“Do you have a pass to everywhere?” This question was posed to me by a good friend today while we sat poolside at the YMCA… where I recently signed our family up for a summer only membership. And the answer to this question… is (somewhat embarrassingly), yes, I do.
But, I have a good explanation for this and it is more than an unhealthy compulsion to feel like I belong. For most places, the price of the membership pass is equal to (or sometimes even less than) the cost of two general admissions. So if you go more than once, it makes more economic sense to buy the membership. And you often get other added benefits, such as free parking and discounts on food. So, yes… a lot of wallet space is now taken up with family memberships, but really, is it my fault that Cincinnati is actually a city that has a lot to offer it’s families?
But, not all memberships are created equal, so here are my reviews:
YMCA – Not all of these facilities are the same, so I highly recommend getting a tour before signing on the dotted line. But, the one I joined is a nice facility with a great baby pool area and I plan to use some time this summer to teach my kids swim lessons on my own. So, $299 for a summer membership (which does include the exercise facilities as well) is worth it.
Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens – Almost everyone in Cincinnati has this membership. The highest level of family membership is about $130 and includes the rides (train, carousel), parking, 6 free tickets to the 4D movie experience, 1 free guest per visit, 20% off of all purchases (food and stores) and you earn zoo bucks with all purchases as well which can be redeemed for money off down the road. This is the best membership by far if you ask me and our zoo is amazing. Zoo Blooms, Zoo Babies, Festival of Lights, Penguin Days, Zootini, Zoo Brews… amazing. http://cincinnatizoo.org/
The Cincinnati Museum Center – This one is also about $130 for the basic family membership and includes admission to all of the museums (otherwise each has it’s own admission fees), free parking and discounts on admission to the omnimax theatre. It is also worth the expense if you ask me and is a great place to go on the rainier/colder days. http://www.cincymuseum.org/
Kings Island – This one is pricey (about $90 per person), but still, if you plan to go more than once the pass makes sense. We actually got ours last Fall, which let us in then and all of this year as well. If you get the gold pass, it does also include parking. I was a little leary of getting passes because my kids are so young and this is a full on amusement park, but we have been 3 times already this year and the girls LOVE it. They have the regular park as well as the water park, which makes the price seem a little more worth it. I think the girls actually like going to the pool at the YMCA better than Soak City, but they love the kid’s section at the park and there are a good amount of rides for them there. I was surprised they were so into it already. And since the grandparents typically give this as a Christmas present to their kids and grandkids, why not? https://www.visitkingsisland.com/
The Newport Aquarium – This one is by far the biggest rip off as far as money goes. There is no such thing as a family pass here, so you have to pay a pretty high price for each individual to have their own. An adult pass is about $50 per person. Again, if you go more than once, you are better off getting the pass, but next year when we have to pay for all 4 of us separately, I may have to think long and hard about this one. It is nice for those rainier/colder days as well and it is always fun to run around Newport on the Levee, but you still have to pay separate for parking in the garage and even the 20% discount in the store and food court do not necessarily make up for that. They do have Scuba Santa though. http://www.newportaquarium.com/
Highfield Discovery Garden – This annual membership is $40 for the family. This is one of the few Hamilton County parks that you have to pay additional (beyond the annual parking sticker) to get in to. But, it is such a cute place and they have nice interactive educational classes in the morning and afternoon most days and the grounds are beautiful. It’s just a different type of play area, which includes a giant tree house to climb in, a butterfly garden, a frog pond, a bridge and tiny little fairy village and more. Plus, I feel good about giving my money to the park. http://cincykidsapprove.com/reviews/index.php/parks/highfield-discovery-garden/
So, there you have it – a little information on many different membership options. I am sure there are others, but it’s probably best if I don’t know about them.