Summer Memberships for Families: Pools, Beach Clubs, Museums, and Zoo Memberships Worth Buying
Summer memberships come in handy as the costs to entertain kids over the next couple months really start to add up. If your kids develop a deep devotion to the Bronx Zoo, like ours did, a single visit can cost almost as much as your electric bill. And, for us, that's where purchasing a zoo membership came into focus.
A family membership can also help make other favorite summertime destinations more affordable: botanic gardens, museums, and—naturally—pools and beach clubs. While the city's outdoor pools don't require summer memberships, they do get crowded, so we've rounded up some other options for family-friendly memberships, including pool memberships, zoo memberships, and more spots for summer fun indoors and out. No matter your family's interest, take note: While the initial investment of a family summer membership can be pricey, do the math and consider how frequently you'll visit. You're likely to find that these family membership deals are worth the splurge. Looking for a family membership for the cool weather months? Check out these family memberships worth buying for winter.
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Pools and Beach Clubs Offering Summer Memberships
They're not cheap, but for dedicated swimmers and sun-worshippers, these summer memberships could be just the thing to keep your little people busy and happy this summer.
1. Manhattan Park Pool Club – Roosevelt Island
If you're looking for a cool pool, this one can't be beat. A summer membership here grants your family stunning views of Manhattan and daily hours that run until 7:45pm. Bonus fun: The tram ride to Roosevelt Island is an adventure in itself.
Drop-in price: $35-55 for Roosevelt Island residents; $45-70 for nonresidents. Children under 1 are FREE.
Membership: Full season family membership (two adults, two children): $880 for Roosevelt Island residents (add $150 for each additional child); $1,210 for nonresidents. Monthly: $668 for Roosevelt Island residents; $990 for nonresidents.
Payoff: Even if you sign up for July and August, going with a full season summer membership is more cost-effective than the monthly route. A family of four breaks even after five weekday visits, and even sooner if you want to go on the weekends.
2. Breezy Point Beach Club – Breezy Point, Queens
In addition to Breezy Point's Olympic-sized pool (complete with water slides), this beach club has a kiddie pool with a pirate ship, access to tennis courts, wi-fi, and evening entertainment.
Drop-in price: Adults $45; Children $35 (kids under 2 are FREE), plus accommodations.
Membership: Season passes are $550 for kids ages 3-17; $650 for adults.
Payoff: Depending on your family's size and proximity to Breezy Point, the deciding factor will also have to include how frequently you think you'll visit. Bear in mind, though, that daily passes can only be purchased for three visits a season/person. A single visit for a family of four who rents a bath cabin costs $205. The same family would have to visit 15 times to make a season-long membership pay for itself.
3. Sea Gate Beach Club – Sea Gate, Brooklyn
Sea Gate's perks include an Olympic-sized pool, theme nights, daily kids' activities, and full food and drink service.
Drop-in price: The club is for members only; no drop-ins are allowed.
Membership: Family memberships start at $1,799 for a family of three. Children under 3 are free. Membership is transferable to nannies and caretakers on days parents cannot visit.
Payoff: You'll have to visit frequently—or send the kids and nanny—to make this a worthy investment. If you're there daily for a month, the cost is roughly $20 per person per visit.
Recreation Centers Offering Summer and Year-Round Memberships
Rainy day? Too crazy hot to contemplate time in the great outdoors? A rec center membership can be a great solution for those times when the kids are stir crazy and you need to get out—but not outside.
4. New York City Recreation Centers – Citywide
Though not exactly play spaces, the Parks Department's indoor rec centers are great places to romp around. They're cheaper than a gym and totally kid-friendly. While facilities and activities vary by location, most offer indoor ball courts, dance and art studios, computer rooms, fitness equipment, and even pools.
Drop-in price: These are members-only facilities.
Membership: $100-150 for adults ages 25-61 annually; $25 for ages 61+; FREE for everyone ages 24 and younger
Payoff: The rec centers vary in quality, so it's important to check your local spot out before joining. An annual membership grants you access to all city rec centers. Opt for the $150 level if you want access to indoor pools. You can snag a six-month membership for half price, and kids are always FREE. Another bonus: An IDNYC saves you 10 percent, too.
5. YMCAs – Citywide
YMCAs also vary widely, but they do offer respite in all five boroughs and include camp programs for summer vacation and school breaks. Most have pools, too.
Drop-in price: Varies with program; signing up for summer camp without membership, for example, costs $75 more per week than a member would pay.
