I know that’s a super long title, but I actually wanted to call it The 5 Best Memberships For Families In Southeastern Connecticut And How To Get The Most For Your Money (Also One Is Technically In Rhode Island But Just Ignore That). Brevity has never been my strong point.
Visiting these places is definitely worth it – they’re all fun, educational, and make a great day trip. Having a membership carries the added benefit of your day not getting ruined if it’s crowded, raining or your kid’s just not into it – you can just come back later. These spots are all approved for many repeat days of fun by me and my gingers:
1. Mystic Aquarium – I’m not sure how the aquarium got a reputation for being a must-see tourist attraction, but it’s a relatively small place and is totally packed in the summer. Luckily, once school starts (literally, the day after Labor Day) it’s deserted in the mornings and kids can have a private audience with belugas, penguins and a whole rainbow of fish. The inside building is carpeted (good for crawlers or early walkers) and very open (good for strollers). My 3-year-old and 1-year-old love the Titanic exhibit and the sea lion show too, although they’re a little young for the Sponge Bob 4-D movie. Since tickets cost $29+ a membership is definitely worth the price. Tip: If you have little kids, get a single membership with the add-a-guest option. Kids under 3 are free so you can bring your spouse OR a friend who also has small kids. I did that when Caroline was a infant and it made a great winter playdate. Another tip: They open at 9 am, which is GREAT for moms with kids who get up early.
2. Mystic Seaport – The mini boat playscape and children’s building make visiting worth it even if you never board a single vessel (although you should, since they’re really fun!). My kids love the horse carriage despite never having ridden on it. There’s also a fantastic play room hidden on the 3rd floor of the Stillman Building, so we visit even in less-than-ideal weather. It’s a big place, so unless they’re holding one of the extra-popular events (avoid antique boat weekend!!) it’s never too crowded. And the normal events – Dog Days, Chowderfest, etc – are really fun. Children under 5 are free, so a dual membership can get you in if you have pre-k or younger kids. Membership also includes coffee, hot cocoa and lemonade in the Member’s Building, discounts in the store and the chance to visit Santa in December.
3. Children’s Museum of Southeastern Connecticut – Full disclosure: we don’t actually have a membershipto the museum yet. We’ve been twice – once for an awesome birthday party – and it is full of creative play spaces and experiences for the kids. There’s an outdoor space for good weather and plenty of space inside for bad/hot/snowy/New Englandy weather. Their little gift shop is pretty amazing too, with lots of cool educational toys perfect for birthday gifts. We’ll be joining this winter, to add another indoor play space to our rotation.
Roger Williams Park Zoo
Roger Williams Park Zoo
4. Roger Williams Park Zoo – OK, so Providence isn’t in Connecticut but it’s only 40 minutes from the border and the drive is totally worth it. During the hot summer months the water features in Hasbro’s Big Back Yard were a huge hit with the kids and the tree house is really fun. The zoo is a great size for kids to walk, the animals are all close enough to enjoy and the staff has always been super nice and helpful. Did I mention there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts IN the zoo? Membership is pretty affordable and the add-a-guest is only $10 more, so it’s a great place to bring friends. In the summer we aimed to be there at 9 when they opened and left around noon for naps and it was never crowded.
5. Your local library! – I know all these memberships can add up really fast in a tight budget. The good news is many of the local libraries offer free or discounted passes to these locations. That’s the link to my town library but the ones in other towns have similar or better options. It would be worth checking these places out for yourself to see if you like them before springing for the full cost – and if you see us while you’re there, say hi!
Am I missing anything, friends? Where should we go next?!