It being Christmas shopping season, I thought I’d share a great Christmas gift idea.
A museum or zoo membership!
Really, this is a great gift.
No, it’s not nerdy.
It’s cool. Really cool.
For starters, it is one gift that covers an entire family. Bam. Done. Who doesn’t love that? Secondly, a museum membership is a gift of an experience, not just an object. Now, there’s nothing wrong with objects. I love me some objects. But the gift of an experience, especially an educational one is pretty cool, too. And who doesn’t want to support the local museums?
But hey, you don’t have to give this as a Christmas gift. You may want to do this for your own family. Maybe you want to resolve that this next year your family uses some of your entertainment money and time on more museum or zoo visits.
One of the ways to make museum visits more affordable is to become a member of a local museum that offers reduced or free entry into partner museums in other locations. Many science centers, museums, zoos, nature centers, etc. offer reciprocal uses of other like venues as part of their annual membership package. Usually, science centers partner with other science themed venues, zoos with other zoos and aquariums, and so forth.
For $70/year, we have a family membership to the Catawba Science Center in Hickory, NC. That gives us free access to not only our Science Center but a list of other museums that are a part of the Association of Science and Technology Centers Travel Passport Program. This includes museums in all 50 states and a few other countries as well. A membership also gives us reduced rates for homeschool science classes and summer camps at our local center.
There are a few things to keep in mind if you’re looking to join a musuem/zoo for reciprocal memberships to other facilities.
1) Read over the list of partner locations and the fine print associated with their listing. Some places offer free membership and some discount a certain dollar amount or percentage. Also, some have restrictions on visiting facilities within a certain mileage of the home membership.
2) If you have several options within your local area, research which option actually gives you the best value for your interests. For example, we’re about the same distance from the Greenville Zoo in Greenville, SC and the NC Zoo in Asheboro , NC. Both zoos are members of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. I’ve been to the Greenville Zoo with my kids several times and it’s a great small zoo for young kids (and it has an amazing playground just outside the zoo grounds). The Asheboro Zoo is a much bigger zoo and now that my kids are all old enough to spend the whole day at the zoo, I’m ready to take them there. Here’s what I found:
- Annual family membership to the Greenville Zoo: $57
- Annual family membership to the NC Zoo: $74
- One day family visit to Greenville Zoo: $39.5
- One day family visit to NC Zoo: $60
I think the prices are fair and the bigger zoo should cost more. The Asheboro zoo offers some extra benefits for members, but we don’t really live close enough to take full advantage of them. Therefore, I’m thinking that we’ll join the Greenville Zoo (which can all be done online) for $57 and if we visit each zoo only once we’ll save $42.50 by having the membership instead of paying gate fees at both. But first I will ….
3) Confirm with a phone call. Always call and confirm the membership benefits and the reciprocity program before you purchase and definitely before you drive to a facility.
4) Lastly, don’t forget to use your membership once you purchase it. (And bring your membership card!)
Go to the museums. Go to the zoos.
Go, fox, go!