10 family memberships in Toronto that are definitely worth the dough

When you’re looking to fill countless kid hours all year round, a family membership in Toronto can be the perfect solution.

Photo: Toronto Zoo

Keeping kids occupied can be tough. By the time you post that pic of your tutu-clad cutie, her half-hour ballet lesson is over—and it’s only 11 am. Here are 10 of the top memberships in Toronto guaranteed to entertain the whole family rain or shine, all year round.

1. Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) membership

With dozens of exhibitions, galleries, and collections, this Toronto gem simply can’t be experienced in a day—or even a year. An annual membership offers unlimited free admission to galleries and exhibitions and all family programs, and also includes discounts on select programs, lectures and special events. Members also score a discount on day camps and 10 percent off purchases at the ROM boutique and the on-location Druxy’s café.

Think you’ll get tired of the museum? Not to worry. A ROM membership also gets you free entry to other local attractions on select dates, including Black Creek Pioneer Village and the Bata Shoe Museum and 50 percent off admission to the Ontario Science Centre. A Family/Dual membership admits two adults named on cards plus four kids, aged 17 and under for $161 per year or $291 for two years. Visit rom.on.ca for details.

2. Ontario Science Centre membership

With over 500 hands-on exhibits and only 24 hours in a day, a membership to the Science Centre is a no-brainer. Add the temporary exhibitions, special events, daily live science demos and awe-inspiring IMAX films, and you could easily learn something new with every visit. Along with free admission to permanent and select temporary exhibits, membership holders get reservation fees waived for IMAX films and special exhibition tickets booked in advance, as well as 10 percent off the Ontario Science Centre restaurants and discounts on camps and birthday parties.

Good news if you’re travelling with your brood—your Ontario Science Centre membership also gets you into select science centres and museums all over the world—for free (some restrictions apply). If you’re not ready to commit without trying it first, you can put a portion of your ticket purchase towards a membership within one week of your visit. There are several different membership levels with prices ranging from $125 to $1000. We recommend the Planetary membership, which includes admission for two named adult cardholders and four kids as well as a 25 percent discount on parking, two free parking vouchers, two free IMAX tickets, 25 percent discount on any additional IMAX tickets and 25 percent discount on guest tickets. All this for the price of $175 per year. Kids 2 and under are always free. Visit ontariosciencecentre.ca for details.

3. Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) membership

You might know that an AGO membership gets you free unlimited admission to dozens of family-friendly events, including art-making and creative play activities at the Dr. Mariano Elia Hands-On Centre as well as perennial favourite Family Sundays—but did you know that on the first Tuesday of every month, members hold their own “mommy group” right in the gallery? These relaxed, $5 guided tours (vs $24 for the public) allow parents and their cooing—or even downright fussy—newborns and toddlers to enjoy art and connect with other new parents. Members also enjoy year-round discounts on kid courses and workshops, AGO education programming—including camps, classes and talks, invitations to members-only exhibition previews and special events as well as free coat check and 10 percent discounts at ShopAGO, and all Gallery cafes. Because kids 25 and under are now free, families have the option of choosing either a dual annual membership for $145 (two named cardholders) or purchasing one or more annual passes (without the additional discounts) for $35 each. Visit ago.ca for details.

4. Toronto Zoo membership

A trip to the zoo isn’t cheap and when you add up admission fees and parking, the pressure to see 5,000 animals in one day is on. At $195 a year, a family membership (two named adults and up to four children between 3 and 15) takes the stress off. Memberships offer unlimited free year-round access (excluding December 25) along with 10 percent off restaurant and gift shop purchases, discounts on zoo programs and camps, a free subscription to zoo magazine “Wild For Life” and discounted annual parking. Members also receive admission discounts at select zoos and aquariums in North America and free rides on the zoomobile (seasonal); a tram that whisks kids 3 and up through the park and offers educational commentary about the zoo’s role as a leader in conservation (valued at $9 per person). Finally, the Kid’s Discovery Zone has something for everyone, including a kids zoo, a family-friendly interactive show featuring live animals, and for those dog days of summer—Splash Island—two acres of non-stop aquatic fun complete with waterslides, waterfalls and tipping buckets. Sign us up! Visit torontozoo.com for details.

5. Canada’s Wonderland membership

family looking out on lake The 19 best Parks Canada attractions for families Canada’s Wonderland is worth both the drive and the cost of a season’s pass. Not only does a membership get you unlimited admission to the park, featuring dozens of rides for even the tiniest of tykes, it also gets your wee one into Halloween event Camp Spooky, and the new Gold Season Pass ($114 per year,) gets you access to holiday addition, WinterFest, which will see the park transformed into an enchanted winter wonderland complete with uniquely themed areas, millions of spectacular lights, ice-skating, live entertainment, sweet and savoury treats, crafts and hands-on family activities. (Adult entry fee into WinterFest for non-members is TBA.) Members also receive 15 percent off food and merchandise purchased at the park, bring-a-friend discounts on select dates, early ride access from 9:00 am to 10:00 am every Sunday, and early entry to select attractions in Wonderland’s awesome waterpark, Splash Works—featuring a pint size splash pool and an array of gentled-sloped slides guaranteed to thrill even the most timid bather. Season passes start at $90 per person a year. Visit canadaswonderland.com for details.

