Instead of that jumbo tub of popcorn, give a gift that ensures family fun times throughout the year. Not only that, but the following memberships are a great way to keep it local and to save on wrapping paper and shipping. While it’s true that these are great gifts for others, don’t forget to put these on your list for Santa, too.  


photo: OMSI by Theresa P. via Yelp

This Portland favorite destination is anything but a stuffy old museum. All members of your family will find something to love and explore and (shhhh!) don’t tell the kids, but it’s educational, too. Littler scientists, six and under, will love the Science Playground with waterworks, art projects, blocks, and plenty of free play areas to charge the imagination. There’s even an infant area for crawlers. Add in interactive exhibits, and you have a museum your kids will actually ask to come back to time and again.

Tip: Membership includes free parking, so remember your space number when you park. On weekends, parking can fill up, so plan on walking a bit or taking public transportation.

$105-$160 for an annual family pass
1945 SE Water Ave.

 Oregon Zoo lions

photo: Oregon Zoo by Joshua Smith via Flicr

Oregon Zoo
Lions, tigers, and bears (and monkeys and elephants) oh wow! The Oregon Zoo is one of the most visited destinations in the Portland area. Its successful elephant breeding program brought us baby elephant, Lily, and now a brand new elephant habitat is being built along with a new path for the famous zoo train.

There’s a lot of ground to cover here, and it makes for a long day for younger children, especially for those who are still napping. With a membership, you can stroll through the Pacific Northwest one day, and spend half an hour with the polar bears if they’re having a particularly playful day.

Thinking about giving an Oregon Zoo membership as a Christmas gift? You might want to snag it before Santa and gift this one a little early to take advantage of the annual Zoo Lights display.

Tip: Members pay for parking at the Oregon Zoo and the Children’s Museum, which share a parking lot.

$114-$145 for an annual family pass
4001 SW Canyon Rd.

Art a la Carte

photo:  Art a la Carte via Yelp

Art ala Carte
Wouldn’t it be wonderful for your kids to have an array of art supplies, and the freedom to create whatever they wished…all without one speck of glue ending up on your kitchen table? At Art ala Carte, kids have the freedom to pick out any materials they choose and go wild. Membership allows kids unlimited entry and plenty of supplies during open hours. Artists over one year old will find the usual suspects (paints, markers, and paper) plus more unusual and interesting objects (small toys, recycled materials, bottle caps, and more) to kick-start their creativity. It’s like an art buffet for kids!

$60-$150 for an annual family pass
319 NE Wygant St.

St Johns Swap and Play

photo: St. John’s Swap ‘N’ Play by Andrea D. via Yelp

Neighborhood Swap ‘n’ Plays
There are five swap ‘n’ play neighborhood co-ops in Portland, each with its own unique personality and advantages. Membership costs are monthly, and is more than an annual membership elsewhere on this list, but they offer more perks, too. Co-op members can take and leave gently-used toys and clothes. Not only that, but you’ll find friends big and small for your whole family to enjoy all year – and maybe longer. Monthly membership fees are $20-$35, plus a one-time joining fees of $20-$25 are normally required. Families are asked to pay for three months when joining, and volunteer hours may also be required for participating families.

St. John’s Swap N Play, 7535 N. Chicago Ave.

Eastside Swap & Play, 17720 NE Halsey St.

Southside Swap and Play, 5239 SE Woodstock Ave.

Woodlawn Swap ‘N’ Play, 704 NE Dekum St.

Harrison Hill Swap N Play, 2800 SE Harrison St.


What memberships do you love to get and receive? Let us know in the Comments section below!

— Kelley Gardiner