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Mom of the House: Trading cold weather for butterflies - the search for the perfect family membership

Stepping through the doors of the some of our favourite places is like stepping into instant vacation mode
Mom of the House with Brianna Bell

Each year my family chooses a fun and family friendly place to purchase an annual membership to. As a young family of four on a tight budget, we have found one of the most cost effective ways to enjoy family time is to reap the benefits of unlimited visits to a fun local attraction.

As creatures of habit, we find that we enjoy re-visiting our favourite places, and our children love to feel a small sense of belonging to the place that we become “members.”

For 2016, we purchased a pass to The Butterfly Conservatory in Cambridge. A quick fifteen-minute drive brought us to a magical paradise. Especially on freezing cold days, our family would bundle up, with a small bag filled with summery shoes and clothes. Once we stepped through the doors of the Conservatory it was like stepping into instant vacation mode.

We’d enjoy the warmth of the air on our bare skin, and the lightness of wearing sandals or slip-on shoes over clunky boots. The kids loved the butterflies and birds that would fly past. Over the year, we attended many events: tasting bugs, holding bugs, learning all about bugs.

Now that our membership pass is nearly expired, it’s time to put our thinking caps on and decide on a new place to purchase a membership. Below are a few places I have found in my research.

Guelph Museums

Perhaps at the top of our list of places to purchase a membership to for 2017 is Guelph Museums. For a mere $40 our entire family can enjoy a year-long membership and free general admission to many different local museums. These include: Guelph Civic Museum (Downtown Guelph), McCrae House (Guelph), Wellington County Museum and Archives (Fergus), Waterloo Region Museum (Kitchener), and Joseph Schneider Haus (Kitchener).

Our children have always enjoyed the fun children’s play centre at the Guelph Museum, and could easily be entertained by a weekly trip to the museum. A membership would also allow us to explore museums outside of the city, and the occasional adult date night, where we could actually read and learn a bit about some of the exhibits.

The Museum (Kitchener)

Also known as The Children’s Museum, Kitchener is home to this ever-changing and always fun and interactive museum. My children love this museum and can spend hours exploring the various rooms, activities and exhibits. This museum is very interactive and caters to younger children, so you don’t have to worry about them breaking a priceless artifact.

For $150 a family can enjoy unlimited admission to The Museum. The price is a bit steeper than what I’m looking for and the distance is a bit further, which is what is holding me back from jumping on board with this membership.

The Butterfly Conservatory (Cambridge)

I can’t recommend a membership to the Butterfly Conservatory enough. For $130 a family can enjoy a year-long membership to this tropical paradise. We enjoy the short drive and the fact that you can stop in for a short or long visit. My husband has often taken his camera and enjoyed an hour to himself photographing the beautiful butterflies and enjoying some peace and quiet.

I am still debating getting a membership this year, but am hesitant out of fear my children will eventually find this place a bit less magical.

Grand River Parks Annual Membership

For those that enjoy the great outdoors a $125 annual membership will serve a year of fun for an entire family. There are 7 parks included in the membership, from Guelph Lake, to the Elora Gorge. The pass can be used for entrance all-year round (weather permitting).

I personally don’t think we’d use this pass enough to make it worthwhile, but for many families it’s been worthwhile even just in the summer months.

Do you have any suggestions for any full-year annual memberships that the entire family will enjoy? Let me know in the comments below!