Municipal Identification Card Program Offers Free Cultural Benefits

A carousel horse in the show “Coney Island,” at the Brooklyn Museum.

It’s early in the new year, but miserly culture hounds can already reap dividends. New York City has just extended through 2016 the free enrollment deadline for its municipal identification card program. Benefits include free annual memberships to 40 institutions.

The catch: You have to visit each institution to activate the membership. (You’ll need to acquire a card at one of the 29 enrollment centers in the five boroughs. Details are at A writer for recently chronicled her adventures in obtaining 11 free memberships in six hours. Imagine the possibilities for museum outings and neighborhood discoveries at a more leisurely pace. Here’s a list that may inspire them, borough by borough.

The New York Botanical Garden, where members receive free year-round admission to its grounds, is wrapping up its annual Holiday Train Show (it runs through Jan. 18) and preparing to unveil its next exhibition, “Wild Medicine in the Tropics” (Jan. 23 through Feb. 21), an exploration of plants used for health. (IDNYC members have to pay for admission to these seasonal exhibitions.) The Bronx Museum of the Arts, a stone’s throw from Yankee Stadium and the High Bridge, is always free to everyone, but members receive perks, like invitations to preview events. Reviewing one of the museum’s current shows, “Martin Wong: Human Instamatic,” Holland Cotter wrote in The New York Times that “fervor, desire and coded insider-outsider knowledge crackle” throughout the retrospective of this artist, whose paintings reflect the gentrification of the Lower East Side in the 1980s. (It continues through Feb. 14.) For lunch, visit one of the specialty shops or restaurants on Arthur Avenue, the Bronx’s own Little Italy.

(New York Botanical Garden, Bronx River Parkway (Exit 7W) and Fordham Road; 718-817-8700, Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse, at 165th Street, Morrisania; 718-681-6000,

Dating to 1823, the Brooklyn Museum is one of the country’s oldest arts institutions. Members get free admission and free and advance tickets to performances, film screenings and talks. On view now is “Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008,” which charts the history of that wonderland and its influence on pop culture. In Fort Greene, the Brooklyn Academy of Music recently announced a plan to link three of its spaces. Its ambitions extend to its repertory, which ranges from opera to dance and comedy. Perks for members: half-price for movie tickets and for same-day tickets to performances.

(Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, at Prospect Park; 718-638-5000, Brooklyn Academy of Music, multiple locations in Fort Greene; 718-636-4100,

Some of the better deals here include free admission to the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the New Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Time is running out on the New Museum’s retrospective “Jim Shaw: The End Is Here,” which closes on Sunday. It’s a “mind-blowing show,” Ken Johnson wrote in his review for The Times, adding that Mr. Shaw’s works in various forms have “an endlessly inventive comedic twist.” At MoMA, “Picasso Sculpture” is so popular that the museum is issuing timed tickets. “Large, ambitious and unavoidably, dizzyingly peripatetic, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event,” wrote Roberta Smith in her review in The Times. It closes on Feb. 7.

(New Museum, 235 Bowery, at Prince Street, Lower East Side; 212-219-1222, Museum of Modern Art; 212-708-9400,

Head out to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park for the Queens Museum’s Panorama of the City of New York, and stay for its exhibitions featuring an eclectic mix of artists. The panorama was constructed for the 1964 World’s Fair and remains a marvel. Also on display this winter are works by Zhang Hongtu, in his first United States survey, and an untitled mural by Mickalene Thomas. While in the area, a food tour of Flushing’s Chinatown is a must. In Astoria, which has its own culinary treasures, the Museum of the Moving Image presents film series as well as in-depth, behind-the-scenes and sometimes zany exhibitions. (“How Cats Took Over the Internet” runs through Feb. 21.) Benefits at both museums include free admission and access to exhibition previews.

(Queens Museum, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park; 718-592-9700, Museum of the Moving Image, 35th Avenue at 37th Street, Astoria; 718-784-0077,

In 2017 a 630-foot-tall Ferris wheel will lure visitors. In the meantime, offerings here consist of the recently reopened Staten Island Museum, where prehistoric fossils from its collection are on display for the first time in years. The exhibition “Remember the Mastodon” opened in the fall and features a blackened mastodon molar found in the Arthur Kill tidal strait. Perks include free admission and invitations to events. Up the road from the museum is the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, where member benefits include admission to its galleries and discounts on tours and invitations to special events.

(Staten Island Museum, 1000 Richmond Terrace, Livingston, Building A; 718-727-1135, Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, 1000 Richmond Terrace, Livingston; 718-425-3504,

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