One of the best ways to have a budget-friendly fun day with the family is to take advantage of membership passes to local museums or the zoo. Of course, there is the initial investment that is costly, but after a couple of visits, the pass has usually paid for itself, and then the rest of your visits are free.
Right before Hunter turned one, my mother-in-law came to visit. We headed to Balboa Park so we could visit the Natural History Museum. For all three of us adults to enter, we would have paid $55 for single day admission, but for $24 more we got membership passes which included 4 free guest passes. Basically, if Isaiah and I visited the museum 3 times in one year, we would have already started saving money on admission. From then on, any time we were wondering what to do at the weekend, we could just pop in to the museum and watch an IMAX movie or see what was new. It was the same idea with membership passes to the San Diego Zoo, which we've had for two years now.
What if your budget won't allow for the high cost of a membership pass? At least in San Diego, we have a few options:
1. Resident Tuesdays: Many museums in the park offer free admission to residents on Tuesdays. It's on a rotating schedule, so check here for participating organizations.
2. Kids Free October: Over 40 museums as well as the zoo participate in this event. Usually, a child's admission ticket is free with a paid adult ticket. Check back here in August for the line-up. Also, most places are already free for children under the age of three, so take advantage of that while you can! A similar program sponsored by Macy's (Macy's Museum Month) happens in February and offers visitors 50% off admission. Click here for details.
3. Library Passes: Libraries in San Diego carry special museum membership passes that you can borrow just like books. The passes are good for up to two adult admissions and up to four children's admissions. They oftentimes give you membership privileges on the day of your visit, such as discounts at the museum shop and special events. The city library has passes for the San Diego Museum of Art, Children's Museum, and the Museum of Man.
That's what we did this past weekend. We borrowed a pass for the Museum of Man. We had a full day of fun by starting out with a walk on some local trails, a mid-morning snack at home, and a visit to the museum at Balboa Park. We loved watching Hunter explore the exhibits. Afterward, since we saved money on admission fees, we treated ourselves to a late lunch at Panama 66 (outside the San Diego Museum of Art), which has a great grab-and-go option that is less expensive than the regular restaurant menu.