Tag Archives: zoos

Admission discounts to museums & more


Do you have a drawer or folder filled with membership cards to art museums, history museums, children’s museums, zoos, aquariums, and botanical gardens? If your workplace offers at matching gift program, have you had your donations matched and subsequently you have been bumped up to the next donor level with increased donor benefits?

If yes, you are sitting on a budget friendly way to visit museums and other cultural destinations throughout North America for free or at a discounted price. Many cultural institutions offer patrons who give at a certain level access to reciprocal admission programs of the North American Reciprocal Museums, the Association of Children’s Museums, and more.

Here’s how to discover your discounts:

1. Check your current membership of your local museum, zoo, aquarium, or botanical garden. At your donor level, are you eligible for any reciprocal benefits? This information can usually be found on your local cultural institution’s donor benefits web page or contact the organization’s development office.

2. If yes, visit one of these web sites to view the reciprocal admissions participants list and what kind of discounts are offered. Typically, organizations offer admission, gift shop, parking, audio guide, or tram tour discounts. Be sure to note any restrictions, especially for number of admissions, special exhibitions, and distance from your hometown.

* Association of Children’s Museums
* North American Reciprocal Museums
* Association of Science and Technology Centers (i.e. science related museums)
* Time Travelers Program: Reciprocal Benefits at History Museums
* American Horticultural Society Reciprocal Admissions Program
* Association of Zoos and Aquariums

3. Contact the cultural organization you plan on visiting to confirm reciprocal benefits.

4. Remember to bring your membership card with you on your trip.

5. Have fun exploring with your family!

6. Although you may have gotten in for free with your reciprocal benefit, consider making a small contribution, eat in the museum’s cafe, or buy something in the gift shop. Most of these nonprofits run a very tight ship administratively, so every penny counts in helping them thrive. Be sure to talk to your kids about the whys of donating.


Ideas for socializing your child

The hiding behind the leg, looking down at the floor, the sudden interest in a nearby leaf… Would you say that your child is shy? Just don’t call her/him that too much or it will become a label to hide even more behind.

In case you haven’t yet explored ways to get your little one socialized or are looking for some new approaches (some of us don’t have kiddies up and down the block or loads of  nearby cousins in our backyard), here are some ideas.

1. Kindermusik classes: Look for teachers in your area who have received the “Maestro” Award from Kindermusik International. They are usually exceptional teachers. Kindermusik’s curriculum makes a lot of sense, integrating movement, rhythm, singing, dancing, patterning, socialization, and more. The only drawback is the cost. Kindermusik classes are often $18+ for a 45 minute session. It’s worth it though if you can only afford one paid class.

2. Music Together classes: I haven’t personally tried these classes before, but several of my “cool, urban” parent friends who have their kids listen to Hendrix love them.

3. Gymboree classes: If you live in a super cold/hot location, Gymboree classes can be good indoor socialization environments. The Play and Learn classes are usually excellent (although I’m sure the consistency of them differs from location to location). I have not been impressed with the Music or Art classes though. Gymboree classes are about $65/month depending on where you live. They have flexible make-up classes.

4. Storytimes at local libraries, Barnes & Noble, and Borders

5. Moms Groups: Join to meet new people, help introduce your child to group play settings, and discover new play areas of your city. Many of the local chapters offer 3+ events a week and you are free to go to as few or as many as your schedule allows. We’ve gone on tours of the fire station, Trader Joe’s, egg hunts, theater events, and more. Many of these organizations often charge a fee of around $25 for the year. Well worth it!


The Mommies Network

MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers)

6. Parents as Teachers (PAT): Local affiliates of this national organization can be found across the country and vary in scope and funding. PAT is a good place to learn about early intervention assessments, preschools, play groups, kids classes, and more.

7. Your local mall: many have indoor play areas (often right next to a tempting Starbucks) where kids can climb, spin, run, and roam. I’ve met many interesting Moms and Dads in the play areas.

8. Local museums and zoos (even better–a children’s museum if you are lucky to live near one): Many museums, botanical gardens, and zoos have extensive education programs for toddlers, preschoolers, and school age kids.

9. Whole Foods: Many Whole Foods locations have Kids Club Coordinators and offer storytimes, crafts, and even yoga classes. For some events, advance registration is required. After you find your local Whole Foods store, go to their events calendar for details.

10. Universities: Many universities offer continuing education courses that feature cooking, dance, yoga, art, music, gardening, and more for toddlers, preschoolers, and school age children. These classes are usually reasonably priced and frequently taught by incredibly over qualified people.

11. Water spray parks: When it is HOT outside, these water spray parks (usually city or county parks) are fun opportunities for your quiet child to see kids going crazy. These parks are generally free and don’t take as much planning or preparation as a trip to the pool.