True New Yorkers know how to score the best deal on anything; New York parents can be especially savvy about getting the most bang for every buck. One way you and your brood can save big in the city is with Family Memberships — which also happen to make great gifts, whether you’re giving or receiving. Perfect for family visits, one-on-one time with a kid, play dates, or even killing some time between appointments, a family membership to one of the following spots can make your life easier (and cheaper) all year long.

photo: Wildlife Conservation Society

Wildlife Conservation Society

Most kids love animals, but going to the same zoo over and over (no matter how awesome) can get a bit tired — not to mention expensive!  Wildlife Conservation Society has created an easy, convenient, cost-effective way to visit NYC’s five zoos as often as you’d like, for one price: The Family Premium Membership.

For the deluxe package (and the best value) go for the Conservation Supporter level, which gets  two adults, one guest and all your under-18 children free unlimited access to the Central Park Zoo, Bronx Zoo and attractions, such as shows in the zoos’ theaters (with free parking), New York Aquarium (again with free parking), Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo, plus entry into a range of special events. Cost is $370.

The organization’s efficient website even makes it easy for the grandparents to gift you a family membership (hint, hint). Additional perks: early admission to the parks and a discount on Central Park’s wildly popular holiday and summer camps.

Inside tip: If Conservation Supporter is too rich for your blood, consider the Family Zoos and Aquarium level for $270, which gets your admission for two adults and up to four children, or just the zoos for $170.  You can review all of the membership options here—there are many!


photo: Mimi O’Connor

Liberty Science Center 

First off: if you live in or even close to Jersey City, this is the way to go. The massive Liberty Science Center is a fantastic way to spend a rainy day, boiling hot day, snow day, vacation day, etc. (The Infinity Climber alone, pictured above, is a great way to kill good chunk of time.) Its size means there’s plenty to explore, and with rotating exhibits, movies and shows, it’s pretty much never the same place twice. And in the summer, the museum takes it outside for “dino digs” and other sunny-weather activities. You can read our full guide to LSC here!

What you get: Creating a place that rich and robust isn’t cheap, so a single visit can set you back (starting at $19.75 for kids and $23.75 for adults—and that not even with the cost of special exhibits and shows added on.)  A LSC family membership gets all of you you free admission to the Center for a year, plus tons of other goodies. Those include: members-only  events and activities, when you get exclusive access to the museum; free single tickets to LSC shows; discounts on special exhibits, camps, laser shows and film, the Center store and cafe; free visits dates at local museums including the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, The Intrepid, The New York Hall of Science, the Garden State Discovery Museum, and more. Plus: free admission to 340+ science centers and museums worldwide.

Cost: $175 per year, for two adults and four children (other membership levels available for more, or fewer people.)

Closed on Mondays
Tickets: $23.75/adults; $19.75/kids 2 -12
Liberty Science Center
222 Jersey City Blvd.
Liberty State Park

photo: MoMA

The Museum of Modern Art

Note!: MoMA is undergoing a major renovation, and is slated to reopen with much fanfare in October 21, 2019. (There’s even a special MoMA90 membership to go with it.) In the meantime, the museum’s Long Island City location, PS1 is open and full of art and events.

MoMA is a NYC institution, beloved by art aficionados, tourists and yes, city families. That’s because the museum does a brilliant job of making art accessible and interesting to visitors of all ages. Among the many family-friendly programs and events at MoMA are regular Family Gallery Talks, hands-on art workshops, family visit days, family-friendly art films, MoMA Art Labs and a number of apps and websites that allow kids and their grownups interact with the works of art housed at MoMA.

For older kids, the museum offers classes created just for teens. MoMA’s collection of bright, intriguing art is just the kind of stuff kids love to look at, and you will, too. The MoMA does contain a few works of decidedly adult themes. Go to the exhibitions page beforehand so you’ll know what to expect; there may be areas of the museum you want to skip.

Inside Tip:  The museum has also established itself as a place for must-see art events such as Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present and “Rain Room” (a kid-friendly art event if there ever was one), the waits for which often become extremely long. Members get early entry and line-skipping privileges, which you will be so glad you have when you need them most!

Cost: $175 for the Family Level, which is for two adults and all children who live in the same household.

What you get: Free entry to the MoMA and MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, free no-wait entry to the both museums, free entry into family-friendly events, including Family Films, Little Member Mornings and the Family Festival. Plus: members-only early hours, members-only shopping days, discounts at  the MoMA gift store, museum cafes and restaurants, group tours and parking. And, you’ll get a hands-on educational activity guide.

11 W. 53rd St.


photo: Tribeca Performing Arts Center

Tribeca Performing Arts Center

Most NYC parents would love to take their kids to more theater, concerts and ballets—but with many ticket prices averaging the cost of a week’s worth of groceries, the performing arts are, for many, a special-occasion treat. There is an easy way around this: Become a Tribeca PAC 10Club Member and enjoy $14 tickets to the Tribeca Performing Arts Center’s musicals, puppetry, concerts, plays and other events (including their adult offerings) in their downtown theater (which just happens to be the longest operating performance venue in lower Manhattan). Tribeca PAC’s season is busy and diverse, meaning that the theater produces a variety of shows for several age groups and audiences.

