The Go-To Guide: Family Memberships to Local Attractions

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Editor’s note: For the most up-to-date version of this list, go tocolumbusparent/familyattractions.

Central Ohioans are lucky to have a variety of top-notch attractions right in their backyards.

Families who visit these facilities often enough may be able to save money by purchasing a membership. Often, being a member comes with other perks, such as discounts on parking food, merchandise and more.

Another advantage is a little-known benefit called reciprocal privileges. Basically, being a member of certain organizations can get you free or discounted admission at similar facilities around the region—or the country. Generally, you need to present your membership card as well as a photo ID at the partner institution.

We've compiled information on membership and reciprocal privileges for nine of the most popular family attractions in Central Ohio. Note that costs and reciprocity details change frequently, so it's wise to call ahead to verify policies and current details before making a trip. Also included are calculations of the number of visits a family of four (two adults and two school-age children) would need to make to each venue for a family membership to pay off.


Address: 315 S. Broad St., Lancaster 43130

Membership cost:A family or grandparent membership is $85 and includes one or two parents or grandparents as well as all children, stepchildren and foster children in the immediate family who are younger than 18. Additional family members are $12. For more information, go

Reciprocity details: AHA! members get $1 off each admission to The Works in Newark.

Payoff threshold: Four visits


Address: 480 E. Broad St., Columbus 43215

Membership cost: A household membership, which does not provide reciprocity, is $75; a reciprocal membership is $120. Both provide free admission for two named adults and all children younger than 18. For more information, go

Reciprocity details: CMA participates in the North American Reciprocal Museum Association, which includes 880 museums of various types. Local participants include the Ohio Craft Museum, the Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center of Worthington, the Wexner Center for the Arts and The Works.

Other notable NARM institutions include:Cincinnati Art Museum, Cleveland Museum of Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, The Frick Collection (New York City), National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Cincinnati), The Phillips Collection (Washington, D.C.), Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Cleveland) and Philadelphia's Magic Gardens.For more information, go

Payoff threshold: Two visits for a household membership and four visits for a reciprocal membership


Address: 4850 Powell Road, Powell 43065

Membership cost: The fee varies based on residency. It's $99 per family for Franklin County residents, $119 for all others. This includes two named adults in the same household plus either dependent children or grandchildren (not both) up to age 21. It also provides free parking as well as discounts on membership to The Wilds and season passes to Zoombezi Bay. For more information, go

Reciprocity details: Free or reduced admission to more than 150 facilities in the U.S. and Canada accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Most offer a 50 percent discount, matching what the Columbus Zoo offers members of other AZA zoos. Reciprocal institutions in Ohio are: African Safari Wildlife Park (Port Clinton), Akron Zoo, Boonshoft Museum of Discovery (Dayton), Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Toledo Zoo & Aquarium and The Wilds.

Other AZA members include: Buffalo Zoo, Detroit Zoo, the Good Zoo (at Oglebay in Wheeling, West Virginia), Lincoln Park Zoo (Chicago), Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens, the National Aviary (Pittsburgh), Nashville Zoo, Philadelphia Zoo, Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo and Zoo Miami. For more information, go

Payoff threshold: Two visits, regardless of residency


Address:333 W. Broad St., Columbus 43215

Membership cost: The fee of $119 for a basic family or grandparent family membership covers two named adults and dependent children or grandchildren, ages 18 and younger.For more information, go

Reciprocity details: COSI participates in the Travel Passport Program, which provides free or discounted general admission at more than 300 Association of Science-Technology Centers venues (excluding additional charges for special exhibits, planetariums or large-screen theaters).

Note that the privilege excludes any institution within 90 miles of either COSI or a member's residence. In Ohio, this rules out the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery (Dayton), SPI-Spot (Mount Vernon) and The Works (Newark), but these museums offer each other's members a 50 percent discount.

Ohio institutions where COSI members get free admission include Cincinnati Museum Center, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Great Lakes Science Center(Cleveland) and Imagination Station (Toledo).