Membership: $70-128/month and up for Family 1 (one adult and all kids in the family under 18). Higher-priced memberships provide access to all YMCA locations across five boroughs.
Payoff: It's important to check your local spot out before joining. Since membership is on a monthly basis, it is possible to duck in and out of membership as the need arises. Overall, if you have young kids who like sports, crafts, or who need after-school or camp programs, the YMCA is a pretty good bargain for members.
6. Marlene Meyerson JCC – Upper West Side
The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan offers more than 1,200 programs every season, and its beautiful 14-story complex has ample room for families to learn, play, and connect. Membership packages and rates are specific to individual adults; families of two, three, and more; as well as seniors, students, teens, and young adults. Short-term memberships and monthly options are also available. Membership is pricey.
Drop-in price: These are members-only facilities.
Membership: It's best to connect directly with the JCC to take advantage of seasonal promotions and make sure your membership is tailored to your family's needs.
Payoff: The JCC has great programs for kids and families and two pools (with floor-to-ceiling windows). If you live on the Upper West Side and are likely to use it frequently, this is probably a great fit.
Roar like a dinosaur at the American Museum of Natural History. Photo by Jody Mercier
Museums with Reasonable Summer Memberships for Families
Before we discuss museum memberships, we want to mention the Association of Science-Technology Centers' Passport Program, which potentially gets you no-cost admission to hundreds of museums around the world. Many NYC museums take part, which means a membership at one may get you FREE general admission at others. The Brooklyn Children's Museum, New York Transit Museum, New York Hall of Science, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, MoMath, and the Staten Island Children's Museum are all part of the ASTC Passport Program. However, rules vary by institution and some distance requirements apply, so be sure to inquire about the restrictions on the ASTC Passport Program before purchasing a membership. There are also discount benefits to NYC institutions that come with the IDNYC card.
7. American Museum of Natural History – Upper West Side
Sure, it's always mobbed with families but with great reason. The American Museum of Natural History is a world-class museum with countless enriching exhibits and attractions, namely dinosaurs(!) and plenty of hands-on fun.
General Admission: $23 for adults, $13 for children ages 2-12 with additional fees for special exhibits; tri-state area residents can take advantage of pay-what-you-wish admission, however.
Membership: The $150 Family Membership gets you free general admission and special-exhibit tickets for a year for two adults and four kids.
Payoff: Since general admission is only suggested, it's hard to say exactly how much you save as a member. However, special-exhibit tickets are sold at a set rate (and chances are you want to see them), so a family of four must visit just twice a year to make it worthwhile.
8. Brooklyn Children’s Museum – Crown Heights, Brooklyn
A major family favorite, this hands-on tot spot features interactive stations for a range of ages, from the preschoolers-only Totally Tots area to the vibrant World Brooklyn exhibit, featuring replicas of well-known local businesses.
Admission: $13 per person for ages 1 and older.
Membership: There are a variety of family memberships with different benefits. Sightseer membership is a steal at just $100/year and covers one adult and one child. The Explorer Membership is $175 and gets you free general admission for a year for two adults and four kids. Opt for the higher-level Traveler Membership for $250 and take advantage of reciprocal admission to 200+ children's museums, as well as discounts at local businesses.
Payoff: A family of four must visit four times a year to make the Explorer Membership worthwhile; five times to pay for the Traveler Membership.
9. Children’s Museum of Manhattan – Upper West Side
Always abuzz with activity, this children’s museum offers five floors of exploration, including the PlayWorks level, featuring a pretend fire truck, grocery store, art area, sand table, and play structure. The outdoor water table is a major bonus during the summer season.
Admission: $16 for ages 1 and older.
Membership: There are a variety of family memberships with different benefits. However, if you select the annual Family Membership, $275 gets you free admission for a year for two adults and four kids. A Mini Membership sets you back just $110 and lasts three months, with the option to apply the fee toward a full-year membership following its conclusion.
Payoff: A family of four must visit five times a year to make the Family Membership worthwhile or twice during the summer to make a Mini Membership a worthy addition to your summer plans.
10. New York Hall of Science – Corona, Queens
After suffering from hurricane-relating flooding, the New York Hall of Science is in recovery mode, with an exhibit dedicated to teaching kids how to manage feelings, The Happiness Experiment, as well as the recent reopening of the Rocket Park Mini-Golf course. The museum is currently only open on weekends for nonmembers.
