Discover & Go is a terrific program to get FREE museum day passes.
It’s literally one of the Bay Area’s best kept secrets: an incredible freebie under the radar to many, but one that will completely change your cultural life. The program is called Discover & Go, and it gets you and your kids in free to some of our most popular museums and attractions for zero dollars.
To get access to a great roster of free museums and attractions, all you need is a local library card — the Alameda Free Library, Berkeley, Contra Costa County, Alameda County, Oakland public libraries are all part of the Discover & Go network — and a printer (which you can access on your next library visit).
How to use Discover & Go passes
The only catch is that you can’t just show up. Like borrowing a library book, the pass you want may not be up for lending when you’re ready to go. Here are the steps:
- Go to the Discover and Go website and select your library system from the drop-down menu. Or, find the Discover & Go section of your library’s website.
- Log in with a valid library card
- Select the date you want to go. Double check on the venue’s website to see if you’ll need to make a reservation with them as well and that the day you want is available.
- Choose the venue from a list available for that day, and print.
Passes are released midnight of 1st of every month, two months in advance. On July 1 midnight- they released passes for September. Some of the more popular and expensive museum passes “sell out” within few hours of release. Some venues only offer passes on certain days. The list of participating museums and gardens can change at any time, so don’t sit on reserving your passes.
Pro tip: Set an alarm to grab the passes for the hot locations.
Each Discover and Go offering is unique so pay attention to the details. Many provide free or discounted entry for one adult and/or child. If you’d like to plan a visit with more than one adult, use multiple library cards to get the benefit. Note, you may need to verify the name on the pass with a valid photo ID, so make sure the person who reserved the pass is the one who has the pass in hand at the ticket booth.
Some of the places we have successfully used Discover & Go free passes include, the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito, the Pacific Pinball Museum, the Botanical Garden at UC Berkeley, Filoli Gardens in Woodside, and USS Hornet Museum in Alameda. You can also get a free day pass to the Oakland Museum of California, Children’s Creativity Museum, Conservatory of Flowers, Lindsay Wildlife Experience, and so many more!
A couple of important caveats:
- There are a finite number of free passes for each venue, so sometimes you will have to search a bit for available dates.
- Each library card holder has a limit on the number of times per year that they can print a Discover & Go pass — for high-demand venues such as the California Academy of Sciences, for example, you can go for free once a year.
- Each library card holder can reserve two Discover and Go passes at once.
- Library card holders must be at lease 14 years or older to take advantage of the Discover and Go program. Library systems may have more specific rules around age limits.
- Some passes are good for a family of four, others are for one adult and one child. It varies from venue to venue.
- Reservations can be cancelled or adjusted IF you haven’t printed out a pass. Once a pass is printed, it cannot be changed or cancelled.
- Some passes can be issued on smartphones, but some must be printed, so double check when you make your reservation.
- Each pass has the library card holder’s name on it, and may require verification with a photo ID when redeeming the pass at the venue.
- Many venues and attractions require the additional step of making reservations on their website because of Covid-19 precautions. Double check on the venue’s website to see how far in advance you’ll need to make reservations, and make sure that date aligns with your Discover & Go reservation. Keep in mind proof of vaccine requirements as well.
Now, go discover!