Notable out-of-state ASTC museums include:The Adler Planetarium (Chicago), Adventure Science Center (Nashville), Buffalo Museum of Science, Carnegie Science Center (Pittsburgh), Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, The Field Museum (Chicago), The Franklin Institute (Philadelphia), Kentucky Science Center (Louisville), Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago) and Ontario Science Centre (Toronto). For more information, go to

Payoff threshold: Two visits


Address:1777 E. Broad St., Columbus 43203

Membership cost: A family membership, $90, includes two named adults (parents or grandparents) and children or grandchildren in the household who are younger than 18. For more information, go

Reciprocity details: The FPC is part of the American Horticultural Society, so membership provides reciprocal benefits at about 300 facilities, including: the Chicago Botanic Garden, Garfield Park Conservatory (Chicago), Hershey Gardens (Pennsylvania), the National Aviary (Pittsburgh) and the West Virginia Botanic Garden (Morgantown). Gardens within 90 miles of Franklin Park may not provide full reciprocity. For more information, go

Another reciprocal perk is the Green Thumb program, which last year provided discounts atDeMonye's Greenhouse Inc., Dill's Greenouse, Fisher's Gardens, GreenScapes Landscape Co., Oakland Nursery, Scioto Gardens, Seely's Landscape Nursery and the Westerville location of Wild Birds Unlimited.

Payoff threshold: Three visits


Address: 867 Mount Vernon Ave., Columbus 43203

Membership cost: A family membership is $60 and covers two adults and all children younger than 18 living in the same household. For more information, go

Reciprocity details: The King Arts Complex does not participate in any national-level reciprocity programs, but has participated in the Columbus Member Advantage program, which provides buy-one-get-one-free admission to members of participating institutions. See the sidebar for more information.

Payoff threshold: Varies. Membership covers gallery exhibition, one free performance ticket and discounts on tickets, the cost of which varies by event.


Address: Ohio History Center, 800 E. 17th Ave., Columbus 43211

Membership cost:A basic family membership, $55, includes two adults and all children or grandchildren 18 and younger in the immediate family. For more information, go

Reciprocity details: The Ohio History Connection organization includes more than 50 facilities across the state. Free admission to all of them is included with family membership. The OHC also participates in the Time Travelers program, which provides discounted or free admission to places such as: Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, Illinois), Campus Martius Museum of the Northwest Territory (Marietta), Cincinnati History Museum at the Cincinnati Museum Center, The Hershey Story: The Museum on Chocolate Avenue (Pennsylvania), Historic Zoar Village (Zoar). For more information, go

Payoff threshold: Two visits


Address: 1871 N. High St., Columbus 43210

Membership cost: A household membership, which includes free gallery admission, is $150. This level of membership provides two free film/video passes and reciprocal benefits. For more information, go

Reciprocity details: Like the Columbus Museum of Art, The Wexner Center participates in the North American Reciprocal Museum Association, as well as the Modern and Contemporary Reciprocal Membership program, the Museum Alliance Reciprocal Membership program and the Ohio Museum Reciprocal Membership program.

Payoff threshold: Varies. The Wex always offers free admission to its galleries and discounted program tickets for students (with ID) and anyone younger than 18.


Address: 55 S. First St., Newark 43055

Membership cost: A family membership, $80, covers two adults plus all children in the same household or all grandchildren under the age of 18. For more information, go

Reciprocity details: The Works participates in reciprocity programs with the Association of Science-Technology Centers, the Smithsonian Affiliate Reciprocal Membership Program and the Time Travelers program. Though the ASTC limits reciprocity if a member lives within 90 miles of another program, COSI gives The Works members 50 percent off admission for two adults and up to four children under 18 years of age in the same household, or two grandparents and up to four grandchildren. For more information,go,

Payoff threshold: Three visits

Local Partners

In recent years, a program called Columbus Member Advantage has provided some reciprocal benefits for members of local institutions. (It had not been renewed for 2017 as of mid-January.)

Last year, the Columbus Museum of Art, COSI, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, the King Arts Complex, Ohio History Center and Ohio Village, and the Wexner Center for the Arts participated, extending buy-one-get-one-free admission to each other's members. Some limit dates when the BOGO offer is available. For more information, check each institution's website.