If you are a member of a history-loving family living in San Antonio, then you probably have memberships to several local history museums and attractions. 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 history museums 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 history museums and historical sites in the San Antonio area. In separate posts, we also have guides to reciprocity benefits for art museums, [children’s museums and science centers––coming soon], and [zoos, aquariums, and gardens––coming soon].
History Museums in San Antonio with Membership Programs
History museums are a great resource for helping your children understand our society and the events that led us to where we are today. We are all curious about who we are and the cultural forces that shaped the world around us. Enjoying history museums and visiting historical sites 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 these attractions 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 history—including world history, United States history, and Texas history—at school, but visits to history museums provides 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. Here are some of our favorite history museums and historical sites in San Antonio, and links to their membership programs:
- Briscoe Western Art Museum: membership
- Casa Navarro State Historic Site: join the Friends of Casa Navarro and the Spirit of Texas program of the Friends of the Texas Historical Commission
- Institute of Texan Cultures: membership
- Landmark Inn State Historic Site: join the Friends of Landmark Inn and the Spirit of Texas program of the Friends of the Texas Historical Commission
- San Antonio Missions National Historical Park: admission is free (like the Alamo), but support the missions by joining the Mission Heritage Partners, donating to Las Misiones (part of the Archdiocese of San Antonio), and getting America the Beautiful Passes from the National Park Service
- Villa Finale: join Villa Finale and join the National Trust for Historic Preservation
- Witte Museum: membership
Reciprocal Admission Networks for History Museums and Attractions
Have you ever used your membership at a San Antonio-area history 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 history museums and sites participate in them and which membership levels include reciprocal benefits.
- America the Beautiful Passes: The National Park Service offers annual passes to parks, monuments, etc. for $80; look online for details about free passes for U.S. Military, the Annual 4th Grade Pass, the Access Pass, and the Volunteer Pass, as well as the discounted Senior Pass. In San Antonio, you can purchase passes in person at the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park or purchase online.
- NARM: North American Reciprocal Museum Association has a map of participating museums. In San Antonio, Briscoe Western Art Museum Partner members ($250) and Institute of Texan Cultures Family members ($100) receive NARM benefits. (Two local art museums—the McNay Art Museum and San Antonio Museum of Art—also participate in NARM; learn more in the art museum post.)
- National Trust for Historic Preservation: Starting at the individual level ($20), members of the National Trust for Historic Preservation receive discounted admission at all sites of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, including San Antonio’s Villa Finale, and discounted admission to over 200 Distinctive Destinations across the United States.
- Smithsonian Affiliate: The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. has relationships with affiliate museums and maintains a directory. In San Antonio, Institute of Texan Cultures members (starting at $40) and Witte Museum members (starting at $50) receive Smithsonian Affiliate benefits.
- Texas Historical Commission: Donors who give $50 or more to the Spirit of Texas program of the Friends of the Texas Historical Commission receive free admission to all Texas Historical Commission sites, including San Antonio’s Casa Navarro and Castroville’s Landmark Inn.
- Texas State Parks Passes: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department offers park passes for $70 (or less for seniors, disabled veterans, and others) that provide free entry to parks and discounts on camping. Order passes online or purchase them locally at Government Canyon State Natural Area.
- Time Travelers: Time Travelers is a project of the Missouri Historical Society, and they maintain a list of participating institutions. In San Antonio, Witte Museum Voyager members ($500) receive Time Traveler benefits.
Use Your San Antonio History 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 membership programs—and see which history museums and historical sites 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.