Inside tip: Tribeca PAC offers 10% – 25% discounts on a large range of local businesses, from wine stores to parking to restaurants. Take advantage of your membership to save even more cash.

Cost: $140 for the 10Cub Membership, which allows you and the family to enjoy Tribeca PAC’s family series at $14 a ticket, regardless of the ticket-holder’s age.

What you get: Tribeca PAC’s 10Club Membership doesn’t offer a lot of bells and whistles: Just discounted tickets to all shows put on at Tribeca PAC (and before-mentioned discounts at select merchants). But you can see a lot of theater at 14 bucks a pop!

199 Chambers St.


photo: Brooklyn Children’s Museum

Brooklyn Children’s Museum

Fun fact: The Brooklyn Children’s Museum was opened in 1899, making it the world’s first kids’ museum. The institution continues to be a Brooklyn favorite thanks to innovative nature-based exhibits including an aquarium pond, greenhouse, and garden (complete with iguana and hissing cockroaches).

Other fun offerings include the ever-popular sensory room, a block lab, the Totally Tots area with water table and room to roam, World Brooklyn and rotating exhibits. You’ll love the value: Your family membership will also nab you free or discounted visits to more than 250 science centers and 150 children’s museums throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as complimentary visiting days to the Intrepid Museum, New York Hall of Science, Staten Island Children’s Museum, Liberty Science Center and the Transit Museum. How’s that for a deal?

Insider Information: To see what science centers provide reciprocal admission with your Brooklyn Children’s Museum family membership, go here.  To see what children’s museums offer reciprocal admittance for your Brooklyn Children’s Museum membership, go here.  Take note!: if you are a member of the UFT or a NYC teacher or a grandparent who is age 60 or older, you get a 15% discount on your membership!

Cost: $150 for the Family Level, which is for two adults and up to four children who live in the same household.

What you get: Free entry to the museum, discounted additional tickets, express entry on weekends and school holidays, access to members-only events, the option to add additional caregivers and children, reciprocal admission to 250 science centers and 150 children’s museums throughout North America, gift shop and birthday party discounts.

145 Brooklyn Ave.
Crown Heights


photo: Queens Museum

Queens Museum

Brooklyn and Manhattan aren’t the only boroughs with must-have memberships. Case in point: The Queens Museum, located in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which also happens to be in the only surviving building from the 1939 World’s Fair. The museum’s mission is to bring art appreciation to everyone who wants it, regardless of background, income or age. The Queens Museum offers rotating exhibits of local and international art that kids actually are excited to see—think NYC in miniature, architectural installations kids can sit in, sculpture that can be touched and more—plus an array of child-friendly activities, from a teen leadership club and after-school classes to summer camps and autism art programs. The institution also hosts weekend family drop-in times when you can make art with your little ones. For adults, it offers art instruction, as well as film and lecture series. Feel free to bring your stroller: Queens Museum is carriage-friendly.

Inside information: Check out the museum’s news page: Queens Museum is constantly asking for volunteers  (often children are welcome) for fun projects taking place within the museum or on the park grounds nearby. These are a fun way to introduce your little ones to volunteer work.

Cost: Join at the Family $75 level, which covers two adults and all family members (including grandma and grandpa).

What you get: Free admission to the museum (normally $8 for anyone over 12; it’s free for ages under 12 ), 10% discount at the gift shop and café, four free passes to the museum to share with friends, invitations to special events and openings, and a discount on the Queens Museum Summer Camp.

Flushing Meadows Corona Park
718-592 9700


photo: YMCA NY



The YMCA is a NYC classic: Tried and true, it boasts 22 locations throughout the city’s five boroughs. Plus, you know what you get with the Y: a wide range of just-right classes and activities for everyone in the family, including a gym for you (often with on-site childcare so you can bring along the kid), afterschool care, competitive youth sports teams and weekend offerings. The Y also offers holiday and summer camps that coincide with the NYC public school calendar and monthly “Parents Night Out” drop-off evenings. For those not athletically-inclined, dance, craft, cooking, business, and youth leadership classes are available. The upshot: a membership to the Y can be a very smart investment!

While not as inexpensive as some other memberships (there is a one-time “Joiner’s Fee” and monthly payments), the YMCA offers a wide range of membership options that let you choose only what you need (including a special membership designed for the single parent and all his or her children). Each individual branch sets its own prices, so membership fees vary from location to location. Go online to check out each of the branch’s membership fees. If you want to try before you buy, all locations offer free one-day trial passes.

Inside scoop: The Y regularly holds “membership drives”, during which it discounts memberships or waives the “Joiner’s Fee.” Follow YMCA NYC on facebook or Twitter (@ymcanyc) to hear about discounts. Each individual location also holds additional, separate sales as well.

Locations throughout the 5 boroughs
Online: YMCA NYC

— Stephanie Pedersen


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