Memberships are a great gift to give and receive all year round. They are especially great for homeschool families. These are unique gifts that keep giving all year round. In our family, we enjoy several memberships that help enhance our adventure schooling journey. Keep reading to see our top five best memberships for families and why I believe they should be on your list!
What are these memberships?
The type of membership I’m referring to are those that you purchase to support an organization or non-profit, that give you you access to them all year round. Sometimes these memberships come with special perks, like gift shop discounts or free parking. Sometimes, the museums offer members only events or festivities, or preview nights. They are different from a subscription service and you aren’t receiving something in the mail every month. There are many different types of memberships out there for all kinds of organizations and non profits. There are many more out there, but here are five of the best memberships for families.
#1 – A science museum membership.
The first of the five best memberships for families is a science museum membership! We are lucky to have several great science museums within a few hours of where we live. Because of that, we always get a membership to at least one of them. Our personal favorite to get a membership to is SciPort in Shreveport, Louisiana. It has a really neat part of the museum called “Adventures in Intrigue” that is a bit of a mystery for you to solve. The other parts of the museum have exhibits with lots of hands on learning to study physics, astronomy, biology, and more!
Favorite science museums.
A few of our other favorites in our area are:
- The Mid America Science Museum in Hot Springs, Arkansas
- The Museum of Discovery in Little Rock, Arkansas
- The Amazeum in Bentonville, Arkansas
- The Perot Museum in Dallas
- The Discovery Science Place in Tyler, TX
All of these museums are part of the Association of Science and Technology Centers (“ASTC”) which is exactly why we get a membership each year to one of them. As a perk to membership, you also get free or reduced admission to other ASTC member museums as part of the passport program. The program allows for reciprocal membership benefits at museums across the country. If you travel often, these memberships are so worth it! Even if you don’t travel, it’s a great thing to have if you plan on visiting more than once per year. A tip: the museums will not offer reciprocal benefits to other museums within 90 miles of their address and your home address. Just an FYI!
#2 – An art museum membership.
The second of the five best memberships for families is an art museum membership! We’ve been taking our children to art museums since they were little. I’ve always loved visiting art museums and while it seemed daunting to do so with small children, it’s been such a great way to enhance our learning and expand life skills. The North American Reciprocal Museum Association (“NARM”) is the managing membership program for art museums and cultural centers across the United States. A membership to a NARM museum will also get you free or reduced admission to other participating museums. Our “home” museum is the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, and that membership even gets us free admission to the Phoenix Museum of Art and other museums across the country. You can search for various museums by category or location.
Favorite art museums.
A few of our favorite art museums in our area:
- Regional Arts Center in Texarkana, Texas (FREE)
- Tyler Museum of Art in Tyler, Texas
- Dallas Museum of Art in Dalls, Texas
- Crystal Bridges Art Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas (FREE)
- Arkansas Museum of Fine Art in Little Rock, Arkansas (FREE)
- R.W. Norton Art Museum in Shreveport, Louisiana (FREE)
- Oklahoma City Museum of Art in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (Children under 18 are FREE)
#3 – A zoo or aquarium membership.
The third of the five best memberships for families is a membership to a zoo or aquarium. Zoos and aquariums are some of our favorite things to visit, especially if we’re studying a specific animal or continent. When it comes to zoos, we are always careful to make sure that we are visiting an accredited zoo or wildlife rescue center. This assures that the animals are being given the highest care with the safest standards. One way you can do this is by making sure that your home zoo or aquarium is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. This membership association also offers a passport or reciprocal benefit program to locations across the United States.
Some of our favorite zoos and aquariums.
Here are a few of our favorite places to visit in our area:
- Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, Texas (where we have our membership based)
- Shreveport Aquarium
- Dallas Zoo and Ft. Worth Zoo in Texas
- Dallas World Aquarium in Dallas, Texas
- Little Rock Zoo in Little Rock, Arkansas
- Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs, Arkansas (Not an AZA member, but an incredible nonprofit and animal rescue)
#4 – A children’s museum membership.
The fourth of the five best memberships for families is a children’s museum membership. Children’s museums are sometimes part science museum but they are a fun place to learn and explore with younger children. They make a great place to escape to on rainy or cold days, or for an adventure day excursion. Often there are events on the weekdays for younger children, such as science chats, hands on learning opportunities, or story hours. They also may have seasonal events or different camps in the summers.
Some favorite children’s museums.
There are fewer children’s museums in our area. But, some of our favorites that ‘we have visited around the country include:
- The Amazeum in Bentonville, Arkansas
- Children’s Museum of Phoenix
- Madison Children’s Museum in Madison, Wisconsin
- Tucson Children’s Museum in Tucson, Arizona
- Wonderscope in Kansas City, Missouri
- Magic House in St. Louis, Missouri
- Iowa Children’s Museum in Iowa City, Iowa
#5 – A garden or botanical center membership.
The fifth in this series of best memberships for families is a membership to a garden or botanical center. This one may not be as obvious but it’s great one. We love visiting Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Having a membership helps us go multiple times during the year. The American Horticultural Society (“AHS”) manages the national memberships in the United States. They also offer reciprocal membership benefits at participating garden centers. Our membership to one garden center can get us in free to lots of other gardens across the country!
Ideal for traveling families.
These are the five best memberships for families, especially if you’re a full time traveling family. There are so many unique museums and places to visit across the United States and these make it easier. We enjoy getting the memberships as holiday or birthday gifts and they really do keep on giving all year long. They are also fun gifts to give! You can get these memberships as long as you have a permanent address you can put on the membership and it will benefit you in all of your travels.
Other memberships or passes.
For military families, Blue Star Museums offer free admission to many museums across the country. We also recommend getting a National Parks Annual pass if you’re going to be traveling. Don’t forget that during your child’s fourth grade year (no matter what type of school you do) they can get a free pass thanks to the Every Kid Outdoors program. You can also look at your local nonprofits such as a local theater company, symphony, arts council, museum, or local trade industry. There are so many ways to enhance your family’s learning journey, no matter what type of schooling you are using. It’s just a matter of trying some and figuring out which of these five best memberships for families are right for you, or maybe even all of them!
Thanks so much for reading!
Nichole is a writer, content creator, and family travel and adventure influencer residing in southwest Arkansas. Though her and her husband (Ryan) are originally from the midwest, they’ve lived in Arkansas for ten years now and are thrilled to call it home. They have homeschooled their children from the beginning of their educational journey. They have a now 12 year old son and 9 year old daughter, along with a one year Direwolf Dog puppy named Levi. Nichole is an avid outdoor adventurer and road tripper and has been taking her kids on adventures by herself since they were infants, it’s all part of what she calls being responsibly brave. She is also on the Executive Team for Run Wild My Child and has contributed to Wild and Free. Be sure to follow her on Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date with all of their shenanigans.