As a SAHM to two toddlers, I like to have access to fun and engaging places to take my kids that will entertain them and get us out of the house. Luckily, there’s no shortage of things to do with kids in Boston. Each year, I like to think about which spots in and around Boston will be good for us to visit regularly and might be worth investing in a family membership. Family memberships to many of Boston’s museums, play spaces, and other educational centers are not only cost effective if you plan to visit regularly, they often offer added bonuses. Here are five ideas for family memberships in greater Boston:
This is my favorite membership and the one I prioritize over others when we are deciding what to spend money on for our family. In addition to entry to the Museum of Science exhibit halls, a membership will get you tickets to the planetarium and Omni theater, and discounted tickets for 4D movies, the butterfly garden, and special events — plus discounts for dining and shopping at the museum. We get the $125 “premiere” level of membership, which gets you FREE PARKING. That’s a big deal around here. Two hours of free parking is all I usually need when visiting the MOS with my toddlers, so this is a fantastic deal for us.
We love the discovery center, which is geared to the younger crowd, but my 2-year-olds also enjoy exploring the other exhibits. But my favorite part of our MOS membership is the reciprocity you get with other museums. The MOS is part of two associations that give reciprocal admission to museums around the country, which means you can visit a ton of other wonderful museums, zoos, and discovery centers for a steep discount or for free. Just locally, you get 50% off at the Roger Williams Park Zoo and free entry to the Providence Children’s Museum, Springfield Museums, Ecotarium, Capron Park Zoo, and more. Whenever we travel, we check if there’s a reciprocal museum or zoo to visit — and there usually is!
A Zoo New England membership gets you access to two zoos — the Stone Zoo in Stoneham and the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston. This membership also gives you discounts on food and gift shop purchases, access to members-only events, express entrance on busy days, and discounts on education programs. The zoos not only offer opportunities to learn about wildlife, they also have nature play spaces, special shows, and rides like a train or carousel. If you want to visit one of the zoos first, you can apply your admission toward a membership within seven days. A family membership runs $110, but there are different levels to choose from to customize the membership to your family’s needs.
This is another membership we make sure to renew. A Mass Audubon membership gains you free access to wildlife sanctuaries throughout Massachusetts. These sanctuaries offer hiking trails, classes, special events, and even CSAs! One of the best places to visit with this membership is Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, which offers plenty of space to run around, trails for hiking, lots of farm animals to visit, education about sustainable crops, birds and other local wildlife, as well as a farm stand and seasonal activities like hay rides.
There are many other Audubon sanctuaries within a short drive of Boston that also offer kid-friendly trails, nature-based playgrounds, and opportunities for education and exploration like the Boston Nature Center in Mattapan, Habitat Education Center and Wildlife Sanctuary in Belmont, and Broadmoor in Natick. Don’t forget to take advantage of this membership year round with special activities like snowshoeing, winter birding tours, and wildlife tracking using footprints. At $32 for new members, this membership is the most affordable and will pay for itself with one visit to Drumlin Farm!
The Boston Children’s Museum is beautiful, fun, and full of engaging activities for little explorers. In addition to admission to the museum, a membership offers special members-only hours on the weekend that are less crowded, plus music classes, special events like a maker faire, and theater shows. The Children’s Museum also has reciprocity with many other children’s museums around the country. We scored our membership on Groupon last year, making it an even better deal. As much as I love the Children’s Museum, I have to mention parking. Even with a validated ticket, garage parking is still very expensive, and metered spots are hard to come by — so keep that in mind if you plan to go regularly.
Indoor play spaces
Many of the indoor play spaces in and around Boston offer families yearly or monthly membership options. If you’re like me and dread Boston winters, you probably plan to play inside a lot during the coldest months, which makes it worth investing in an open play membership. Imagine, Inside Playground, the Golden Chickpea Center, VinKari Safari, Chikki Plaza, and Children’s World Indoor Playground all offer monthly or yearly membership options. Some of these play spaces also offer classes that include free open play times!
Now, tell us your favorite family memberships in and around Boston!