6. Legoland membership

You’re never too old to play with Lego—which is why an annual pass to the Discovery Centre Toronto is a win-win for kids and parents. This ultimate indoor playground— with 10 build and play zones, two rides, and a 4d cinema—pays for itself in less than three visits. With your pass, you’ll get unlimited admission to the Discovery Centre, along with 20 percent off at the coffee shop and café, a 20 percent family and friends discount, and 10 percent off birthday parties and select items at the retail shop. Kids 2 and under get in for free. Memberships start at $53 per person for the value pass. (Value passes aren’t valid on Saturdays—admittedly a drawback—and are also subject to blackout dates.) Visit toronto.legolanddiscoverycentre.ca for details.

7. Gardiner Museum membership

Who doesn’t love clay? At the Gardiner museum, you can work alongside your little one crafting clay creations and learning about the history of ceramics at one the world’s great specialty museums. While admission is free for kids 18 and under, adult entry will run you $15 per visit for all weekday and weekend events. With a Gardiner membership, you’ll get unlimited access to the museum’s popular Sunday afternoon drop-in clay classes, and Family Days, as well as all exhibitions and the museum’s impressive permanent collection. You’ll also get 15 percent off on classes, programs and camps for up to four children as well as 10 percent off at the Gardiner Shop and the CLAY restaurant and three guest passes per year. $150 a year. Visit gardinermuseum.on.ca for details.

8. Ripley’s Aquarium membership

Did you know that sand tiger sharks can actually gulp air? Neither did we, but it’s just one of a zillion facts you’ll learn at Ripley’s Aquarium. With North America’s longest underwater viewing tunnel and over 20,000 aquatic animals, a membership to Ripley’s is a slam dunk. Membership benefits include free admission for the passholder, with an additional 30 percent discount on tickets for up to four guests, 20 percent discount at the Ripley’s Café, gift shop and Photo Port along with a 10 percent discount on birthday party packages, 20 percent discount on sleepovers, camps and stingray experiences (that let you get up close and personal with a stingray!)—and for nights when you can get a sitter—free access to Ripley’s monthly Friday Night Jazz events. Other perks include 50 percent discount at Ripley’s Niagara Falls attractions, including Ripley’s Believe It or not! Odditorium, Ripley’s Moving Theatre, Tussaud’s Waxworks and 20 percent off kid fave Great Wolf Lodge. Adult memberships: $80/year, kids 3 to 5 years: $25/year, youth 3 to 13: $50/year. Buy three or more annual passes (adult, youth or child,) and take off an additional 20 percent. Visit ripleyaquariums.com for details.

9. Aga Khan Museum membership

With beautiful grounds and an open-roofed courtyard, along with a constantly changing program of exhibitions and family-themed programming that includes storytelling and pop up performances in the summer months, the Aga Khan has quietly become a family favourite since opening in 2014. Membership includes unlimited daily admission for two adults and up to four kids 17 and under, unlimited daily entry to galleries including special exhibitions, 10 percent discount on camps, most family programs, films and educational events, 10 percent discount in the Museum shop, café, and restaurant, along with 50 percent discount on parking. Family/dual membership: $110 per year. Visit agakhanmuseum.org for details.

10. Toronto and Region Conservation Authority: Parks membership

Looking to run your kid ragged in the great outdoors? With this membership, your tyke can explore the beauty of nature at Kortright Centre, travel back in time at Black Creek Pioneer Village, and frolic in the snow at Albion Hills all for one awesome price. This super economical transferable membership offers free admission for up to six people in one vehicle for all six TRCA Parks (Albion Hills, Boyd, Bruce’s Mill, Glen Haffy, Heart Lake, Petticoat Creek), Kortright Centre and Black Creek Pioneer Village, as well as all Credit Valley Conservation areas. Membership also includes free cross-country-ski trail admission at Albion Hills, free admission to special events like the Maple Syrup Festival, Kite Festival, and Pioneer Festival, as well as discounts at the splash pad and wading pool at Albion Hills, Heart Lake and Petticoat Creek Conservation Areas.

Memberships also include a discount at Tree top Trekking at Heart Lake Conservation area and Bruce’s Mill. On top of that, members get free parking on all TRCA locations, savings on campgrounds at Albion Hills, Indian Line, and Glen Rouge, and discounts on Black Creek Pioneer Village’s magical Christmas by Lamplight tickets, as well as 10 percent discount on workshops at Black Creek and Kortright Centre. And when hunger pangs set in, there’s a 10 percent discount on food and retail purchases at all TRCA locations. A Family and Friends Park Membership is $135.00 per year. Visit shop.trca.ca for details.

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