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ROM quietly raises admission prices… again

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Dalton McGuinty speaks to people outside on the ROM back in April, when he announced that the museum was getting $1.3 mil to make things more accessible. Right.

I was at the Royal Ontario Museum earlier today for a media view and was shocked to see that the admission price has quietly risen 10% or more across the board. Now admission fees are $22 for adults, $19 for students and seniors, and $15 for children aged 4 to 14. (They were previously the still-expensive $20 for adults, $17 for seniors and students, and $12 for children 4 to 14—those all being part of a 30% rise that came into effect June 2007.)

This means that ticket prices on “cheap” half-price Fridays have also risen—to recap, it’s now $11 for adults, $9 for students and seniors, and $7.50 for children aged 4 to 14. Frankly, this is the maximum such ticket prices should be all the time, not just 4 hours for TGIFers.

This new price rise (which quietly came into effect July 1) has arrived soon after the ROM kindly received a $12.1-mil one-time grant from the Government of Ontario to offset its building costs. And just after the Government pumped another, much ballyhooed $1.3 mil into the ROM to give 1,200 free passes a month to the United Way and new citizens. (This deal, if renewed next year, gets the ROM gets an extra $60 for every free pass that walks through the door. How, you ask? The actual at-the-door cost of 14,400 tickets a year is just $288,800 or so. That leaves, oh, $1 mil for the ROM to shovel into its money pit.)

So…. where’s another press conference with McGuinty when you need one? This fee increase was one aspect of ROM access strategy conveniently not addressed (either by the ROM, or by McG) when the premier gave his talk about making the museum more accessible to all Ontarians back in April.

To be fair, as I walked around the museum today I could see that there were visitors present despite my doomsaying; many were tourists in vacation-spending mode, others clearly daycamp kids who had benefited from some of that press-conference-related ticket donation programming. There was even enough people that I started to think maybe I’ve been too rash about all this admission fee harping; maybe it’s only me who feels like it’s not affordable.

Interestingly, the 5pm “half-price Fridays” lineup outside the museum proved my ambivalent musings wrong. The lineup stretched around the Bloor/University corner to the old sandstone entrance, and was growing. People looked like they would be standing in line for a good while before even getting in—and they were willing to do this just for the chance to pay a reasonable fee to enter their own museum.

Some say the rain is getting them down—but to me, it’s institutional mismanagement like this that really makes for a gloomy summer.

If you do want to visit, remember Wednesdays from 4:30 to 5:30 is the only hour during which admission to the ROM is free to all comers. This is now thankfully posted in between the front glass entrance doors, but strangely not at the ticket counter. “Enjoy!”

Photo from the Premier of Ontario’s website.



  1. I hope Tuesdays are still free for university students.

  2. And just think: there are major museums in the US and UK where admission is free…

  3. Yep, after a conference in Baltimore, I took Amtrak to do some “freeloading” on all the free stuff there is do in Washington for a weekend – art galleries (where even the special exhibits on Hopper and Turner were free), history, and technology museums were all free to enter, just a quick bag check upon entry. Plus Arlington Cemetery (surprisingly really worth seeing) and then a foreigner on-the-spot pass (citizens usually must get passes from their Congressman) to the Capitol. Everything there worth seeing is free. One of the best museums in the Americas, the civilization museum in Mexico City, charges a small, nominal fee, low enough that I can’t even remember it, but was something like 30 or 40 pesos, or about $4-5 Canadian.

    I haven’t been to the ROM since the free architectural opening (where the whole museum was open) and the last $5 Friday the Friday after last year, and saw just about everything over those two visits, except a furnished Crystal. I don’t go often enough to warrant a membership, which is a good deal for families with enough income to justify it.

    A question for which I see no answer though, is how much does a $2 or $3 additional admission price increase their revenue? If the admission was $15, even, I’d go for a whole day and get my money’s worth, but $22 really pushes it and turns me off.

  4. I am amazed by the expensive entry! I visited ROM this summer but thankfully my membership with the Peabody Essex Museum in Massachusetts (USA) provided free entry.

  5. I was at the ROM to check out the Darwin exhibit and thought that the prices were pretty ridiculous, myself. In fact, if part of why we’d come into the city hadn’t been to see the exhibit, I doubt that we’d have paid the admission price.

