If you have small children, chances are you often visit your local children’s museum, zoo, or science center. You might even, if your children love all things animal (as children often do), have a zoo membership. We always did when Mackenzie was little- and so did most of our friends.
As the kids get older, most start to steer towards educational and fun opportunities. We love to take the kids out to run and play and enjoy themselves, but (as over-achieving parents often do) we also want them to learn something as they run and play and enjoy themselves. Enter the science museum.
Science museums across the country, and world, work very hard to make their materials fun and relevant to children, entertaining enough to keep everyone’s attention while stimulating enough to keep everyone learning, and hands-on and interactive enough to make the kids want to come back for more. The big, open spaces of most science museums serve to awaken creativity and interest.
But first, you have to get through the front door. Admission fees range from a few dollars to the hundredths for the typical family- and that’s just to get through the front door! With large science centers, several exhibits, and hands-on activities, most families can’t even get through the whole science center before they head home. Often, families find themselves wishing they had more time or just planning to return.
Want to know a secret?
For the price of 2-4 visits to any science center, the whole family can enjoy an annual membership.
Want to know the best part?
You don’t get an annual entrance pass to the local science center- you get an annual entrance pass to ANY science center in the world that participates with the ASTC passport program!
That’s right. If, for example, you live in Baltimore, Maryland you can get an annual membership to the Maryland Science Center for a family of four for $150 USD. This gets your family unlimited admission to the museum and all of the exhibits. Depending on your local science museum, you may also get extra freebies like free planetarium admission, discounts on food, a center newsletter or magazine, and other such benefits. For our family, the best part of buying an annual membership is the added bonus of free admission to 323 other science museums within the United States and 37 science centers in 16 countries around the world! From Canada to Singapore, you can enjoy your science museum addiction at no extra charge with the ASTC passport program.
For traveling families, worldschoolers, homeschoolers, digital nomads, and anyone who just likes to get in their car and drive to the neighboring state, a science museum membership with ASTC participation means access to learning and entertainment in almost any big city they visit. Can you say family friendly?
How does this work?
The ASTC passport program is easy to understand.
First, you do your research and you find a science center that participates with the ASTC passport program. They must participate in the program in order for you to reap the benefits. Make sure you do your due diligence and, be forewarned, not all science centers participate in the ASTC passport program.
Next, you check the benefits and specific details of the science center you found. What does your local science offer with their annual membership? If you have more than one local science center, which one offers the best deal- both in terms of price and perks offered with an annual membership?
Once you have selected a science center and double checked that they participate with the ASTC passport program you are ready to buy the annual membership. Congratulations, you now have access to approximately 360 local and international science centers!
Sound too good to be true? Well… there is a catch. There always is.
What are the limits and restrictions?
There are two main limits, i.e. exclusions, to the ASTC passport program. (I am going to quote them directly from their website)
- “Science centers & museums located within 90 miles* of the science center or museum where you are a member”
- “Science centers & museums located within 90 miles* of your residence”
*This distance is measured “as the crow flies”, meaning that it is based on the linear radius, not driving distance
What this means is that once you buy your local science center annual membership, you can gain access to any participating ASTC passport program science center/museum… except any that are within 90 miles* of the science center where you are now an annual member or any within 90 miles* of your home (as stated on your form of ID/ drivers license).
Remember when you were picking between the two local science centers? This is where that selection becomes increasingly important. Once you buy the annual membership in one, you will not be able to gain free admission to the other (since they are less than 90 miles apart). You will be able to visit the science center where you are now a member, but you will have to pay regular admission fees to the other.
Is it worth it?/ Do you recommend I buy a science museum membership?
YES! A thousand times YES!
We have saved hundreds of dollars, if not more, with our annual membership and the ASTC passport program. Granted, we travel regularly and love to drive to the next state just for fun, but anyone with family or friends or a close by state line can reap some serious benefits with this program.
With names like U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Turtle Bay Exploration Park, SciTech Hands-on Museum, International Museum of Surgical Science, National Museum of Mathematics, National Museum of Nuclear Science & History, and the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, how can you not want to travel and visit these gems?!
The fact is that most families will start saving money with three to five science center visits. Even if you do not leave your home town you can enjoy the annual membership and save money. And if you decide to take that vacation or drive cross-country this summer… you are in for a real treat!
How much does it cost?
There is no extra charge for the ASTC passport program. Once you find a participating science center you simply pay their annual membership dues and your member card will serve as your ASTC passport to all their participating centers/ museums. That’s it! Simple.
Do Not Forget
Do not forget to take your membership cards with you. While you may be able to gain admission into your membership science center without them (since they are likely to have your information in their computer system), but you risk being turned away in any other ASTC passport program participating museum.
Life is hectic, especially with little ones. What I do is take a picture of my membership cards as soon as I receive them and always keep that picture on my phone (if I forget my phone I have bigger problems than forgetting my membership pass). This does not substitute carrying the actual membership cards with you, but I have used this method before and it’s worked (thanks to the great center employees).
It should go without saying that you should also carry your state issued ID (drivers license) as any science center reserves the right to verify your information (name and residence).
Having used this program for several years, I know that you will love the freedom to enjoy all the great science centers your kids, and you, can take.
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