We have a family of 4, and admissions to a museum or park can start adding up. Our boys have always loved science, so we got in to the habit of buying a household or family membership to the Science Museum of Minnesota, because the cost of 4 admissions to the museum and 4 Omni Theatre tickets added up to almost the price of the yearly pass. This has opened the door for us to explore other fun museums and park memberships. Now we like to plan our weekends around the locations that are available to us on our passes.
Most of these are not that expensive, and there are many additional discounts available for military families (often free), teachers, people with disabilities and others, check the specific websites to find out more. All of these are also available as a one time admission, so no need to buy the annual pass if you don’t think you will use it often enough. Membership supports a great cause, keep these locations affordable for everybody, and are often tax deductible.
Here are our top 5 Twin Cities and MN Annual Passes for Family Fun all year round!:
Located downtown St Paul on the banks of the Mississippi River, the Science Museum of Minnesota has over 70,000 feet of exhibition space and an Omni Theatre. Many exhibits are tailored to younger kids, and there are a lot of hands-on interactive displays. “The Mummy” has been there since I was a kid, and the dinosaur exhibit has always been a favorite of my boys.
Membership ranges from $89.00 for a dual membership and $139 for a household membership. There are other levels and discounts as well. Benefits include admission to the museum, discounts on special exhibitions, free Omni theatre admission each visits, discounts at the store, and a discounted parking rate – usually $5.00, which is nice when there is an event at the Xcel Energy Center and parking prices go up.
The best part for us of the membership is the ASTC Travel Passport program, which gives you free or discounted admission to museums all over the country. For example, on a recent trip to Chicago, we were able to visit the Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Science and Industry all included on our Science Museum Membership, saving us a lot of money on our trip.
Just visiting the Science Museum a couple of times a year makes the price of the membership well worth it.
This was another membership we kind of came upon by accident. We went to the Beatles Exhibit at the Minnesota History Center, downtown St Paul, and have been members ever since. The History Center has all kinds of great exhibits and events, including outdoor concerts. This is also where the Gale Family Library is located. If you are looking to research your family history, this is an amazingly accessible place. I once found pages from my great grandfathers diary at this library!
Basic annual membership runs from $50.00 basic single -$99.00 Household Plus
In addition to the History center and the benefits there, membership to the Minnesota Historical Society gives you admission to all 26 historic sites in Minnesota, which include the Oliver Kelley Farm, Fort Snelling, the Mill City Museum (see my review here), the Split Rock Lighthouse and of course the Minnesota History Center.
You also have membership to Time Travelers which gives you free or reduced admission to Historical sites around the country. Check the website before you travel so you can make plans accordingly!
The Minnesota State Parks annual permit gives you access to 75 state parks and recreation areas across Minnesota.
For an annual cost of only $35 per vehicle, this is one of the most inexpensive ways to enjoy the outdoors. There is so much to do at these parks, camping, fishing, geocaching, that it would be impossible for me to go into all of it here. One of our favorite parks is Interstate Park at Taylors Falls, near the Wisconsin border. Father Hennepin State Parks on Lake Mille Lacs is also a favorite day trip or camping trip, with its huge sandy beach and deer that are unafraid of visitors! See some of our trips here!
Some of the parks close to the Twin Cities would be Fort Snelling State Park, Afton State Park, Minnesota Valley State Trail, Lake Maria State Park, William O’Brien State Park and Interstate Park.
4. Minnesota Zoo and Como Zoo
While we personally do not have a membership here – the Minnesota Zoo offers annual memberships ranging from $59.00 individual and $159 Household.
Membership includes free admission and parking, store discounts, and half price admission to more than 100 zoos across the country
Como Zoo in St Paul is one of the treasures of the Twin Cities, and while admission is only suggested, buying a Como Zoo membership helps to keep it affordable, and also gives you free or reduced admission to over 400 zoos and botanical gardens nationwide.
Basic membership costs range from $55.00 individual to $100.00 household. There are additional membership options that increase in price from there.
Both zoo’s are open year round, and have a nice mix of indoor and outdoor exhibits which is perfect for a winter or summer visit.
There are only six National Park locations in Minnesota, the most famous being Voyageur National Park, but if you like to take road trips, a National Park Annual Pass gives you access to over 2,000 sites across the country, including Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, Death Valley National Park, Devils Tower National Monument, Zion National Park, Dinosaur National Monument, the list goes on and on, pretty much anywhere you go in the US, you can enjoy this pass.
This also covers many sites in Washington DC, including the National Mall and Lincoln Memorial and while you can see many of the sites without a pass, entry to many of the sites will be included with the pass. I could write an entire blog about Washington DC and all of the Museums along the Mall – a wonderful family friendly trip.
An annual pass is $80 per car load where per car fees are charged, and pass holder + up to 3 people where per person admission is charged. Because my husband is over 62, we were able to purchase a Lifetime Senior Pass for only $10!
There is a National Park location right in the lobby of the Science Museum of Minnesota, so you can purchase your pass right there while you are visiting the museum!
So if you purchased all of these passes, they would give you access to over 2700 sites around the country for less than $500 per year for a family of 4! Quite a deal!