    To give a comparison $20 (adult), $16 (senior\student), $12 (child) or $55 (family) in Ottawa will get you into two large museums and throw in an IMAX movie too boot.

    While the ROM is nice, I’m not sure it’s worth the price.

  6. DC to Toronto isn’t really fair, since those are national institutions that get more funding. (DC to Ottawa may not be much different, but still…) Let’s try looking at a more apples-to-Apple comparison, New York:


    MoMA: $20 adult, $12 student, Friday evenings FREE

    Met: $20 adult***, $10 student (but free for all NYC high school and most university students)

    Guggenheim: $18 adult, $15 student, Friday evenings “pay what you wish”

    American Museum of Nat. History: $15 adult***, $11 student

    Brooklyn Museum of Art: $8 adults***, $4 student, “first Saturdays” FREE

    New Museum: $12 adult, $8 student, Thurs evenings FREE

    Museum of the City of New York: $9 adult***, $5 student, Sunday mornings FREE

    ***All NYC museums that receive some public support by regulation can only charge SUGGESTED admission. People can and do pay nothing or less depending on their personal choice and need.


    Sorry Toronto, but by any measure the ROM prices are an embarrassment to taxpaying citizens and an insult to tourists. You are getting screwed, Royally!

  7. I’m not sure many people would want to pay higher taxes so that ROM admission can be made cheaper (or free). Museums are expensive to run.

  8. The high prices are truly awful and prevent a lot of younger people from exploring the great cultural offerings the city has. Is it any wonder why Nuit Blanche has struck such a chord here?

    And don’t get me started on the zoo. Washington’s Zoo is FREE. It’s fabulous. I’ve seen it more than Toronto Zoo.

    I used to love the ROM Fridays. I met my boyfriend there for our first date. Bah on this price hike. Bah on the extra charges for special exhibits too.

  9. The higher the admission rates, the fewer who can afford the experience.

    Cultural institutions are meant to be readily available to the general public–not just the

    No matter what the admission fee at the ROM, it is not value for money and hasn’t been so for decades.

  10. If you can spring for it, the annual membership (single or family) is the only ROM admission that is worth the price. Of course, not everyone wants to or can afford to pay that amount ($100 for family I think).

  11. When I was visiting Toronto this last winter I tried to go, and was greeted by very unfriendly staff who instead of telling us it was closed told us to go around to the other side of the building. It was an extremely cold night to be searching around for a non existent entrance, and then to go back and ask the same person where we were supposed to go only to receive the rudest and most condescending “we’re closed”. I doubt I’ll try to visit it again.

  12. As if the admission charge wasn’t high enough, my credit card was scanned twice and cloned at the ROM, or at least that’s what my bank told me–I only saw the duplicate charge from the ROM reversed on my statement.

    I’m finished with the place.

  13. @ Jeremy – Yes Tuesdays are still free for university students – but ONLY if you’re from Ontario and ONLY if you’re full time. Still happy?

    @ Laurence – Yes, it’s is free from 4:50 to 5:30 on Wednesdays… but the museum itself closes at 5:30!

    @ uSkyscraper – Thanks for the summary. You’re right about the suggested donation. It means the museums stay accessible to all.

    @ Andrew – You’re right that higher taxes are an issue, but the ROM actually raised its own debt levels and operating expenses by doing the Liebeskind addition. If they had done a less expensive addition (or at least calculated for future museum access issues in their finances, or hey, maybe not done the addition) they wouldn’t be in need of so much extra money. Their decisions are certainly in question here too; not just gov spending ones.

  14. I’ve noticed that there have consistently been huge line ups around the corner to get into the ROM for a while now. It’s likely that the queue is made up almost entirely of tourists and groups of campers, but I’m still surprised by the size of the lines given the cost of admission.

  15. I know we are talking about the ROM but i’ve also noticed that everything in this city is getting overpriced. From restaurants, bar, rent, retail rents, and pretty much everything has really seemed to increase over the last couple years.

    I went to some bar this week and they were charging $6.50 for a domestic beer bottle!

    I don’t understand why some owners seem to think they can charge prices more expensive than London.

