Yes, like many other families – we are on a tight budget but even on a budget you can find ways to have fun, explore and present your children with opportunities to learn while having fun as a family.
Many of the events I blog about are held at our beautiful O.C. Parks, local museums and science centers. One of the ways we save money on parking and admission to these events is by investing in memberships and passes to our favorite places. As a member, you get discounts on food (but we always pack a lunch – one more way to save money), gift shops, special workshops and member only events.
We’ve had a pass to the Magic Kingdom (and yes, we packed our lunch to go here too) and it was great but within just 3.5 months of paying for a deluxe passport for a family of 4 to the Magic Kingdom – I can buy all of the memberships mentioned on this post.
By simply putting some money aside each month, you can easily buy your memberships one by one throughout the year. Another benefit of spacing out the purchases of your memberships is that you always have at least one you can utilize.
Another way of saving money is taking advantage of FREE events and FREE days by sponsors such as Target. If you bank with Bank of America, they have some great free day offers nationwide. We’ve had many great afternoons visiting Bowers Museum, Children’s Museum at La Habra and Orange County Museum of Art during Target’s sponsored programs.
You can visit museums like California Science Center and The Getty Center & The Getty Villa for free, you just have to cover the parking fee.
I’m always on the lookout for FREE days and events that are reasonably priced and will share whatever fits within “Project Refined Life’s” criteria.
Be sure not to miss out my posts like FREE Days at our National Parks, FREE days at Autry National Center of the American West and Museums Free-For-All Day.
Here’s a list of the local membership opportunities and discounts for some of the places we love to visit.
OC Parks Parking Passes
OC Parks offers parking passes that are good for one year from date of purchase. I broke down and bought one mid year last year and I absolutely love it. This parking pass has made it possible for me and my family to experience FREE events such as guided hiking events, Prehistoric OC, Irvine Railroad Pumpkin Patch & Christmas Events and on and on. I love this pass.
The newly revised OC Parks parking passes allow visitors to use a single card to park at all County regional and wilderness parks and/or beaches. The new “smart cards” replace last years entry cards and stickers that were previously used for annual parking. These smart cards are valid for 12 months from issue date and can be renewed annually. Moreover, for wilderness and beach locations which previously required a sticker affixed to a visitor’s windshield, these passes can be used with any vehicle. The price for the new cards remains the same as 2014.
Three types of cards are available:
- County Regional and Wilderness Parks Parking Pass for $55 ($35 for seniors/disabled)
- County Beach Parking Pass with Pay and Display Machines for $55 ($35 for seniors, disabled park free)
- All County Parks and Beaches Parking Pass for $80 ($50 for seniors)
Distinguished Veterans (per California State Parks) are eligible for a no-fee pass. This applies to veterans with a 50% or higher service-connected disability, or who were held as prisoners of war, or who are recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
OC Parks Parking Passes are available for purchase at an OC Parks facility near you. Visit OC Parks online at our Annual Parking Pass page for more information and a list of convenient locations.
If your visiting Irvine Regional park be sure to use these coupons.
State of California Parks & Beaches
One of my favorite places in the O.C. is Crystal Cove State Beach but with parking at $15.00 a day – a pass is definitely the way to go. There is currently a fantastic introductory offer good for 4 days worth parking passes and all state beaches and parks for the low price of $25.00. The “sampler” pass also includes 5% off camping reservations and a one year subscription to Sunset Magazine. For a complete list of parks click here or visit Calparoks.org to get your parking pass.
They are currently offering a fantastic deal on their membership. You can purchase a 1 year Family membership for $99.00…..and you can purchase the second year for just $25.00 more! This membership will get you and your family into Discovery Cube OC and Discovery Cube LA for just $124.00 for 2 years!!!
The Family membership is good for 1 or 2 named adults, plus up to 4 named children living in the same household (age 17 and under). Up to (2) additional named siblings living in the same household (ages 3-17) for $20 each.
They do offer movies at the Discovery Theater and hold several special exhibits each year that do require an additional fee however members get special pricing. Click here for membership options and details.
Benefits of membership include:
- Unlimited admission* for one full year! No blackout dates!
- Get two Cubes for the price of one – your membership works at both the OC and LA location.
- Invitations to members-only events & previews
- Priority registration and discounts on Camp Discovery and other fun activities
- FREE or discounted admission to over 300 other ASTC Science Centers around the world
- Subscription to our monthly e-newsletter and Discoveries Magazine
- 10% off Science Store & Taco Bell purchases**
- $10 discounted admission tickets for your guests (4 per visit)
- Discounts on Discovery Theater tickets
Santa Ana residents receive up to 4 free admissions per address with valid ID (proof of residency) on the first Tuesday of every month. Cannot be combined with any other discount or offer. Excludes special events and ticketed exhibitions or shows.
Bank of America Free Day – Bank of America cardholders receive free admission on the first Sunday of each month. Photo ID and any valid Bank of America/Merrill Lynch credit or debit card must be presented. One free general admission limited to cardholder only. Cannot be combined with any other discount or offer. Excludes special events and ticketed exhibitions or shows.
