Let’s get real. Kids don’t need a lot of toys. I mean, how many times did you laugh at a birthday party about how the birthday child had more fun playing with the gift wrappings than the actual gift itself? And if you are a neat freak like me, the thought of cramming tons of toys into your house is a bit panic inducing. SO MUCH NEEDLESS CLUTTER. So what do kids actually need? Experiences. Opportunities to move, grow, and learn. How can you gift those to kids? Through memberships to unique and thoughtful places that will inspire their curiosity and creativity in a safe and supported way. So if you are a mom like me who doesn’t want to drown in a sea of toys, check out these meaningful museum memberships for Chicago families.
Price:$95 and up
Perks:Members receive free parking, discounts on items in the café and store, as well as special activities including the Model Train Exhibit (May-October) and Wonderland Express (November-January), as well as a free gift when completing membership registration. The membership is reciprocal along with Cantigny Park and the Morton Arboretum as well.
Why we love it:The Chicago Botanic Garden is a great place to visit, rain or shine, because of its vast exhibits. Warm up in the green houses, run up and down the hills at the Children’s Garden, stroll through the Japanese gardens…the opportunities are endless! Don’t forget to attend the family friendly Wednesday night concert series during the summer when kids can have their own little Ravinia concert on the beautiful promenade. Click here to read my review of the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Price:$130 and up
Perks:The museum has special “members only” time every day, as well as some special “members only” events throughout the year. When you upgrade to PlayKCMPlus membership, you can play at five other local children’s museums for free, including the DuPage Children’s Museum and Wonder Works Children’s Museum. Your membership also includes guest passes so you can meet friends for a play date without paying an additional fee.
Why we love it: There is so much to do and explore at the Kohl Children’s Museum, from the art room, to the playground, water area…and don’t forget the rotating top notch exhibits (currently there is a petting zoo at the museum as part of their “Animal Secrets” exhibit). When you have a membership, you can really focus on 2-3 activities and then go home for a nap or lunch. No need to rush through anything so you can really explore the ins and outs of the exhibits without feeling rushed. Click here to read my review of the Kohl Children’s Museum.
Price: $117 and up
Perks: The basic membership includes parking and zoo admission, as well as some guest admission tickets. But when you choose to upgrade to other memberships, you are able to bring free guests, visit attractions at no cost, and many other perks including special members only events. We especially love our membership because we can use it to score discounted tickets on popular events such as breakfasts and brunch with Santa. I recommend the Family Unlimited Membership for free access to the Hamill Family Play Zoo and dolphin shows, two of our boys’ favorite things.
Why we love it: There is so much to see and do at the Brookfield Zoo. From traditional exhibits like the lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) to the animal encounters, numerous parks, educational shows, and splash pads…there is TONS to see and enjoy. The zoo is also open 365 days a year so you can always take a trek to Brookfield, even when the weather is nasty, and warm up at the Hamill Family Play Zoo or by watching the adorable monkeys climb from tree to tree. Insider tip: Attend the members only “Brunch with Santa” and then wait an hour or so for Zoo Lights to begin. You won’t have to fight the lines in the parking lot and can instead simply enjoy the holiday magic. Click here to read my tips for making the most out of your trip to the Brookfield Zoo.
Looking for other amazing gift ideas? I’ve got you covered!