Did you know your library card gives you access to more than just books? If you live in in Washington, Multnomah or Clackamas county, you can use your library card to reserve a “cultural pass” that gives you free admission to a variety of Portland attractions, gardens, museums and some performing arts venues.
What you need to know
– All passes have limits as to the number of adults and children admitted and each library location has different passes available.
– Follow return rules carefully to avoid fines.
– Passes can be hard to get, depending on demand.
-For Clackamas county, you must call or stop by your local library to reserve a pass.
-You may be asked to show ID when using your library pass.
-You won’t be able to reserve a pass if you have high fines on your library account.
Where you can go with a pass
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of places you can visit with a cultural pass. Note that each library and each county have different passes available, so not all these places may be available at your library.
Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden
Featuring rambling gravel walks, a lake, a pond, waterfalls, countless native plants, and more rhododendrons than you ever dreamed existed, Crystal Springs is probably my favorite public garden. I love the less formal gardening style, the lush greenery creating tunnels along the pathways. Crystal Springs is lovely any time of the year, but in during the month of May it is particularly stunning as all the rhododendrons burst into bloom.
This garden is a place of peace and tranquility. Pleasing landscaping in the Japanese tradition, bonsai, ponds, bridges, art and much more all combine to transport you to another culture. The garden also regularly hosts arts and culture exhibits, features a tea room and much more.
Lan Su Chinese Garden
I feel like I am entering another world when I step into the Lan Su Chinese Garden. It is a tiny garden, right in downtown Portland, but by spending an hour here, you can escape the aura of the city and enjoy exotic plants, ponds and Chinese art.
The Oregon Garden
This garden is still on my bucket list to visit. The website describes it as “A stunning, 80-acre botanical garden, featuring more than 20 specialty gardens showcasing the diverse botanical beauty of the Willamette Valley and the Pacific Northwest. We have educational specialty gardens for everyone, from the Sensory Garden and Rose Garden to the Children’s Garden and Pet-Friendly Garden.”
Oregon Historical Society
History of Oregon, research library and temporary exhibits.
Portland Art Museum
Permanent and traveling collections of art of all eras and styles.
World of Speed Museum
Historic race cars, boats, motorcycles and interactive exhibits.
Gilbert House Children’s Museum
Creative play interactive museum for kids.
Evergreen Aviation Museum
All about airplanes! Also hosts an incredible water park on the same property.
End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center
Exhibits focusing on history of the Oregon Trail and pioneer life for all ages.
Other Passes to Enjoy
Built in 1914, Pittock Mansion is the legacy of the rags-to-riches story of Henry Pittock, who came out west on the Oregon Trail, started out as a typesetter for The Oregonian, ended up owning the newspaper, and becoming one of Portland’s richest citizens at the turn of the century. The mansion is situated on a bluff overlooking Portland with views of Mt. Hood on a clear day. Inside, you can enjoy touring the rooms that have been furnished with the richness of a past era. My favorites are the marble staircase, Turkish smoking room and the elegant music room. The decorations at Christmastime are often particularly stunning.
The Multnomah County Library system also has passes available for 2 adults to some performing arts venues, like the Portland Opera, Portland Center Stage, Artists Repertory Theater, Northwest film center and more. Get info here.
Several Clackamas County libraries have Oregon State Park passes available.
Any favorite places on this list you have visited? What places would you love to visit?