Admission: $14 for adults and $11 for children, students, and seniors.
Membership: The Family Pass is $100 and offers free family admission for two adults and up to four children, free parking, and a discount on extras like the 3D theater and Rocket Park Mini Golf. Spend a little more, $150, for the Family Premium option and you'll also have unlimited access to the mini golf. Another membership perk? Afternoon hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays are members-only.
Payoff: A Family Pass pays for itself in two visits; a Family Premium in three.
11. Staten Island Children’s Museum – Richmond Terrace, Staten Island
Part of the historic Snug Harbor Cultural Center, this children’s museum offers plenty of hands-on fun, including a bug room, life-sized game pieces, and various imaginative play stations.
Admission: $8 for ages 1 and older.
Membership: $85 for an annual Family Membership covers two adults and three children. A Family Plus Membership also covers five people for $125/year and includes four guest passes and discounts at other ACM museums.
Payoff: A family of four must visit three times a year to make a Family Membership worthwhile; four times for the Family Plus Membership. Although the museum is part of the ASTC Passport Program, no-cost admission isn't offered at museums within 90 miles.
There's more to the Bronx Zoo membership than world-class animal exhibits and encounters. Photo by Jody Mercier
Zoo Memberships for Summer Outings in NYC
12. Wildlife Conservation Society – Citywide
A WCS membership grants you access to four zoos (the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, and Queens Zoo) plus the New York Aquarium for one year.
Admission: From $6.95-31.95 for children; $9.95-41.95 for adults, depending on location.
Membership: A basic family membership is $225 and covers two adults and up to four children for one year. A $225 Family Zoos Plus Membership covers admission to the four zoos, plus access to special exhibits at the Bronx Zoo. Add on $95 for a Family Land and Sea Membership, which includes year-long entrance to the NY Aquarium.
Payoff: Visit the Bronx Zoo three times a year, and you've covered the cost of your Family Land and Sea Membership. Visits to all the other zoos and the aquarium are just icing on the cake.
13. Staten Island Zoo – West Brighton, Staten Island
Staten Island's zoo is most famous for its resident groundhog, whose predictions regarding winter/spring were more accurate than some of its competitors, and for its serpentarium, which has been home to as many as 32 species of rattlesnakes. While the Staten Island Zoo doesn't have all the wow factors of the Bronx Zoo, it does have a carousel and plenty of critters.
Admission: Adults pay $10; children (3-14) pay $6.
Membership: A Family Membership covers two adults and five children and costs $100/year.
Payoff: Visit the zoo three times as a family of four and you're already saving money.
New York Botanical Garden Family Membership is a steal in NYC. Photo courtesy of NYBG
Summer Memberships at NYC's Botanical Gardens
14. New York Botanical Garden – Bronx Park, the Bronx
One of the city's true oases, the NYBG is a magical place to let off a little summer steam. The children's garden is always hopping, often with musical performances or story times. In addition to the daily dose of fresh air and beauty (and tram rides), the NYBG's magnificant annual train show in December makes annual membership a real deal.
Admission: Adults $30; Children $15 (NYC residents can get a grounds-only pass for $15/adults, $4/children under 12).
Membership: Family memberships start at $145. Membership includes parking passes, members-only previews, discounts on education programs, and more.
Payoff: A Family Membership pays for itself in two visits for a family of four.
15. Brooklyn Botanic Garden – Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
Little ones with green thumbs have ample opportunity to do a little gardening and dig in the dirt at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which also hosts a special Members Night for children in August.
Admission: Adults $18; children ages 12+ $12; Children (under 12) FREE.
Membership: A Dual Membership is $100/year and includes admission for two adults and children ages 17 and under for a year, plus extras like guest passes, parking passes, and discounted special event tickets.
Payoff: A family of four, with two children over age 12, pays for its membership in two visits.
16. Queens Botanical Garden – Flushing, Queens
The Queens Botanical Garden hosts popular summer movie nights complete with popcorn and other goodies, and the children's programs are a great way to introduce little ones to the natural world.
Admission: Adults $6; Children (4-12) $2.
Membership: Family membership is $85/year and includes admission for two adults and all children in the household. Members get discounts on Children's Gardens programs, and membership is 100% tax-deductible.
Payoff: Because daily admission is so reasonable, you'll have to visit six times to make this membership worth it for a family of four. In the winter, admission to the garden is FREE for all, but if you want to support this lovely oasis and make good use of the summer programs, it's a great buy.