If you are a member of a science-loving family living in San Antonio, then you probably have memberships to several local science centers and children’s museums. In addition to the familiar membership benefits like free admission and access to members-only events, are you taking full advantage of museum reciprocity benefits to visit other children’s museums and science centers across Texas and the United States? This blog post helps you sort out which museum reciprocal admission networks you can unlock using your memberships to children’s museums and science museums in the San Antonio area. In separate posts, we also have guides to reciprocity benefits for art museums, history museums, and [zoos, aquariums, and gardens––coming soon].
Science Museums and Children’s Museums in San Antonio with Membership Programs
Science museums and children’s museums are a great resource for helping your children grow their curiosity about how the world works. We are all born to experiment and tinker, and these practices help us understand the world around us. Enjoying children’s museums and science museums as a family is a fun way to spend time together and build a foundation for a lifetime of learning. Homeschoolers know this, and many of them spend lots of time taking advantage of what museums have to offer. Those of us with children in public or private schools can visit museums for enrichment.
Hopefully, your children are getting a solid foundation in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) at school, but visits to science museums and children’s museums provide access to materials beyond what teachers can provide in the classroom. Field trips are wonderful, but schools have limited resources and instructional time to dedicate to activities outside the classroom. Being present as a parent to spark and guide conversations with my children, including discussions of difficult topics, is an important role for me.
How do you make access to museums more affordable, especially if you are a frequent visitor? Joining museum membership programs gives you access to free admission at those museums, as well as benefits like members-only hours, member-exclusive events, and discounts on museum store merchandise and camps. In San Antonio, these museums have membership programs:
Reciprocal Admission Networks for Children’s Museums and Science Museums
Have you ever used your membership at a San Antonio-area children’s museum or science museum to get free admission at a museum in another city? Reciprocal museum admission programs let you do that in cities all over Texas and the United States. Museums have banded together to share membership benefits with members of other museums. These reciprocal benefits enhance the value of museum memberships at a low up-front cost, and help museums build a loyal base of supporters.
Here are some examples of reciprocal admission networks, as well as which San Antonio museums participate in them and which membership levels include reciprocal benefits.
- ACM: The Association of Children’s Museums maintains a list of participating institutions. In San Antonio, DoSeum Premier Family members (starting at $105) receive ACM benefits.
- ASTC: The Association of Science and Technology Centers offers reciprocal admission benefits through its Passport program; here is a list of participating locations. In San Antonio, DoSeum Premier Family members (starting at $105) and Witte Museum Family members (starting at $90 for Senior Family members) receive ASTC benefits.
- Smithsonian Affiliate: The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. has relationships with affiliate museums and maintains a directory. In San Antonio, Witte Museum members (starting at $50) receive Smithsonian Affiliate benefits. (The Institute of Texan Cultures is also a Smithsonian Affiliate; learn more in the history museum post.)
Use Your DoSeum and Witte Museum Memberships for Free or Discounted Visits to These Texas Museums
So, look at the cards in your wallet—or go sign up for some new memberships—and see which children’s museums and science centers around Texas you can access with reciprocal benefits. These places are listed in alphabetical order by name, including the city if it’s not already obvious, and mentions which reciprocal networks they participate in.
- Children’s Discovery Museum of the Golden Crescent, Victoria: ACM
- Children’s Museum of Brownsville: ACM
- Children’s Museum of Houston: ASTC
- Children’s Museum of the Brazos Valley, Bryan: ACM
- Don Harrington Discovery Center, Amarillo: ACM, ASTC
- Fort Worth Museum of Science and History: ACM, ASTC, Smithsonian Affiliate
- Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary, McKinney: ASTC
- International Museum of Art and Science, McAllen: ASTC; Smithsonian Affiliate
- Mayborn Museum Complex, Waco: ACM
- Mayborn Science Theater, Killeen: ASTC
- McDonald Observatory—Frank N. Bash Visitors Center, Fort Davis: ASTC (also NARM—learn more in the history museum post)
- Museum of the Southwest—Fredda Turner Durham Children’s Museum, Midland: ACM (Note: the children’s museum is temporarily closed, and activities have been relocated to other buildings.)
- Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas: ASTC, Smithsonian Affiliate
- Science Spectrum, Lubbock: ASTC
- Space Center Houston: ASTC, Smithsonian Affiliate
- Discovery Science Place, Tyler: ASTC
- Health Museum, Houston: ASTC, Smithsonian Affiliate
- The Thinkery, Austin: ACM (Note: although The Thinkery is an ASTC Passport member, it’s less than 90 miles as the crow flies from the DoSeum and the Witte Museum, so ASTC reciprocal benefits don’t apply.)
- Waco Mammoth Site: National Park Service’s America the Beautiful Passes—learn more in the history museum post or [link to zoo/aquarium/gardens post]
- The Woodlands Children’s Museum: ACM
Texas is a big place, but this list is just the tip of the iceberg—there are hundreds more children’s museums and science centers across the United States and North America that participate in these reciprocal networks. Now do you feel inspired to get on the road?
Planning Ahead to Use Children’s Museum and Science Center Reciprocity Benefits
As you make your plans, it’s a good idea to look up the listings to check for restrictions. For example, there may be a geographic restriction—even some Austin museums may be too close. When you show up, be sure to bring your membership card from the relevant museum in San Antonio, as well as a picture ID. Depending on the network or the museum, there may be limits on how many people you can bring in free for one visit on your membership; similarly, some institutions offer discounted rather than free admission. Also, don’t expect to get in free to galas or other special event fundraisers. However, some places offer do offer discounts at their gift shops. If a popular exhibit is in high demand and tickets are selling out days in advance, then go ahead and pay for advance tickets; that’s better than showing up in person to use your reciprocal benefits and find out the exhibit is sold out for the duration of your trip.
We hope this guide helps inspire your science-loving family to use your memberships to museums in the San Antonio area to go explore other cities. Your membership at local San Antonio children’s museums and science centers is not only supporting those institutions, but also strengthening the network of museums across Texas, the United States, and North America.
- “San Antonio Art Museum Reciprocal Membership Benefits,” Inga Cotton, San Antonio Charter Moms, March 13, 2019
- “San Antonio History Museum Reciprocal Membership Benefits,” Inga Cotton, San Antonio Charter Moms, April 17, 2019
- [zoos, aquariums, and gardens]
- “Predators vs. Prey” at the Witte Museum Focuses on Dinosaurs in Texas,” Inga Cotton, San Antonio Charter Moms, June 13, 2018
- “Celebrate the Grand Opening of the DoSeum, San Antonio’s New Museum for Kids,” Inga Cotton, San Antonio Charter Moms, May 30, 2015
- “The Hill Country Science Mill is Worth the Trip to Johnson City,” Inga Cotton, San Antonio Charter Moms, February 17, 2015 (Note: The Science Mill is not a member of any reciprocity networks, but it’s worth mentioning as a regional destination for science-loving families.)