I'd hate myself if I wrote the words "museum hack," but I guess I already did it.
Most tourist passes are uninspired but museum lovers should take a serious look at joining the American Alliance of Museums, a membership for museum professionals that offers free admission to some truly stellar museums around the nation. Though it is not a traditional "pass" per se, anyone can join (and support the industry at large).
Individuals are able to join for $90 per year; students and retirees can join for $50 per year. Most museums are part of networks, and the American Alliance of Museums is one of the biggest around, and includes everything from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in NYC to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum in Boston.
Museum network members are often granted access to reciprocal museums, and this is where it gets fun with free admission to all museums part of the alliance.
Is it worth it? A simple case study in NYC: Both the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art charge $25 for an adult. Tack on the Guggenheim ($25) and the Brooklyn Museum ($23), and the price of individual admission already surpasses the cost of the membership.
Most people will break even right around the four-museum-per-year mark.
Some members report that they are also able to get shop or café discounts. Check this list for exact benefits (subject to change).
To sweeten the pot, Metafilter user mmmcmmm also notes:
Also, you often get a second person in with your membership, just ask. Not every museum does it, but most do (ICA and MFA in Boston, MoMA, the New Museum, the Whitney, the Gugg, etc). For MoCA in LA, it even gets you the free member parking. And you can skip the big lines at MoMA and go straight to members services. Only museum I've ever been to that isn't a member, for whatever reason, is MassMoCA.
Seems like a no brainer.