  16. Hey Lawrence… sorry for the confusion : ) I was hoping it was sarcasm but just wanted to clarify for those who weren’t aware.

    Jay, you’re right, Toronto is expensive, especially certain parts. But with public institutions it saddens me much more than with private ones.

    Shawn, good suggestion. The Power Plant (free all summer thanks to a grant from the Jackman Foundation) and the always-by-donation Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art are also good bets for art exhibits, if not for heritage stuff.

    Annie, that’s interesting… there were no lineups I saw before the 4:30 “cheap time” on Friday. But it would be useful to survey otherwise.

  17. Ugh. Thanks for the post Leah–depressing, but good.

    It makes me wonder if the AGO is going to take the ROM’s lead.

    I haven’t been to the AGO since I paid regular price admission thinking that I’d be able to see both the special exhibit and the rest of the gallery, only to discover that the rest of the gallery was closed for the renovation and had been replaced with a one-room exhibit of “highlights.”

    The fact that they seemed to think that this “highlight room” warranted the same price of admission as the whole bloody gallery, turned me off of the AGO completely.

    But if they’re still charging the same prices for a gallery that is both under construction and exhibiting a fraction of its usual offerings, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to think that they’ll hike the prices considerably once the Gehry contribution is finished and they actually have a decent amount of work exhibited.

  18. Melissa:

    AGO eventually came to their senses and made admission free (or by donation) while they were under construction, however they later closed the entire building and are waiting to reopen everything for the grand opening in the fall.

    Still, I am concerned that of what admission prices will be like when that happens.

  19. Melissa & Michael, I understand your concern. The AGO issue is probably worth a post in itself, but from what I’ve heard from them so far the situation will not be as bad as at the ROM. Here’s what the AGO has promised so far for their reopening:

    – Free admission to all on Wednesday evenings
    – Free admission to secondary school students Tues-Fri 3:30-5 (after school, basically)

    Like the ROM, the AGO has a few “behind the scenes” access schemes whose access levels can be hard to gauge. These include:

    – An “adopt a school” program where three Toronto schools will receive free extra art lessons, teacher training, and admission for one year.
    – Free access to 12 neighbourhood community groups/schools/daycares
    – Offering free passes to the disadvantaged through related community groups (the ROM does some form of this as well, though is hard to track in both cases)
    – Free year passes offered to select citizenship ceremony attendees (the AGO started this last year, the ROM has followed)
    – Free passes to select libraries through the Museum Arts Pass program (the ROM participates in this too)

    That’s the bright side. The darker side is that admission for adults will be $18 during regular hours, $15 for seniors and $10 for full-time students and youth aged 6 to 18. There will also be a family rate of $45 for 2 adults and up to 5 kids.

    So in other words, it looks like the AGO will be doing better on access than the ROM–but it still remains to be seen how they might change things along the way, as the ROM has so famously done.

  20. Oh, spare me. The ROM prices are not that out of line. It’s $18 for the Science Centre and $17.75 to Ontario Place.

    $22 is the exact same price as the Field Museum, although city of Chicago residents get 2$ off due to the financial support given to it by the city. The real $22 rip off is the CN Tower for the obersevation level only. How much time can you spend looking out a window?

  21. Whoosh, the Field Museum was an enormous rip-off. There was a base admission to the general collection plus an exhibition, and then charged you more according to how many more “special” exhibitions you wanted to see. The highest cost for admission was $33. Ridiculous.

    (If you go to Chicago, definitely get their City Pass. Every destination will be on your list, and it’ll save you a bundle.)

  22. A student rate should NEVER be more than $8 for ANYTHING.

  23. If you don’t like the price, don’t go.
    I my opinion, no museum/art gallery should cost any more in admission than the Louvre – which houses so many collections, only a third are on display at any time.

    The Louvre in 9 euros, full price.

    Therefore, The ROM is a rip-off.

    I advise checking out other museums and galleries that are much more stimulating.

    And For those who are students (youth):
    for less than 11$, you could go to the symphony, the opera or the ballet. I saw the Handmaid’s Tale in operatic form – Margaret Atwood and the Prince of Denmark were in the room – and paid $10 for amazing seats.