A great way to save money throughout the year is with a membership to your favorite Museum, Zoo, or Aquarium. Not only is your admission covered for the entire year ~ most memberships entitle your family to discounts on gift shop merchandise, parking, special events, classes, lectures, parties, and more. Some venues even offer “members-only” hours where you are allowed to beat the crowds (and heat!) with early admission and special previews of exhibits. If you regularly visit your favorite places with family and friends ~ consider upgrading your membership to one that allows you to bring in extra people. Often, for a minimal extra cost, you can save significantly over purchasing extra admission for additional visitors.
If your family regularly travels, be sure to check out the reciprocity agreements that Museums & Zoos/Aquariums share with each other across the country. Even within the state, you can save big on your “day trip” adventures. Keep in mind that there are some restrictions as to residency and local venues. Generally, museums in the same city (or even within 90 miles) will not honor reciprocity agreements. Be sure to read each museum’s membership page carefully to determine the right fit for your family. Here are two major organizations that offer reciprocity within their museums/zoos/aquariums and a quick list of their local attractions. (info accurate as of August 2014)
Association of Science-Technology Centers
Children’s Museum of Houston
The Health Museum
Association of Zoos & Aquariums
Even if a museum/zoo is a member of the organization ~ they may not honor reciprocity agreements or may only offer discounted admission. Additionally, the out-of-town attraction may have limits to the number of admissions they allow. For example, if you have a “Supporting” membership to the Houston Zoo that allows you to bring in 10 people, the Dallas Zoo may only allow you to purchase 4 discounted tickets. When visiting out-of-town attractions, be sure to inquire as to how they handle reciprocity memberships.
Texas is home to three Presidential Libraries and Museums: LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, George Bush Presidential Library & Museum on the Texas A&M Campus in College Station, and George W. Bush Presidential Library & Museum on the SMU Campus in Dallas. A membership to any of these museums grants you admission to all 15 Presidential Libraries across the United States. (Please note: the LBJ Presidential Library is completely separate from the LBJ Ranch.)
Texas State Parks Pass
The Texas Department of Parks & Wildlife cares for nearly 100 State Parks & Historic Sites. Purchasing a Texas State Parks Pass gives you and everyone in your (non-commercial) vehicle free admission to every one of them. You also receive discounts on camping fees, park store rental & retail items, special programs, and events. There are many parks within a 2 hour drive of Houston making a pass a great investment.
Be sure to bring proper/current identification with you. Most organizations require a valid ID for admission. Do not loan your membership card to someone other than the named members. This can result in canceling of membership. While we all appreciate a good deal, please remember that these funds go to support the various venues and they rely on this revenue to maintain their exhibits, animals, & staff.