Reciprocal Memberships Rock!
I am a self confessed Museum, Zoo, and Botanical Garden Nerd. If I’m driving down the road and see a sign for any such mentioned, I’ll likely turn around to check it out, or at least make a mental note to Google it for a future visit. I can’t help myself.
Growing up in SoCal, I visited many incredible museums and lots of great botanic gardens. I had a Master Gardener for a mom, who loved teaching me about different plants and flowers. Once I had kids of my own, I looked forward to introducing them to all the things I loved, and hoped they too would have at least some of the same interests as myself. Luckily, they do!
As we all know, visiting museums, zoos, and botanical gardens can get expensive. Depending on where you visit, taking a family can be a big expense, nevermind visiting multiple establishments on a regular basis. I knew that if I wanted to continue to take our kids to such that I would have to find a reasonable way to do so.
Reciprocal Memberships Can Help You Save Money
After doing a good amount of research, I learned about reciprocal memberships. What is a reciprocal membership? A reciprocal membership is one which can be used at multiple establishments to gain either FREE or discounted entry.
For instance, a membership to a science center in San Diego would likely allow you either free or discount entry to a science center or natural history museum in Los Angeles, Oregon, Las Vegas, or even Boston.
An ACM reciprocal membership to a children’s museum, a reciprocal zoo membership, or pass to a botanic garden that is part of the American Horticultural Society would do the same. There are some stipulations, such as distance between establishments, or program participation, but for the most part, these memberships are awesome! Be sure to check with each individual establishment prior to purchasing a membership, and prior to visiting one of the reciprocal establishments to make sure they will accept your card.
I took roadtrip with our kids in 2011, and visited Children’s Museums in San Luis Obispo, multiple destinations in Oregon, Washington, and had many more on our list that we would have stopped at if we’d had the time. I planned our stops around these museums and Costco gas stations. It worked out great, and our reciprocal museum passes paid for themselves within a few days. After our trip we continued to enjoy visiting museums and botanical gardens in Orange County, Los Angeles, and San Diego the reminder of the 11 months our passes were active.
Many SoCal Establishments Participate In Reciprocal Programs
Some of the different establishments in Southern California that participate in reciprocal membership programs. There are some exclusions with different programs, so be sure to do your research. For instance, some reciprocal passes exclude reciprocity within 90 miles of your home address. Here are some of the different places in Southern California that participate in reciprocal programs at the time this post was written:
• Reuben H. Fleet Science Center (gain access to the Discovery Science Center in OC, the La Habra Children’s Museum, the Los Angeles Natural History Museum, etc…)
• San Diego Botanic Garden (gain entry to the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park, Los Angeles Arboretum, Descanso Gardens, etc…)
• The Living Desert (gain discount access to a handful of zoos across the U.S.)
Some Good Resources For Info About Reciprocal Memberships
• Association of Science-Technology Centers Travel Passport Program
• Association of Children’s Museums
• North American Reciprocal Museum Program
• Association of Zoos and Aquariums
• American Horticultural Society Reciprocal Admissions Program
One of the many things my parents taught me was to enjoy experiences, as that they can be a much better gift than a material item. Investing in a reciprocal Family Membership can allow you and your family access to many neat establishments that can be fun, educational, and get you out and about, having great experiences together! Perhaps we’ll see you at a museum, zoo, or botanical garden that participates in a reciprocal membership program soon!