We use Christmas money every year to buy a family membership somewhere around town. It’s exciting to pick where we’ll spend our free time in the new year.
Want to know why we love passes? (Of course you do!):
– It saves us money after just a few uses. (Case in point: one visit to the Oregon Zoo for an average family of 5=$48.50, membership for a household=$114.00. Go more than 2.5 times on the pass and it’s worth it. Boom.)
– The investment helps motivate us to get out and enjoy an outing with our family regularly. I hate to waste dinero, so we make that pass count and have fun doing it.
– Membership takes off the pressure to “see the whole place.” We can go for a short visit without the guilt.
– Passes usually include discounts to on-site shops, special extended hours, or other perks.
We’ve stuck to the Oregon Zoo membership so far, but we’re ready to try something new. I’ve been researching some of the best annual passes around, and here’s what I’ve found:
EVERGREEN AVIATION AND SPACE MUSEUM* (McMinnville, $125-150/family): This museum ain’t close but apparently it’s amazing. It has tons of information on air history, from airplanes (including the real Spruce Goose!) to space travel, and also a kid zone, playground, and carousel. Pass offers discounts for water park and IMAX theater. **A smart friend just told me that this pass is part of a reciprocal passport program that can get you into dozens of other museums across the country.
OREGON MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY (OMSI) (Portland, $105-$135/family): This big ol’ museum is hands on and full of scientific fun for all ages (there is even a baby/toddler area for little ones). Around May there’s an OMSI Groupon for a highly-discounted membership deal (in 2015 it was 46% off!). **A smart friend just told me that this pass is part of a reciprocal passport program that can get you into dozens of other museums across the country.
OREGON PACIFIC COAST PASSPORT ($35/vehicle): This annual vehicle passport will get you free day passes into various popular coastal parks, including Fort Stevens, Cape Lookout, and Sand Lake.
OREGON ZOO* (Portland, $114/family): With a wide variety of animals in a variety of settings, it’s hard not to find something to love here. There is also a train, summer concerts, Zoo Lights, and new renovations (we were fascinated by the new Elephant Lands). This pass can also get you into 120 other zoos across the country.
PORTLAND ART MUSEUM (Portland, $95/couple, children always FREE): If you’re a family of art lovers—or you’re trying to become one—head to the art museum for extensive exhibits in a variety of art forms.
PORTLAND CHILDREN’S MUSEUM (Portland, $80/2 people, $25/each additional person): If you have small children, this museum offers hours of entertainment and discovery. They provide hands-on play both indoors and out, and our kids love this place.
RICE NORTHWEST MUSEUM OF ROCKS AND MINERALS* (Hillsboro, $90/family): This small museum is full of a world-class collection of fine rocks and minerals, as well as fossils, meteorites, and gemstones.
WASHINGTON COUNTY MUSEUM* (Hillsboro, $100/person+3 guests): This is a small and simple museum featuring local history and is best for older children.
WORLD FORESTRY CENTER* (Portland, $50/person+5 guests): We found this discovery museum to be interesting but also best for older children. They have rotating art exhibits throughout the year as part of the museum.
*One cool advantage of these starred venues? If you buy a pass to one of 8 participating attractions, you can get into the other 7 for FREE during different months throughout the year. Here’s the schedule for 2016:
January – Oregon Zoo
February – World Forestry Center
March – Oregon Historical Society
April – Lan Su Chinese Garden
June – Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals
September – Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum
October – Washington County Museum
December – Historic Deepwood Estate