Museum visits and family attractions can be a great way to fill a weekend, but they can quickly empty your wallet, so deciding to become a member or getting an annual pass requires a little self reflection — and math.
"People are loathe to do the math," said Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, family vacation expert at Travelwithkids.about.com. "I see people all the time who sort of panic, and they pull the trigger and buy the most expensive pass and every bell and whistle. The trick is to buy what you need, but not more than you'll use."
We tend to think of buying museum memberships as acts of benevolence. At the more expensive upper-category levels of membership, that's true. In most cases, though, you are the one who receives the greatest benefit.
And when it comes to theme parks, the dirty secret of the industry is that single-day tickets are for suckers. When you are looking at $100 a ticket to get into a theme park, it's tough to swallow an even higher price, but a two- or three-day pass brings your daily cost down to less than $40 a day, far less than the cost of most concerts or plays.
Many annual passes and museum memberships pay for themselves after two visits, not to mention the perks ranging from early admission to food or gift shop discounts to the creme de la creme: reciprocity to other museums, especially nationwide, which helps vacation planning. We'll give you the numbers for individual and family admissions so you can see the math yourself.
1 Dalí Blvd. (Bayshore Drive at Fifth Avenue SE), St. Petersburg; thedali.org
Admission $24, $22 seniors/military/police/firefighters/educators with ID, $17 youths 13-17 and students 18+ with ID, $10 kids 6-12, free for 5 and younger
Membership $60 individual, $100 family
Perks Free parking as available (nonmembers pay $10); $2 admission discount for member's guests.
John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota; ringling.org
Admission $25, $23 seniors, $10 active military, $5 youths 6-17 and students 18+ with ID, free for 5 and younger
Membership $75 individual, $125 family
Perks $10 for Ca d'Zan Private Places tour, a 50 percent discount; one member-for-a-day pass for a guest.
Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg
255 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg; fine-arts.org
Admission $17, $15 seniors and military, $10 youths 7-18 and college students, free for 6 and younger
Membership $60 adults, $115 family
Perks Admission to Southeastern reciprocal museums; use of the museum's art reference library.
Tampa Museum of Art
120 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa; tampamuseum.org
Admission $15, $7.50 seniors and active military, $5 youths, free for 6 and younger
Membership $50 individual, $80 family
Perks Admission to North American reciprocal museums; discounts on classes.
Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art
600 Klosterman Road, Tarpon Springs (on St. Petersburg College campus); leeparattner.com
Admission $6, free for youths, students with ID and active military
Perks Admission to Southeastern reciprocal museums; invitations to cultural travel opportunities.
3605 Bougainvillea Ave., Tampa; buschgardens.com
Admission $97, $92 for ages 3-9
Annual pass $97-$156
Perks Fun Card is admission for the calendar year for $97, a no-brainer at the same price as a single-day ticket. Annual pass ($156) valid 12 months from date of purchase, gets free parking (normally $18) and dining and shopping discounts.
Lowry Park Zoo
1101 W Sligh Ave., Tampa; lowryparkzoo.org
Admission $27.95, $25.95 seniors, $20.95 ages 3-11, 2 and younger free
Membership $70-$170 for family with four children.
Perks Free or discounted admission to more than 150 zoos and aquariums nationwide. Free admission to MOSI and the Florida Aquarium during September.
701 Channelside Drive, Tampa; flaquarium.org
Admission $23.95, $20.95 seniors, $18.95 ages 3-12, 2 and younger free
Membership $60 to $180 for family of eight people
Perks Discounts at more than 150 zoos and aquariums. Free admission in September to MOSI and Lowry Park Zoo.
Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI)
4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa; mosi.org
Admission $22.95, $20.95 seniors, $18.95 ages 3-12, 2 and younger free
Perks Access to more than 450 institutions nationwide. Discounts at 21 local attractions including the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the Tampa Museum of Art. Free admission to Lowry Park Zoo and Florida Aquarium in September.
249 Windward Passage, Clearwater; seewinter.com
Admission $21.95, $19.95 ages 60 and older, $16.95 ages 3-12, 2 and younger free
Membership $50-$99 for a family of four
Perks Discounts on boat tours and birthday parties. Discounted admission to more than 20 zoos and attractions, many of them local.
Glazer Children's Museum
110 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa; glazermuseum.org
Admission $15, $12.50 military/seniors, $9.50 children, under 1 free
Perks Member Mornings access 10 a.m.- 1 p.m. the first Sunday of the month.
Great Explorations Children's Museum
1925 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg; greatex.org
Admission $10, $9 seniors, 1 and younger free
Perks Free admission to a dozen Florida children's attractions; premium members get hundreds of others.