One of the best reasons for living in D.C. is the free museums and sights, right? But if your kiddos are always clamoring to visit the same places over and over again, then consider a family membership to one of these local jaunts! In just a handful of visits, these memberships basically pay for themselves.



Photo: Port Discovery via Facebook

Port Discovery Children’s Museum
Explore a giant maze, climb through an urban treehouse, explore 1920s Egypt, and wiggle in a bubble hoop—all under one roof. For year-round fun, choose from three membership levels (Basic, Plus, and Fan), all of which include unlimited visits (for either a family of four or six), free access to member-only events, express entry (no lines!), and discounts at the museum store and on party packages. Tip: with the “Plus” or “Fan” membership, you can get 50% off admission to other museums, like the National Children’s Museum in Inner Harbor and KID Museum in Bethesda.

Family memberships starting at: $109 for two adults, two children ($27/each), or upgrade to “plus” for $139 for three adults, three children ($23/each) + discounts at other museums
Compare that to: Regularly $14.50 (ages 2+)
Biggest perk: Express entry, member-only events, and discounts at other museums for “Plus” and “Fan” memberships

35 Market Place (Baltimore, Md)

Children’s Science Center
Tinker with circuits and dissect toys. Experiment with light and shadow or explore the fundamentals of biology. Maneuver a giant robotic arm named—wait for it—Armstrong. And do it all inside Fair Oaks Mall! Imbedded in the community, you’ll want to take the kids again and again—and it’s all the more affordable with a family membership.

Family memberships starting at: $160 for two adults, two children (and two free guest passes)
Compare that to: $13/adult, $13/child
Biggest perk: Members-only lab hours

11948 Fair Oaks Mall (Fairfax, Va)

mint-fitness-dcPhoto: Mint Club Spa Retreat via Facebook

MINT Health Club and Spa
Family memberships at MINT are your ticket to self-care serenity: sweat it out at a Power Playground class, follow it up with a facial and a hot stone massage, and emerge glistening and refreshed to go scoop up your cherubs from on-site childcare. (No, this is not an alternate universe.) The kids will love the LEGOs, puzzles, books, and toys. You’ll love the class selection, eucalyptus-infused face towels, and extensive cardio equipment.

Family membership: $198/month (with unlimited classes) for two adults and their children
Compare that to: $148/month per adult + childcare for $30/month
Biggest perk: Unlimited childcare (four months-12 years) at the Dupont location

1724 California St., NW (Dupont Circle)

Family Drive-In Theatre
So you want to bring the family dog, keep the baby in her cozy car seat, eat a taco salad, and gaze up at the stars—while watching Coco on the big screen? We’ve got you covered. The Family Drive-In Theatre, making minivans of squirming children happy since 1956, just might be the perfect way for you to enjoy a movie with your kiddos. They can engage in pre-show shenanigans on the playground and munch on a kids’ meal (with accompanying drink, fries, and fruit snack) during the movie. And don’t worry if you can’t use all the tickets in one year because the unused portion is credited towards the purchase of the following year’s season pass.

Season passes start at: $36 for six adult tickets ($6/each), $12 for six child tickets (ages 3-11) ($2/each)
Compare that to: Regularly $8 for adults, $4 for kids
Biggest perk: Guaranteed parking spot. And taco salad.

5890 Valley Pike (Stephens City, Va)


Photo: Smithsonian National Zoo

FONZ (Friends of the National Zoo)
With just four visits to the zoo, the family membership (“Premier” level) pays for itself! Spend more time ogling the pandas and less time searching for street parking. No arguments about riding the carousel or buying a beverage, either, because both are included. Forgot your monstrosity of a jogging stroller? Enjoy a discounted stroller rental and let your tykes rest their legs.

Family memberships starting at: $80 for two adults, two children
Compare that to: Parking $22/visit, $3/carousel ride
Biggest perk: Free parking, two free carousel rides, two free drinks, and food

3001 Connecticut Ave., NW (Woodley Park)

national-building-museum-zonePhoto: National Building Museum

National Building Museum
Watching kids gawk at construction sites is one of the more puzzling (but endearing) experiences of parenthood. Let your kids experience that magic without the dust particulates while you sip a latte with a family membership at the National Building Museum. They can assemble and knock down blocks every day in the Building Zone—and, of course, you all can enjoy the rest of the exhibitions at any time. Also take advantage of the free access to special family programs, and celebrate birthdays by booking a room in the museum.

Family memberships starting at: $90 for two adults, two children
Compare that to: $8/adult and $5/children (ages 3-17) per visit for exhibits including Building Zone ($3/each)
Biggest perk: Reduced admission to special select exhibitions, discount at the Museum Shop

401 F St., NW

National Aquarium
They had us at “Giant Waxy Tree Frog” and “Fairy Basselets”—really, the menagerie of animals at the National Aquarium is one-of-a-kind. And, with a family membership, you’ll be able to stomach the (admittedly considerable) expense a bit easier. Get reduced prices on food while you’re there, and receive a free subscription to their magazine, Watermarks, to continue your aquatic adventure even after you’re back at home.

Family memberships starting at: $195 for two adults, four children (ages 3-21)
Compare that to: $39.95/adult and $24.95/child
Biggest perk: Express entry and discounted parking

501 East Pratt St. (Baltimore, Md)410-576-3800

What family memberships do you have? Tell us in the Comments section below. 

—Katie Brown