Discover family fun with memberships to local attractions

Tennyson said, “In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”

Rabia said, “In the Spring, a stressed-out parent’s preoccupation turns to thoughts of how to keep their children occupied during the ensuing periodic days off from school.”

Ok, I’m no Tennyson. But angst is angst.

Regardless of the ages of your children, one thing parents have in common is wondering what to do with their kids on those holidays and school closures between January and June. From Martin Luther King Jr Day to teacher training days to Easter holidays, there’s more than two weeks worth of days off, days you would prefer not be spent watching Dinosaur Train or playing Mindcraft.   So how can you make these days off fun, educational and cost effective for your family?

Consider buying a membership at your local zoo, art institution or museum.

Many people shy away from bulk purchases. Maybe they were locked overnight in Costco when they were little. But, if you have kids then memberships are a great bang for your buck.

My husband recently purchased a family membership at Happy Hollow Park and Zoo in San Jose for our family of four. We had taken the kids there a few times already, each time shelling out $12.95 per person. Then we decided to spend $35 per person and buy a year’s membership. Suddenly, going to Happy Hollow for an afternoon was as easy a choice as going to a local park because after two visits, the admission is free. Once you pay for parking, you’re in. Just flash your yellow membership card and the zoo awaits. Plus, you get discounts to special events at the zoo as well as discounted food purchases.

Want to take your kids to the zoo for MLK day? FREE.  How about just for two hours on a random Saturday afternoon? FREE AGAIN.

Oh, and you get a bulk discount of $5 off each membership when purchasing 4 or more membership at the same time.  Score, $20 off our purchase price!

Perhaps the most serendipitous benefit of our membership was this past December, when we were driving back from a vacation in Southern California. We decided to detour through Santa Barbara for lunch and leg-stretching. I quickly consulted my iPhone for tourist attractions and the Santa Barbara Zoo came up – perfect for our 3 ½ year old twins. When looking up the directions, ticket cost, etc, I remembered that many zoos have reciprocity admissions with other zoos, including Happy Hollow. So, I flashed my yellow card at the gate and we were in! Free of charge.

Many zoos and aquariums have partial or full reciprocity with other California attractions, including but not limited to San Francisco Zoo, Oakland Zoo, CuriOdyssey, and Aquarium of the Bay SF, as well as many attractions in Southern California.

If zoos aren’t your thing, consider a museum membership. The Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose offers varying membership packages. The basic package gets you perks like extra access to the museum (when not open to the general public), discounts on gift shop purchases and invitations to special attractions and exhibitions. The next level of membership includes reciprocity with other Bay Area museums such as Bay Area Discovery Museum (Sausalito), Chabot Space & Science Center (Oakland) and Children’s Creativity Museum (San Francisco), not to mention several attractions in Southern California.

So if you have kids ranging from Pre K through middle school, then memberships to local attractions are a great way to save money, explore the Bay Area’s vast offerings and share a special day with your young ones.

Do you know of a particularly fab membership deal to a local attraction? Please care to share!

About Rabia Chaudhry

Rabia Chaudhry is a wife, mother, political junkie and lover of the written word. She lives in the South Bay while dreaming of one day moving back to her home state of New York.