Cheap fun for a big family? Get the membership…

Despite a complete lack of motivation yesterday I wound up doing a lot with the kids.  The oldest was in the mood to get out and do something which is great to take advantage of.  On the table were the Natural History Museum and the new Greater Cleveland Aquarium.  I went online to check prices and wound up ready to buy memberships to every museum here in town.

See, when we consider taking 5 people to these places at any given time (sometimes as 2 adults and 3 kids, many times as 3 adults and 2 kids now) things start to add up quickly.  Case in point – if we all wanted to go to the Natural History Museum it would cost $64.  Even worse?  The aquarium would be $98.  That’s crazy!  If we’re ever going to make that spending worthwhile we need to be able to use it whenever we’re looking for something to do to get out of the house and take the edge off.  Memberships are the perfect thing!

I’ve had a membership to the Cleveland Zoo for YEARS now.  Dylan’s grandparents bought it for him for Christmas one year and it was a fantastic idea.  We have a great zoo here and we go year round.  Plus, we get free or discounted admission to almost all the zoos within a 5 hour driving radius.  Now we’re getting weekend trips at a discount, too!

So I started to take a look at the memberships in the area and have a comparison pulled together here.  Granted, we’re in Cleveland but I bet the deals are similar in a lot of the major cities around the country.

The no-brainer:  Cleveland Natural History Museum
Admission for the 5 of us, including planetarium tickets, would be $64.  A family/couple membership includes free admission to the museum and planetarium for two adults and all children under 18.  Plus, you get 4 one-time guest passes and two one-time parking passes.  We only have to go twice to make it more than worth our while.  And with two dinosaur lovers in the house and a 9-year-old niece?   That’s easy!

Favorite boredom buster:  Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
With an expansive outdoor zoo and the indoor two-story rainforest it’s easy to spend 3-4 hours here on any given day. Regular admission for all of us, during peak season, is just over $53. The family membership is only $72.  It includes admission to not only our zoo but also, as I mentioned, free or discount admission (usually 50% off) to hundreds of others zoos and animal parks across the country.  We’ve used this in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Columbus.  In addition, if we upgrade one level to $95 we can take a guest with us each time we go locallyAnd being able to combat, “I’m bored” with “Let’s go to the zoo” any time we feel like it is HUGE.

Best Value (especially if you travel nearby):  Great Lakes Science Center
We hadn’t thought about this one soon enough.  Cost for all of us, regular admission?  $111 to do everything (including an omnimax movie, the NASA visitor center and the Mather steamship).  Cost for a Family Max membership?  $160.  That includes admission to all attractions for us, unlimited omnimax tickets and admission to special exhibitions.  Add to that the fact that we can also get general admission into the coolest science centers we know of (including COSI in Columbus, the Children’s museum in Pittsburgh, Wonderlab in Indianapolis AND the Chicago Planetarium, Field Musuem and Museum of Science and Industry) and this is going to be our next purchase.

The one that might be cool without the little ones:  Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame
We talked about this one over dinner tonight.  I love the rock hall.  Dylan and Bryan have never been.  Regular cost for the 3 of us would be $54 (because we’re local).  The membership that I think makes the most sense for us, if we decided, doesn’t necessarily cover all of us.  The family membership is $140 and covers two adults and children or two adults and two guests.  For us, I think this might be overkill.  What would probably work better is membership at a lower single+ level.  For $75 you get free admission for one adult plus one guest every visit.  This means if Dylan goes with us, too, we only pay $18.  If he doesn’t we’re covered.  And as long as we don’t go with him more than 3 times we’re saving money off the family membership.

The one we went for that I would advise against:  Greater Cleveland Aquarium
This was what everyone was excited about this morning.  So I jumped online, checked admission and was a little surprised.  As I mentioned it would cost $98 for all of us to go with regular admission.  Whoa….that’s a lot.  Membership costs to cover all us were $180 (because children are only 2-12, Dylan had to get his own adult membership).  We got there today ready to go and realized it kinda feels like a rip off right now.  They need to grow into themselves.  The shark tank is awesome and we could spend a lot of time just taking it in I”m sure.  We’ll get our use out of it – Bryan and Nyah have yet to go so with that next visit we’ll practically have paid for it.  There aren’t any extras, though, and it’s the most expensive of the bunch.  I would recommend against it if you’re in the area.  If not, and you ever plan a trip to Cleveland, go to the Science Center or the Zoo instead.

The last resort, no membership required:  The Cleveland Museum of Art
Since it’s been under renovation it’s been hard to make a full day out of it but our art museum here has a great collection.  The best part – admission is always free.  Bryan and I love to go and just spend an afternoon wandering through the rooms.  I can’t wait until the new wings open.  I wound up there with Dylan and Jayden today, when the Natural History Museum was just too full of people.  Since it was free what did we have to lose (except the $5 to park)!  We had a great time.  Jayden loved the extensive armor and weapons collections and everyone enjoyed the Egyptian and Greek sculpture.  I was happy to be able to take them there with me.

Now, I know this is all about Cleveland but hopefully if you live in another area and are trying to take a mob to an attraction from time to time you’ll stop and remember the membership option next time.  For a little extra up front investment it might provide ample opportunity to go again and again – saving money on the back-end on those last-minute trips to get out of the house and have some fun.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s