Thursday, April 20, 2017

When is an annual membership worth it?

In 2016 we got a membership to the SF Zoo. Admission is $20 per adult, so a $100 annual membership was a no-brainer since it’s a twenty minute drive, the whole family can go, and it features most of Jack’s favorite animals and a train.

I never considered getting a membership anywhere else until last month when we went to Filoli. In addition to the palatial estate and the beautiful gardens, there are rocks and trees and lizards and a peacock and giant, sprawling meadows. I knew I made the right decision the first time we came back as members. The grandmother docent wrapped a wristband around Jack’s tiny arm and smiled, “Hello sweet boy! You can run and run and run, and there is nothing here that you can break!”

In this phase of life, that is the most desirable description for any location on earth, do not @ me.

Members get a discount for guests, so we have brought a friend almost every time we’ve gone. It’s been delightful. We’re trying to save money right now, and there are so many incredible free options in our area, but the whole experience has made me more open to the possibility of memberships at other places.

Even if you don't have kids, do you have memberships anywhere? Museums? Parks? Botanical Gardens? How do you decide if the cost for membership is worth it? Did you have memberships to cool places growing up? Are you glad you had those experiences? Please inform.

I am interested.

b perry


  1. Chris's long lost cousin here. We had a membership to the Sac Children's Museum for a couple years. We brought the kids at least once a week to make it worth the membership. If I lived closer to SF, we'd def get the Exploratorium membership. We also have a season pass to 6 Flags in Vallejo. We get a killer deal through my work, where it ends up about $42 a person for the whole year, and includes free parking (that's basically the price of going one time, so def worth it). We go about once a month, but avoid the summer months. My boys love all the rides, animals, and this enormous play structure at the back of the park. We also have a membership to the Sac Train Museum because my boys are obsessed with trains. My sister gets a Monterey Bay Aquarium membership every other year or so, but she has 6 kids, so a membership is actually cheaper for her than one time individual entry. If you're willing to go someplace multiple times and your kids love it, the membership is generally worth it. Oh, and we don't have a backyard, so it's another place we can bring the kids to run around and feel like it's "free" (kind of).

  2. This is a great topic, as is the usual from this blog. :) We didn't having anything like this growing up and I had always thought that annual memberships were a very large commitment. Since living here, however, I consider my membership to the Henry Ford Museum (which is a large American History indoor museum as well as an expansive village form of American History museum with train and Model T rides) a necessary cost of living in our town. I go there 2-3 times a week regularly and I love the events that they put on, which end up being free or discounted for us depending. It's really become a large part of my lifestyle. Since opening my mind to the idea of an annual pass I have also found that the Hands On Museum in Ann Arbor pass is extremely affordable as well. Because of these two places I've opted out of the zoo pass, but I've considered it. We also have a really amazing Botanical Garden via the U of M, which I'd definitely pay for, but it's free! Other than the $2 parking. And I can also get into Detroit's Institute of Art for free as a resident of the county, so that's awesome, or it was until my children came to the age where I was terrified to take them to such places. Someday that will be awesome again. I think you nailed it when you described the open space to run around freely. I think that's the key. If you find a place where you feel safe and confident to just let them run and explore without inhibition or worry then it is worth it.

  3. My parents did annual passes for Disney when we lived in the east bay (if you went twice in a year, it paid for itself). And they did a Monterey membership one year, which we took advantage of! It came with a "guest pass" they let us borrow (around when Daisy was born). But my parents also had/have 4 children still at home, so things add up and passes are usually worth it.

    We don't have any passes here. I didn't have a car so I couldn't get anywhere often enough to be worth it! But now that I have one, I may look into some places. We definitely don't have as many great options as the Peninsula did!


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