkable program is deciding where to go!  Have you ever rented a pass?

 

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