It may seem at times like art museums and the performing arts are exclusively for the upper crust—or, at the very least, the type that are flush with cash to cover admission fees and membership costs—but you don’t have to shell out thousands in donations or hundreds in tickets to enjoy art, music and science. Culture and local flavor are accessible to even the tightest of budgets. So from ways to get your hands on discount tickets to tips for getting the inside scoop on free local events, here are a few ways to access the arts on a dime.
Student, Senior, and Group Discounts
Seniors can get discounts daily at hundreds of art centers. AARP members get discount tickets and memberships from museums across America. Check the center’s online calendar to see if there are free days specifically for seniors coming up, too.
Want to save money and spend time with your nearest and dearest while you’re at it? Go in a group. Group discounts are a great way to enjoy the arts with friends, family and co-workers. And docents and tour guides often offer information during group tours that you might miss out on if you go it solo.
Even broke college kids can afford to enjoy the arts. Many museums offer discount rates with a college ID or host free college nights. Most symphony centers have college programs that include discount rates to classical concerts for as little as $10 a ticket or $25 for an entire season.
Bank and Credit Card Perks
National and international banks often sponsor arts and culture centers. For example, Bank of America’s Museums on Us program allows those with a Bank of America credit or debit card to get free general admission to over 150 participating institutions nationwide.
Community Events and Free Days
Many art centers offer free days at least once a year in which exhibitions and concerts are open to the public. Children also get free admission to many galleries year-round.
And you don’t have to limit yourself to a museum or symphony center to enjoy the arts. The arts come to you when community sponsored events offer live music in the park or bring art activities to the streets. After all, music festivals aren’t just for rock, indie and pop artists. Jazz, Blues, and even Classical Music Festivals occur across the United States.
Art crawls also provide a great way to meet people in your community, learn local history, get to know local artists—and all for free (sometime even the food and drinks). Art crawls can include everything from painting and photography displays to tours of historic homes, so whatever your interest, a crawl is likely to get your creative juices flowing.
Coupons and Codes
Even the fanciest symphonies and museums tend to run specials or take coupons. Following art centers on social media and joining email lists can clue you in to special promotions that include discount and buy-one-get-one tickets and advanced access to upcoming and special events. Being the first to know about concerts allows you your pick of tickets from all price ranges before they sell out, so you can choose according to your budget.
For symphonies, check the price of those seats located behind the symphony. You might be facing the musicians’ backs, but being an arm’s length away provides spectacular sound quality for a fraction of the price of main floor and balcony tickets.
To access a variety of art centers on a budget, CityPass booklets and websites like RetailMeNot often include coupons and discount codes to everything from the opera to botanical gardens.
If you’re an arts addict, look into memberships. There are often varying levels of membership available for different budgets. Family passes let parents and kids enjoy educational and cultural activities together. Individual memberships offer affordable access to art centers for singles and often include unlimited visits and a guest pass for a low supplemental fee. And if you don’t want to pay the annual fee, but have a specific exhibition you wish to see, you can always try to mooch off a friend with membership by using their guest pass.
Don’t have money to spare? How about a little time? Committing to regular shifts or volunteering at major events can grant you free admission, access to exclusive volunteer tours and events, guest passes and other great perks.
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