Here’s a coupon for a free child’s admission with a paying adult.
Santa Ana Zoo
Santa Ana Zoo is a great little zoo and if you like Monkey – you’ll love this zoo. Joseph Prentice, the founder of the Santa Ana Zoo at Prentice Park, stated that in order for the Zoo to exist, Mr. Prentice required that there be 50 monkeys on the grounds at all times.
This charming Zoo features over 80 species of animals, including the smallest monkeys in the world, the Pygmy Marmosets. The Zoo is a place to play, a place to learn and a place to spend time with your family.When visiting the Zoo, children and adults can share time together learning about animals, plants and the environment. There is also a children’s farm, train ride and carousel featuring endangered species.
Membership benefits include:
- Unlimited FREE admission for 12 full months!
- 10% discount on the “Treetop Toys” Gift Shop and Snack Bar, 20% discount for birthday parties.
- Newsletter filled with animal facts, event schedules, and other interesting Zoo stories.
- Member Appreciation Days with free train rides, and discounts for other events and programs, such as Sunset at the Zoo and Boo at the Zoo.
- Visit over 50 Zoo’s – Los Angeles, The Living Desert Zoo, Santa Barbara, Fresno Chaffee and Sacramento Zoo, as well as over 150 zoos around the United States are FREE or discounted to our members.
A Family Club membership is $70.00 – this includes unlimited admission for 2 adults (named on the card) and their children and/or grandchildren (under the age of 18) for 12 months, maximum of 4 children per visit.
On Resident Free Day, the third Sunday of each month, residents of Santa Ana may visit the Zoo for free. Proof of residency (driver’s license, utility bill) will be required upon arrival. Not valid to schools or business addresses.
Although the OC Zoo doesn’t advertise it, you can use your Santa Ana at the OC Zoo for free admission to the OC Zoo as well.
Aquarium of the Pacific
Membership at the Aquarium of the Pacific for a family of four can be quickly covered by your second visit. They have a great learning opportunities, family friendly festivals, member only events and discounts. Your membership also helps protect the Pacific Ocean, its inhabitants, and ecosystems.
Benefits of membership:
- 50% of prepaid parking
- 10% off at the Gift Shop
- Member Appreciation events and Special Event Festivals
- Discounts on private birthday parties, animal encounters, behind the scene tours, day camps, Junior Biologist , Aqua tots and more.
You can get a family membership for $125.00, for more details click here. if a membership here is out of the question at this time, take advantage of their FREE Shark Lagoon Nights.
For a limited time only, you can get discounts from:
- Gelson’s Markets in Los Angeles and Orange Counties are now offering a coupon valid for $8 off adult admission—that’s just $20.95! Offer available in stores through 1/31/15 or while supplies last.
- Southern California Smart & Final locations are now offering a coupon valid for $8 off adult admission and $2 off child admission (ages 3-11). Offer available in participating stores through 2/24/15 or while supplies last.
For annual Discounts use your AAA Discount to receive 10 percent off adult, child, and senior admission when you present your AAA member card at Aquarium ticket windows. Valid for up to four discounts. Or, save up to 25% when you purchase tickets at any Southern California Auto Club branch.
Natural History Museum, Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits & William S. Hart Museum
This is an awesome deal!!! Your interest can range from dinosaurs, nature lovers, gardens, Los Angeles history, Gems and minerals, mammals, birds, shells, art….these museums have you covered!
Membership benefits include:
- Unlimited free admission to the Natural History Museum, Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits, and the William S. Hart Museum.
- Free timed-tickets to Butterfly Pavilion, Spider Pavilion, Bug Fair, and our newest special exhibit, Grandes Maestros—with online and over the phone reservation!
- Free tickets to First Fridays (RSVP required, see here for further details).
- 10% discount at the Museum stores, plus special members-only deals (online and in-store!).
- Free subscription to NHM’s magazine, the Naturalist, and the NHM Member E-Newsletter.
- Discounts on Day Camps, Overnight Adventures, Field Trips, Workshops,Birthday Parties, and more!
- Access to the Members Lounge.
- Invitation to members-only special events.
- 10% discount on Magic Memories souvenir photo book purchases.
A Family membership costs $89 – what a deal! The membership is good for two adults and up to four children (age 17 and under).
If you have a AAA membership, use that card! You can get admission discounts, wejust recently used it for discount on admission to Columbia Memorial Space Center. In addition to admission discounts, they offer discounts to at museum gift shops and restaurants. Wherever your at – ask them if they offer AAA discounts.
Bank of America has a program called Museums on Us, I’m considering a opening up an account at Bank of America for this benefit alone. They offer just FREE admission to museums throughout the county. In the Southern California area some the museums include: .
- Discovery Cube
- Orange County Museum of Art
- Riverside Art Museum
- San Diego Art Museum
- The Living Desert Zoo
- The Autry
- Skirball Cultral Center