Until I moved to Texas, I never held a membership to anywhere but a gym… and that rarely got any use. Now, I am basically a cardholder to all the major kid attractions in town. Not working, and dealing with pretty crappy weather year round makes you have to find every indoor place or heavily shaded outdoor venue that can entertain a kid with still allowing them to get their energy out. I have listed below all the places I hold memberships, and the details and thoughts about each one. I am only voicing my own opinions… I thought I should mention that, because I am going to be brutally honest. Before I go into the places I DO belong to, I will mention the two places I decided not join/never join again.
I did not join the Dallas Zoo. I am just not a zoo person… I really want to be, because I know kids love this kind of stuff, but I honestly cant stand it. To me zoos are hot, smelly and super annoying. I have close friends who feel the exact opposite and love the zoo and their memberships. If you are a “ zoo person” the Dallas zoo is fantastic, I think comparable to the San Diego Zoo, which is pretty fantastic—even I can admit that!
I will never join the Dallas Aquarium again. I am from Northern California and when you say, “let’s go to the aquarium” I think Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is amazing place. Truly majestic with fish and other sea life, and I now know that nothing compares. When I first moved here, it was January and freezing. I was desperate for something to do with Jack (Nora was not born yet) so we went to the aquarium. It was not impressive, and it was more like an aquarium/zoo/ bird conservatory… not my thing. However, it was inside and I thought I could suck it up and come often… for no other reason but to get out of the house (I was wrong, I went once.) The membership was pricey but entrance was too. An adult ticket is $20+tax and kids over 2 are $15+tax and a membership for an entire household is $150+tax… this will get two adults and all your kids in. All in all, not worth renewing for me, actually wasn’t worth ever joining, but hey… you live and learn
Ok… on to the places I did join and what I love about them!
Dallas Arboretum: This might be my favorite place in Dallas; it is beautiful all year. The grounds are meticulously cared for, and the beauty of the flowers, waterfalls with the backdrop of White Rock Lake make you feel like you have been whisked away to Hawaii for the day. There are plenty of open green fields that you can picnic on, bring food AND booze and just relax in the SHADE from all of the beautiful trees. We have picnicked and brought a football just let Jack entertain himself running around. The Arboretum transforms every season, right now there are thousands of pumpkins and fall entertainment, soon there will be holiday decorations, we just came out of summer, the time to buy tickets to the outside concerts on the lake. All this greatness is just the main garden, not the amazing children’s area. The children’s area is second to none, especially in the summer. There is a fabulous shaded area for kids to play in water, sand and run around. It is so beautiful, never too crowded and the bathrooms for changing kids are SO clean and SO nice. I really can not say enough great things about the place. The only negative is the price. Without a membership this place can add up. Parking alone can cost up to $15 (if you buy online you can get a deal for $8). It was a no brainer for me to buy a family membership, $175 for a one year family plus membership. This is not cheap, but you get a lot: free parking, all family members get free admission, up to 6 guests with every visit, discounted concert tickets and free entrance into the children’s garden (otherwise there is an additional fee). I will renew this membership until I leave Texas.
Flight Museum: If the Arboretum is my favorite outdoor place in Dallas, this is my favorite indoor place. Anyone who follows me on Instagram, knows I spend many days here. There is something about the flight museum that brings me back to my grandparents. It might be because the place is full of very cool WW11 airplanes, or because the volunteers all look like grandparents, but I feel at home when I come here… that might just because it has basically turned into a home! The museum is large, very clean and never too full. When we go, we have a routine. We start in the room with all the airplane memorabilia and huge airplanes/helicopters for viewing, then we head over to the play area which is a kids dream. There are airplanes to climb on, houses to play in, and lots of room to run. This play area has never been too crowded, unless you go on a Saturday afternoon (it is a popular birthday party venue) we go often after school, and sometimes we are the only ones there… fantastic! A family membership is $75 for a year. Which a great deal considering an adult ticket is $10.
Children's Aquarium at Fair Park: Again, this place is not comparable to the type of aquarium I am used to, but I love this place! It is tiny, and has a nice little selection of fish. There is a “Nemo Tank” which Jack loves watching all the “Nemos” swim around. I have never been when it is very crowded; I can let Jack and Nora run from fish tank to fish tank without worrying if I will lose them. I always bring a picnic lunch and sit outside by the water before going home. This is a great outing for needing to kill an hour or two. Membership for each individual adult is $20/year and kids over 3 are $15/year. SUCH a deal considering an adult day ticket is $8!!
Perot Museum: This is band new to me. I felt like we needed something new. I think this will be our Wednesday, after swim lesson venue. The Perot is a full blown, world renowned museum. It is huge; I think 5 levels. It is almost overwhelming to try and do it all in a day, especially with young kids. However, it is very pricey so you feel the pressure to see everything before going home. Parking alone is $8, when you are a member is still $3, but it’s better! An adult ticket is $17 and child over two is $11, so one visit cost us $36, and that was without Dan. I decided it was worth joining for $110/year, especially because the children’s section of the museum is fantastic! There is a well monitored, closed in, very clean 0-5 year old children’s museum that kids can just run free, color, check out lizards, play with water, I mean… its amazing. Having a membership means for me that I can go for an hour to the large museum or children’s area, and not feel like I have any pressure to see it all, and the kids can really take the time to enjoy… and learn!
My suggestions for acquiring memberships are simple. Be sure you love the place, and it isn’t just a one hit wonder; be sure the drive isn’t too far from where you live. Much like a gym, if it is inconvenient you will not go! Lastly, check out if the place you are joining has any deals with other museums. Often a membership at one place will get you in free or discounted at another! Oh, and if you have any friends who are members, ask them to bring you along, many memberships include guest passes. This is a free way to check out the venue before joining!! And, free is always good… right Dan?