5 Boston-Area Museums With Big Membership Perks for Families

Photo courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Photo courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
10/23/17 - By Fiona Haley

Let’s be honest: Going to the museum can be an expensive proposition, especially with a whole family. Buying a membership might save you some money if you visit on a regular basis, but it has considerable up-front costs as well. When you’re thinking of making a commitment like that, it’s good to know which museums have special perks for their members. Some offer reciprocal memberships to other museums in the area and beyond, some provide entry to special events, and others give you a discount on food or items for sale in (or even outside) the museum. Whichever you choose, be sure to make the most of your membership (which, by the way, is 100% tax-deductible). Our city has some of the best museums for families in the U.S.!


1. Museum of Science
Who doesn’t love the Museum of Science? Even science-phobes can find something fascinating in this enormous museum. Members get free admission all year, but they also receive Omni and Planetarium passes, as well as guest passes to the exhibit halls. MOS members also receive free or discounted entry to more than 400 science centers and zoos around the world. The Museum offers discounts to the Omni, Planetarium, Butterfly Garden and 4D Theater—potentially the biggest draw to kids these days—in addition to the parking garage, Museum Store and Riverview Café. Members get priority service at the box office, invitations to member events and exhibit previews, and advance registration for lectures and courses.
Basic family membership: $130 annually (for five people per visit)

You'll receive invitations to special parties and exhibit previews when joining the Peabody Essex Museum. Photo courtesy of the museum

2. The Peabody Essex Museum
The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem is a world-class museum of culture and art, much of it interactive, that your whole family will love. Membership to the PEM includes invitations to exhibition previews and receptions, free admissions to monthly evening parties, and gallery talks. Kids receive a special card and giant Atrium cookie on their birthdays. Sponsor-level members also receive reciprocal admission to more than 660 North American and Council for American Maritime Museums. Benefactor-level members receive reciprocal admission to 20 additional museums, including the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum­—which is like having two memberships in one.
Basic family membership: $110 annually

3. Institute of Contemporary Art
Do you appreciate modern art? Kids certainly do, and the Institute of Contemporary Art makes them feel especially welcome. The ICA offers associate members four admission passes as well as an invitation to an exclusive member party and free admission to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The most unusual perk to ICA membership is discounts at more than 10 local establishments in Fort Point, including Sorelle Bakery + Café, Wagamama, and Babbo.
Basic family membership: $95 annually

A membership to the deCordova gains you entry to several local and national museums, too. Photo courtesy of deCordova

4. deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum
Lincoln’s deCordova Museum is a wonderful place for families, with 30 acres of room for kids to run around and check out the sculptures. Members of the deCordova receive a 10% discount to the deCordova Store, which may be the coolest and most extensive museum gift shop in the area, and deCordova Café. They also get discounts to art-making workshops and lectures, tours and other events. Perhaps the most interesting perk to a deCordova membership is its participation in three reciprocal museum programs, allowing members entry to local museums like the Peabody Essex Museum and Discovery Museums, in addition to national museums including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe.
Basic family membership: $95 annually

5. Museum of Fine Art
Finally, we come to the Museum of Fine Art, the granddaddy of all of Boston’s museums. Your family could literally spend days exploring the MFA’s endless galleries of global artwork spanning centuries—which would make a membership worthwhile. Memberships include additional single-use guest passes, as well as free tickets to all member events and discounted tickets for member openings, and discounted member tickets to other events. All members receive a parking discount of 40%, with 15% off at Museum dining venues and 10% discounts at the Bookstore and Shop, both in the store and online.
Basic family membership: $75 annually

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