In praise of museum memberships

Yesterday we went to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. After having a membership both there and at the LA Zoo for a couple of years now, I’ve become a big fan of membership. Here’s why:

  • If I have a membership, I have to go. I am notoriously thrifty. If it takes me two or three visits to see a return on my investment, you better believe I’ll be visiting the requisite two or three times. Membership provides an incentive for taking the kids every couple of months. We pack a picnic lunch, and it’s practically free (if you don’t count the gas money).
  • We don’t have to see it all every time. If I’m at a new museum, and I know I won’t be back for years, I try to see every single animal, painting, etc. It can be exhausting, but I just hate to miss anything. Membership offers the flip side: we visit over and over again, so we can see as much or as little as we like each time. Today we skipped whole galleries, because it was super crowded, but we watched the sea lion and seal show for the first time, and saw the scuba divers feed the tropical fish. Finley spent a good 15 minutes listening to various whale songs at a kiosk. We didn’t see the otters or the penguins at all. That’s ok, because we’ll be back. As members, we have more freedom to let the children’s curiosity be our guide.
  • As a writer, I love to visit the gift stores repeatedly and see what kind of books are for sale. Now that the aquarium has installed a new polar regions exhibit, there were lots of new books about the Arctic and Antarctic. Visits always generate at least a book idea or two.

So yes, the gift store discounts are nice. The member events can’t be beat. But I love our memberships because they guilt me into visiting; they let our curiosity be our guide; and these visits are always a source of writing inspiration. Do you have a favorite museum or other cultural attraction your frequent?

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6 responses to “In praise of museum memberships

  1. We go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and sometimes to the Baltimore Aquarium but we don’t have memberships. My parents have taken us the the Smithsonians in Washington DC. They are really great too!

  2. You know, I used to live in Washington, DC, and I don’t know that I’ve been to the Baltimore Aquarium. I will definitely have to take the kids next time we are on the East Coast.

  3. I don’t have any memberships to any museums here. Most of the museums around here are by donation. If there was cool zoo or aquarium around here then I would get a membership. I always buy season tickets to the local theatre that way I know I will always go.

  4. We’ve been a member of the Denver Nature & Science Museum for three years, and although we seldom make the member events, I love the feeling that we can “go any time” and that we’re supporting all of the great work they do.

    Nice post!

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