Friday, July 6, 2012

The fabulous Culture Pass (in AZ) and how to score one

We live in Phoenix, AZ and we have a great program here called the Culture Pass. If you are a mom on a budget like me, but you don't want your kids to sit at home all day letting their brains rot, you need a Culture Pass. It's is a partnership between the local museums and the local libraries. If you get one, you get two people in to a museum (or the zoo, or the botanical garden) for free! I'm so excited! However, some of them can be tricky to get, so read on, because I'm going to tell you how to score one.

How to Score a Culture Pass

The passes are available at your local library. You have to be a member of the library, and if you aren't (gasp!), you should be, so sign up and get your library card (personally, I'm a member of three different library systems in my area, and they all have the passes). In the library somewhere is a rack containing the available Culture Pass cards (they look like giant bookmarks). You grab one, take it to the librarian desk, and they will check it out for you. They keep the card thingy but give you a little check-out receipt (it looks like any old receipt, so don't lose track of it!). That is your pass to arts and culture! And you can get up to 2 Culture Passes per month. Yay! Here are some of the cool places you can get a Culture Pass for:

The Children's Museum of Phoenix
Phoenix Art Museum
Deer Valley Rock Art Center
The Phoenix Zoo
Pueblo Grande Museum
Desert Botanical Garden
Arizona Science Center
Arizona Museum of Natural History (a.k.a. the Dinosaur Museum)

There are a few more, but these are the best ones. But before you rush off to grab a Culture Pass, you need to know that, although most of the passes are easy to find, unfortunately, three of the passes are waaaay popular. You could prowl the library for a month of Sundays and never see these elusive passes. The hard-to-get Culture Passes are the Zoo, the Science Center, and the Children's Museum. And you know those are the places your kids most want to go. So what's a frugal Phoenix mom to do? Never fear, I am here to tell you the secret of scoring a hard-to-get culture pass. Follow these steps and you are (almost) guaranteed to get it.

How to Get a Hard-to-Get Culture Pass (Zoo, Science Center, Children's Museum)

Step 1: Check Culture Pass availability online

Culture Passes last a week, and you usually need to start looking at least a day in advance of when you plan to go, so make your plans (and don't tell the kids about it in case you miss out on the pass). Go to your library's website and check Culture Pass availability. First check the closest library to you. Find the pass you want and see when it is due, because that's when you can grab it. Culture Passes are digital returns, so they automatically return when they are due. If the pass isn't coming up soon at the closest library, check others in the area until you find the one you want due on the day you want to get it.

Step 2: Find out when the library opens on the day the Culture Pass is due

That hard-to-get Culture Pass is going to fly out of there the second the library opens. So you are going to have to be the early bird to get the worm! Check out the website and find out when that particular library opens on the due day. The libraries have weird hours so check and make sure of the opening time on the day you're going to go.

Step 3: Get to the library early

On the due day make sure you are there at least 30 minutes before the library opens. Bring your smartphone, the newspaper, a book, a coffee, etc. because you are going to be waiting around awhile. If you bring the kiddos, have a video game, toy, or some other distraction for them. Don't sit on a bench nearby; stand directly in front of the library door. A line may form in front of the door of all the mommies wanting that Culture Pass. You want to be the first in line.

Step 4: Get ready to run; you might need to

Different libraries (at least this is my experience with libraries within the Phoenix Public Library system) have different policies regarding Culture Pass competition. If you are lucky, when the librarian opens the door, she will be holding all the available Culture Passes, and whoever is first in line gets first choice. This is all very civilized. If you are unclucky, the Culture Passes will be stuck in the rack somewhere in the library and you are going to have to charge in there, find it, and grab it before the other mommies. So be ready when the library is about to open. Watch for the librarian. If you don't see culture passes in her hand when she comes to open the door, get ready to run (actually, I mean walk really fast without actually running, because that would be rather uncouth). I have done this pushing a full-size stroller, in an unfamiliar library, and still made it there first, because I was ready and first at the door. When you get to the rack, scan it quickly and grab the one you want. When you have the culture pass in your hot little hand, pay no attention to the other mommies giving you a sob story and trying to wheedle it out of you. They can try again tomorrow. Just say sorry, and head for the checkout. Yes! You got the Culture Pass for your kids! You are a triumphant super-parent! At least, that's how I feel when I score a hard-to-get Culture Pass. So go get your Culture Pass, my dear cheap Phoenix parents, and get your kids out there enjoying arts and culture!

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