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If you’re interested in catching one of the year’s out-of-town blockbuster art exhibits, you can usually find a hotel package that includes a double room, “VIP” tickets, and often breakfasts, parking, or some other extras. This year, I’m guessing that three exhibits will be big enough to warrant special trips:
- The Philadelphia Museum of Art is staging “Marc Chagall and His Circle,” March 1 through July 10, and “Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus” August 3 through October 30. Book hotel packages through the city’s central visitor system or call 888-254-0637.
- San Francisco’s de Young Museum mounts “Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musee National Picasso” June 11 through October 9. Book hotel packages through the de Young site or call each hotel directly; Fairmont (415-772-5000), Hilton Fisherman’s Wharf (415-885-4700), Hilton San Francisco (415-771-1400), Omni (415-677-9494), and Ritz Carlton (415-296-7465).
- Boston Museum of Fine Arts runs “Degas and the Nude” October 9, 2011, through January 29, 2012. Book hotel packages through the museum for specific hotels (617-267-9300).
I didn’t find any exhibits at the other major museums that are likely to draw the attention and crowds as these, but you may see some.
Museum/hotel packages generally offer two big advantages over arranging accommodations and entry separately:
- Packages typically include “VIP” timed entrance tickets that allow you to zip right past the lines to enter the exhibit.
- Package prices usually add up to less cost than separate arrangements.
This is not to say you can’t get in for less than a package price. Most of the packages are for upscale hotels—note the San Francisco list above—and you can almost always find a budget hotel where the total cost will be lower.
If you decide not to go the package route, you can still usually score VIP tickets in advance. Check the museum’s website or call its office. Sometimes, you can make out even better by becoming a member of the museum to take advantage of members’ free or reduced admission charges. Typically, membership runs around $50 a year, and is usually less than the cost of individual admissions for two days. Membership also usually includes discounts at the museum’s store and a bunch of other perks. As I’ve noted in prior postings, the main downside to museum membership is that once you sign up as a member, you’ll receive annual renewal notices and fundraising pleas until the end of your days—and beyond.
Much of the same rationale applies to other major events—sports, entertainment, or whatever. Hotel/ticket packages can be the best way to get both accommodations and tickets. With some of the really big events such as the Super Bowl or the World Series, however, you have to watch out for a scam: Packagers that promise tickets they don’t really have. They’re not all crooks; sometimes, they assume—wrongly—that they can pick up the tickets they need to fulfill their commitments “later.” I’ve never encountered this particular problem with museum exhibits, but over the years it has certainly been a problem with a few major sporting events.
In any event, whenever you see an out-of-town event you might like to attend, log on or call the event’s sponsor and see if any good package deals are available. If so, the package may well be your best bet for a good room and a good ticket.