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Arts in New England

6 tips for saving money on museums and concerts

How to experience this area’s wealth of events for a lot less than list price.

Ryan Huddle/Globe staff

1. Volunteer

Yes, in a perfect world, we would all donate our time to nonprofits as a collective show of public service. But that’s a subject for another column. Giving, in this case, pays. Docents at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum get free admission, a museum store discount, and free admission to more than a dozen other museums and attractions (like the New England Aquarium). Boston Symphony Orchestra volunteers are guaranteed at least a pair of tickets for six BSO concerts at Symphony Hall throughout the season. (You do have to make a donation of at least $75 and volunteer 20 hours or more over the year.)


2. Usher

Sure, it’s work. So is trying to score a ticket for the latest, hottest, straight-to-Broadway show at the American Repertory Theater. Grab a program, throw on a smile, and work the crowd. Ushers always get in for free because they’re working. That can save you money and make otherwise sold-out shows accessible, whether at the ART, Huntington Theatre Company, or a range of other houses.

3. Be Flexible

Most museums offer free hours. In fact, if you keep an eye on the calendar, you can walk through a different gallery for free most days of the week, including the MFA on Wednesday nights and the Institute of Contemporary Art on Thursday nights. There are also free hours at the Worcester Art Museum (the first Saturday morning of each month) and the Harvard Museum of Natural History (Sunday mornings and Wednesday afternoons). Those are just a few examples — check websites for more.

4. Use the Library

I know. You’ve got a Kindle and don’t spend much time scouring the stacks. But there’s one thing Jeff Bezos can’t offer: Your public library likely has a collection of museum passes; the deals vary by town. In Boston, for example, library card holders can get a family of four into the Museum of Science for free and discounts at a range of other museums. You can even get into a Pawtucket Red Sox game for $4 a ticket or six for $21.


Ryan Huddle/Globe staff

5. Live for the Rush

I know you like to plan. But if you’re willing to take a slight risk and wait until the last minute, you can save significantly. Almost everybody sells rush tickets. The idea is that for an arts organization, nothing is as painful as an empty seat. So for students (and sometimes for seniors), the Celebrity Series, ArtsEmerson, and Boston Ballet are among the presenters offering cheap rush tickets in the hours leading up to a performance. The BSO keeps $9 seats available to everyone regardless of age. One minor detail: Bring cash.

6. Pick up Your Smartphone

This is the catchall category. There are simply quirky, unexpected ways to experience culture for less that you can only track down by asking. Did you know, for example, that the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum lets cyclists in for free and takes $2 off an admission if you drive into the campus with a Zipcar? Or that if your name is Isabella, there’s at least one place you won’t have to pay for admission: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum? Staying in touch, whether via phone or Facebook, can lead to big savings.

Geoff Edgers is a Globe staff writer. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.


CORRECTION: Because of an editing error, an earlier version misstated a benefit for museum docents. The Franklin Park Zoo does not offer free admission to docents from the JFK Presidential Library and Museum.