- Acton State Historic Site, Granbury: Texas Historical Commission
- Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, Fritch: America the Beautiful Passes
- Battleship Texas State Historic Site, La Porte: Texas State Parks Passes
- Bell County Museum, Belton: NARM
- Bosque Museum, Clifton: NARM, Time Travelers
- Brazoria County Historical Museum, Angleton: NARM
- Bryan Museum, Galveston: NARM
- Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, Austin: NARM, Time Travelers
- Caddo Mounds State Historic Site, Alto: Texas Historical Commission
- Carver Museum, Austin: Smithsonian Affiliate
- Cedar Hill State Park: Texas State Parks Passes
- Chamizal National Memorial, El Paso: America the Beautiful Passes
- Confederate Reunion Grounds State Historic Site, Mexia: Texas Historical Commission
- Cuero Heritage Museum: NARM
- Dallas Heritage Village: Time Travelers
- Dallas Historical Society: Time Travelers
- Dallas Holocaust Museum and Center for Education and Tolerance: NARM
- Devils River State Natural Area, Del Rio: Texas State Parks Passes
- Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site, Denison: Texas Historical Commission
- El Paso Museum of History: NARM
- Elisabet Ney Museum, Austin: National Trust for Historic Preservation
- Fannin Battleground State Historic Site: Texas Historical Commission
- Fanthorp Inn State Historic Site, Anderson: Texas State Parks Passes
- Fort Concho National Historic Landmark, San Angelo: National Trust for Historic Preservation
- Fort Davis National Historic Site: America the Beautiful Passes
- Fort Griffin State Historic Site, Albany: Texas Historical Commission
- Fort Lancaster State Historic Site, Sheffield: Texas Historical Commission
- Fort Leaton State Historic Site, Presidio: Texas State Parks Passes
- Fort McKavett State Historic Site, Menard: Texas Historical Commission
- Fort Richardson State Park, Historic Site & Lost Creek Reservoir State Trailway, Jacksboro: Texas State Parks Passes
- Fort Worth Museum of Science and History: Smithsonian Affiliate
- French Legation State Historic Site, Austin: Texas Historical Commission, Time Travelers
- Frontier Times Museum, Bandera: NARM
- Frontiers of Flight Museum, Dallas: Smithsonian Affiliate
- Fulton Mansion State Historic Site: Texas Historical Commission
- Goliad State Park & Historic Site: Texas State Parks Passes
- Grace Museum, Abilene: NARM
- Harry Ransom Center, Austin: NARM
- Heritage Society, Houston: NARM, Time Travelers
- Holocaust Museum Houston: NARM
- Houston Fire Museum: Time Travelers
- Houston Maritime Museum: NARM
- Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site, El Paso: Texas State Parks Passes
- Levi Jordan Plantation State Historic Site, Brazoria: Texas Historical Commission
- Lake Jackson Historical Museum: NARM
- Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, Johnson City: America the Beautiful Passes
- Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site, Johnson City: Texas State Parks Passes
- Jourdan-Bachman Pioneer Farms, Austin: Time Travelers
- Magoffin Home State Historic Site, El Paso: Texas Historical Commission
- Mission Dolores State Historic Site, San Augustine: Texas Historical Commission
- Monument Hill & Kreische Brewery State Historic Sites: Texas State Parks Passes
- Museum of the American Railroad, Frisco: Time Travelers
- Museum of the Coastal Bend, Victoria: NARM, Time Travelers
- Museum of the Southwest, Midland: NARM
- National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, Fort Worth: NARM
- National Museum of the Pacific War, Fredericksburg: Texas Historical Commission, Time Travelers
- Neill-Cochran House Museum, Austin: NARM, Time Travelers
- O. Henry Museum, Austin: National Trust for Historic Preservation
- Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park, Brownsville: America the Beautiful Passes
- Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon: NARM
- Pharmacy and Medical Museum of Texas, Cuero: NARM
- Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historic Site: Texas State Parks Passes
- Sabine Pass Battleground State Historic Site, Port Arthur: Texas Historical Commission
- Sam Bell Maxey State Historic Site, Paris: Texas Historical Commission
- Sam Rayburn House State Historic Site, Fannin: Texas Historical Commission
- San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site: Texas Historical Commission
- San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site: Texas State Parks Passes
- Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site, Comstock: Texas State Parks Passes
- Star of the Republic Museum, Washington: NARM
- Starr Family Home State Historic Site, Marshall: Texas Historical Commission
- Space Center Houston: Smithsonian Affiliate
- Taylor County History Center, Buffalo Gap: NARM
- Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum: NARM
- Texas Military Forces Museum, Austin: NARM
- Texas Quilt Museum, La Grange: NARM
- Varner-Hogg Plantation State Historic Site, West Columbia: Texas Historical Commission
- Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site: Texas State Parks Passes
Texas is a big place, but this list is just the tip of the iceberg—there are hundreds more history museums and sites 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 History Museum 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 history 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 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 family of history buffs to use your memberships to museums in the San Antonio area to go explore other cities. Your membership at local San Antonio history museums and historical sites 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
- “Take a detour and learn something new at the South Texas Heritage Center at the Witte Museum,” Inga Cotton, San Antonio Charter Moms, July 30, 2013